The Major League Baseball trade deadline has passed, and with it came a whirlwind of trades across the league.
Several big-ticket names were on the trading block and one of those players was Rangers ace pitcher Yu Darvish who was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Source: Darvish to #Dodgers— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) July 31, 2017
(Another was catcher Jonathan Lucroy, who the Rangers dealt to Colorado on Sunday).
But why would a team want to trade arguably the best pitcher it’s had since Nolan Ryan? Darvish has compiled a 52-39 record with a 3.42 ERA and 960 strikeouts in 782 innings over five years with Texas, and his reward is being sent off to another team?
While going all-in on a run for the postseason is exciting, sometimes a team has to play the long game. Trading Darvish, who is in the final year of his first big league contract, would be about swapping the all-but-evaporated hope left this season for a chance to build for the future.
It’s a sobering reality, but holding onto Darvish at Monday’s trade deadline doesn’t mean he’ll be a Ranger next year. He’s an unrestricted free agent, meaning he could walk away from Texas without a thought about returning.
Plus, the upper echelon of pitchers (think Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke and David Price, who all signed their monster contracts in the last couple years) demand around $30 million per year these days. Darvish, who has had his share of injury concerns and somewhat of an up-and-down year with Texas, will still flirt with that salary number even if he settles for a few million less. For what it's worth, $25 million per year would tie Darvish for the sixth-highest salary in the majors.
It goes without saying -- that’s a lot of money, no matter who you’re talking about. And the Rangers’ brass may not be willing to pay it.
So, keeping Darvish in Arlington has two possible outcomes: Retain him in the offseason for somewhere in the ballpark of $125 million, depending on the length of the contract, or let him walk for nothing.
Trading Darvish, on the other hand, presents a wealth of opportunity for the organization. Darvish, even with a pedestrian 6-9 record on the season, will yield a big return for Texas. A team will likely have to send one of its top prospects to the Rangers to land Yu’s services. An example is the Los Angeles Dodgers and Walker Buehler.
Rangers fans who were on the bandwagon before the team’s back-to-back World Series appearances may remember the Mark Teixeira trade in 2007.
The Rangers dealt Tex to the Atlanta Braves for a crop of five prospects: Elvis Andrus, Neftali Feliz, Matt Harrison, Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Beau Jones.
Andrus has been the team’s starting shortstop for nine years and is still just 28 years old. Feliz was a dominant closer during the aforementioned World Series runs. Harrison pitched five strong years for Texas before unfortunate injury circumstances caused his career to sputter. Saltalamacchia has built an 11-year MLB career.
All in exchange for a slugger who likely wouldn’t have stayed in Arlington at the end of his contract.
Now, a Darvish trade won’t bring that big of a return for Texas. It’s known as one of the worst trades (from Atlanta’s perspective) in recent memory and Teixeira had a year left on his contract. But it’s a strong frame of reference for how the Rangers could see longterm benefit from dealing one of its star players.
Recent trade deadline acquisitions have put the Rangers on the opposite end of that spectrum. The team dealt six players -- including five of its prized prospects -- to Philadelphia for Cole Hamels. One of the Rangers' top prospects, Lewis Brinson, and 2014 first-round draft pick Luis Ortiz went to Milwaukee to bring Lucroy to Texas.
For a Rangers organization that doesn’t have the clout that it used to in its minor league system and doesn’t have much hope of a postseason run this year, trading Darvish -- however painful for the fans -- just might make sense for the future.