Are Yankees zeroing in on Rangers ace Yu Darvish?

ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 21: Pitcher Yu Darvish
ST. PETERSBURG, FL - JULY 21: Pitcher Yu Darvish /

Yankees scout Brandon Duckworth was in Tampa on Friday night to watch Yu Darvish allow three runs in eight innings, striking out 12 and lower his season ERA to 3.44.

Darvish, who will turn 31 next month and is owed $4 million for the remainder of this season before entering free agency is one of the top trade targets the Yankees are currently considering before the July 31 deadline.

With rumors swirling that both the Cubs and Dodgers are also potentially interested in securing the services of the four-time All-Star, Darvish assured the market that he’s fully healed from his 2015 Tommy John surgery, stretching himself out for a full eight frames against the Rays on Friday night.

His 6-8 record is a bit deceiving considering just how inconsistent the Rangers have been in 2017. Currently sitting in 4th place in the AL West and 4.5 games back of a Wild Card spot (though they’d need to jump six teams), Darvish has kept the Rangers afloat during his 21 starts with a 1.118 WHIP and 9.8 SO/9.

Unsure if they’ll be able to re-sign Darvish, the Rangers must decide whether or not the time is right to cash in on their certifiable No. 1.

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Arguably the most accomplished starter on the market, Darvish won’t command quite the return Sonny Gray would due to his pending free agency, but he’d still likely cost a club two prospects and one major league ready player.

From the Yankees’ perspective, Darvish would slide in directly behind fellow countryman Masahiro Tanaka, taking immense pressure off their newly reconstructed bullpen, following the acquisition of David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle.

Should the Yanks pull the trigger on a trade for Darvish, it would give them a bit of security entering next season as they await to see if Tanaka exercises the opt-out clause in his contract.

If Tanaka does as most expect and enter free agency, the club would certainly offer a qualifying offer to Darvish in the unlikely situation they couldn’t come to a contract extension.

Trading for Darvish now rather than waiting for this winter to sign him allows the Yankees to determine if Darvish has the moxie to succeed in New York the way Tanaka has. As an added bonus, Darvish is a mentor and close friend to Shohei Otani, who could very well become one of the most sought after free agents of all-time.

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Though Otani has battled both ankle and thigh injuries this season for the Nokkaido Nippon Ham Fighters, the 23-year-old pitcher/outfielder who hits for immense power is expected to be posted in time for the 2018 MLB season.

With the new CBA limiting how much players can earn during their first contract, it’s safe to say employing Darvish could give the Yankees a leg up when it comes to securing Otani’s signature.