Original Photo (2007)

Yankees: What’s up with their fixation on Yu Darvish?

 When it comes to the Yankees, I have come to learn it is not a good idea to question the decisions Brian Cashman makes as the general manager of the team. But when that translates to the Yankee’s apparent fixation on Yu Darvish, it would seem reasonable to take a moment to give it some second thought.

Writing for MLB.com, Brian Hoch put it this way when questioned by a young fan about the Yankees interest in Darvish:

The Yankees have a legitimate interest in Darvish, but they are thought to be hanging around on the periphery just in case his price drops. Contrary to what Darvish tweeted last week, the Yankees have not made him an offer of any type — had they offered him seven years and $160 million, as one report suggested, Darvish likely would have snapped it up.Brian Hoch

Which is good news for many Yankees fans who wonder why any team would sign Darvish, now 31, to a deal that will see him still pitching when he’s 38 years old? Cashman would never do that, and sometimes you have to wonder where these rumors come from, and most likely it was the agent of Darvish or someone from his camp trying to amp up talk about “their man.”

In any event, there is still the real possibility of a five-year deal, though this again pushes Darvish to the ripe (I won’t say old) age of 36 and even 37 if the Yankees move on into the playoffs in the final year (August) of his contract. That’s pushing the envelope with any pitcher these days unless his name is CC Sabathia. Four years would seem to be the comfortable range for the Yankees.

But what about Darvish? Would he, like Sabathia, take one for the home team by signing for a fifth season at half his take-home pay from the year before? Who knows at this juncture? But this juncture is what the Yankees and other teams are dealing with.

But there’s another more overriding factor playing behind the number of years, and that’s the question of money itself, and in particular, the roughly $20 million the Yankees have to spend in 2018 before they exceed the luxury tax threshold of $197 million.

Darvish would down that in one gulp unless one of two things were to happen. One, the Yankees could offer him a back-end loaded deal with his annual salary initially below his value, but then up to the point where he’s over his value in the latter years. Unfortunately, we’ve seen this before with the contracts of Alex Rodriguez and Mark Teixeria the Yankees have worked so hard to (finally) fulfill.

The wildcard, though, is Jacoby EllsburyJohn Harper proposed an interesting idea yesterday. He says:

The most obvious candidate is the Giants, who still need two outfielders and aren’t afraid to spend in trying to win again immediately after last year’s disastrous season. So how about this: Frazier and Ellsbury for Joe Panik, if the Giants agree to take on $36-39 million of Ellsbury’s contract?John Harper, New York Daily News

Given that the Giants had already traded for Andrew McCutchen yesterday, they appear to be a team eager to re-establish themselves as a power in the NL West following a disastrous 2017.

God Bless Brian Cashman if he can find a way to get the Yankees out of this ill-fated from the day-one contract with Ellsbury. But this still ignores the central question, which is do the Yankees need Darvish at the price he is going to command?

Again, Brian Hoch checks in with a very reasonable question about the Yankees, and one that follows the trade by the Pirates of Gerrit Cole, another source of Yankee’s trade gymnastics to the Astros. What happened to these talks?

Last month, the Yankees checked in with the Rays about right-hander Chris Archer, with the D-backs about left-hander Patrick Corbin and with the Tigers about right-hander Michael Fulmer, but those talks are thought to have stalled. The Yanks have also expressed some level of interest in free-agent right-hander Alex Cobb.MLB.com

These are all quality and proven major league pitchers who can help the Yankees this season and beyond. And none of them, even Cobb who is a free agent, will cost the team an arm and a leg as Darvish will.

The luxury tax thing is not something to be poo-pooed. The Yankees need to get under the threshold this season if only to reset the clock enabling them to recover from wild and unproductive spending over the last decade.

The way the rules are written, if the Yankees get under, they can go over the threshold in 2019, go under in 2020, and so on, with little or no “hit” regarding the tax. The Yankees organization is not likely to manipulate the rules in that way, but it gives them flexibility, and that’s the keyword we’re talking about here.

Darvish complicates everything, and with the Yankees have going for them, the one thing they don’t need are complications.

So in a way, this has nothing to do with Darvish, who is an excellent pitcher blah, blah, blah.

The Yankees seem to think they need insurance against the five arms they have in the starting rotation. They know better, but I have to wonder why Yu Darvish is the answer to all their prayers when there are other, more practical, options at their hands.

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