The Rangers have pledged a record $51.7 million for the privilege of negotiating a contract with Yu Darvish. This was Big News in the baseball world — and Medium News in the world-world. To it, I would like to offer the following response:
Your move, Mr. Boras.
With all due respect to Darvish’s considerable pitching ability, I have the attention span of an overly caffeinated 13-year-old when it comes to Hot Stove fascinations. Darvish will matter again in the middle of January, about 72 hours before his deadline to sign, when the blogosphere will turn somersaults at the revelation that the sides are at an “impasse.” (Note: They will probably reach a deal, anyway.)
But until that day comes, let’s let the other offseason luminaries take their star turns.
Here’s a rundown of what the Darvish bid bonanza will mean for the rest of the industry:
Fielder is represented by the aforementioned Scott Boras. And Fielder, as of this writing, does not have a job. He will find one, of course. The questions — and they are decidedly open-ended — involve location and price.
Monday was not good for Fielder. The Rangers, while not entirely eliminated as a potential suitor, became a more remote possibility. Unless Texas tea bubbles up from beneath home plate in Arlington, the Rangers probably won’t have the financial resources to pay, oh, $70 million to Darvish and $200 million to Fielder.
Fielder must either (a) accept a reduced deal (in years and dollars) if he wishes to play for the Rangers or (b) sign elsewhere. Boras being Boras, the second option is more likely.
The Cubs remain the most logical destination for Fielder, but there is no indication — yet — that they are willing to pay upwards of $200 million for the 27-year-old slugger. Fielder wants to play first base (rather than DH), and signing with the Cubs would allow him to remain in the same division he’s called home for the entirety of his major league career.
Fielder is justified in asking for the same 10-year contract Albert Pujols received on the grounds that Fielder is four years younger and he will be better than Pujols over the next decade. But good arguments don’t always result in the desired outcomes. Fielder may need to choose between a lesser contract with the Cubs and more money with teams (such as the Mariners and Orioles) lower on his wish list.
Speaking of Boras, the Edwin Jackson stump speech is surely rehearsed and ready to go.
Now that C.J. Wilson, Mark Buehrle and Darvish are off the open market, Jackson and Hiroki Kuroda are the top two starting pitchers available in free agency. Kuroda turns 37 in February. Jackson will pitch almost the entire 2012 season at 28.
Jackson has pitched for six different organizations, which is odd, considering he’s very popular with his teammates and has one of the most impressive arms in baseball. He arrived in the majors at 20 and is therefore a very young free agent. Youth is a prized commodity in baseball, particularly when paired with Jackson’s athleticism and durability.
Jackson, in fact, is not even three years older than Darvish. He’s already won 60 games and pitched 1,079 innings in the majors. He’s coming off a season in which he posted the best walk rate of his career. (Boras will remind teams of these details, if he hasn’t already.)
Is Jackson an ace? No, but he can be a No. 3 or 4 starter for a world championship club. I know that because in October he was the No. 3 or 4 starter for a world championship club.
Just about any team in need of a starting pitcher should check in on Jackson, including the Red Sox, Yankees, Royals, Rockies, Twins, Pirates, Mariners, Orioles and, sure, the Blue Jays.
Pack lightly for any holiday travels, Gio. A trade is now a matter of “when,” not “if.”
For those who question whether A’s general manager Billy Beane would trade Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill (already gone to Arizona) in one offseason, I’d like to remind you that the GM did the same with Tim Hudson and Mark Mulder during the winter of ’04-’05.
As my colleague Ken Rosenthal reported Monday, the Nationals are pushing hard to acquire Gonzalez from Oakland. The Marlins and Red Sox have shown interest in him, too. The Blue Jays, after a swing-and-miss at Darvish, now are a factor because of their rich farm system.
The A’s are far from competing, particularly in an American League West that has drawn (or retained) talents like Pujols, Wilson and Darvish during this month alone. Beane must upgrade his punchless lineup, and he must do so on a budget. Gonzalez gives him that chance. It was logical for Beane to wait for Darvish to pair up with a team before making the deal.
THE BLUE JAYS
Toronto general manager Alex Anthopoulos has exercised fiscal restraint during the two-plus years he has been running the team. The team has maintained a five-year limit on contracts for position players. But that will be tested now, because it’s been years since Blue Jays fans felt as disappointed about losing out on a player as they were with Darvish on Monday night.
In some ways, the frustration among Torontonians — so evident on Twitter — was a good thing. It demonstrated that the franchise has fans who care and want to believe that their team has a legitimate chance to beat the Red Sox and Yankees.
Darvish would have sold tickets and raised expectations. But that wasn’t the primary reason the Jays submitted a posting bid for him. Anthopoulos pursued Darvish because the Jays need a top-of-the-rotation-type pitcher to pair with Ricky Romero. As of this morning, the Jays are still looking for that person.
At minimum, Anthopoulos must procure a credible No. 2 starter — on the order of Gonzalez or Matt Garza. Then he needs to answer a separate question: In light of the Darvish disappointment, is it important for the organization to satisfy fan expectations by using ownership dollars (and there are plenty of them) to make a run at Fielder?
So far, the Jays have been coy when it comes to Fielder. Time will tell if Monday was a game-changer in Toronto as well as Texas.