A Cy Young finalist. A strikeout machine. A pitcher who induces ground balls over 41% of the time. A man who is 18th among all starting pitchers in wins above replacement since arriving to the majors in 2012. His name is Yu Darvish, and he is the last addition the Yankees should be thinking about.
In recent days, the Japanese juggernaut has been linked with the Yankees, with GM Brian Cashman confirming he had contacted his agent. Through a series of not-so-subtle tweets, Darvish has reportedly narrowed his preferred destinations to six teams. Circulating rumors have mentioned that in order for a deal to be done, another piece would have to be moved, two of the prominent names being Jacoby Ellsbury (who is a fifth outfielder at this point), and reliever David Robertson.
Ellsbury needs to go, any Yankees fan knows that. Between the reigning NL MVP Stanton, the AL Rookie of the Year, MVP finalist Aaron Judge, the versatile Aaron Hicks, the veteran pivot Gardner, and the younger Baby Bombers (Jake Cave, Billy McKinney, Jabari Blash, and the Red Thunder man Clint Frazier), the Evil Empire has an embarrassment of riches in the outfield. Ellsbury is owed $63 million over the next three seasons before the club option year in 2021. With his injury history and woeful performance, along with his full no-trade clause, trading the Oregon native has proven to be nearly impossible. In fact, the Yankees are willing to retain at least half of his salary to move him.
While I’m all for dispatching Ellsbury, trading away Robertson would be a mistake. Since his MLB debut in 2008, Houdini is fourth among all relievers in wins above replacement. He’d certainly have high value in a trade, but nothing the Yankees would get in return would be worth it.
So with the near-impossibility of an Ellsbury trade, and the tomfoolery of moving Robertson, Brian Cashman would have to get creative to make room for Darvish and still remain under the $197 million luxury tax threshold for this year. Darvish can easily demand upwards of $20 million annually, and he is simply not worth that much in my eyes.
So why should the Yankees not sign him? Well, for one thing, this is still the exact same rotation that got the Yankees to within one game of the World Series last year, save for Jaime Garcia. In fact, the Yankees already have an elite rotation, and the numbers prove it. Don’t believe me? Look here.
For another, Darvish doesn’t have a glittering postseason resume. In 26.1 innings, Darvish has has a 5.81 ERA. His performance in the World Series last year certainly raised some eyebrows. Darvish got obliterated, while the Yankees rotation neutralized a historically great Astros lineup. They don’t need his arm in the playoffs.
Another red flag with Darvish is his prolonged injury history. He’s been derailed by several trips to the DL, including Tommy John surgery in 2015 and being shut down in 2014. He’s had several other shorter-term injuries, too.
So between his injury history, an astonishing lack of postseason success, and the fact that the Yankees simply have enough talent in the rotation as it is, Darvish should not be wearing pinstripes at any point in the future. He will not accept a deal that falls below his market value. The Yankees are currently close to $21 million below the luxury tax, according to Cot’s Contracts. With what is widely believed to be perhaps the greatest free agent class in history looming next year, and the fact that owner Hal Steinbrenner has been repeatedly adamant about getting below said threshold, it would be in the best interest of the Yankees to avoid Darvish.
This is no knock on Yu Darvish at all, either. He is a supremely talented pitcher. No matter where he ends up, he will get paid. But I’m not sold on him, and Brian Cashman shouldn’t be as well.