Whether you like the idea or not, the Astros could use another arm in the starting rotation. Just sayin’.
Thanks to a report by Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports, the Astros are reportedly meeting with free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish on Tuesday. Yes, the same Darvish that Houston’s lineup tortured in Game 3 and Game 7 of the World Series.
And, yes, Darvish is still an attractive pitcher to have on your staff for the right price.
The 31-year old starting pitcher has been fairly consistent since his major league debut in 2012. For example, Darvish has posted a fWAR of 2.7 or higher in each season he has pitched in the United States. However, he has been plagued by injuries off-and-on the past few years. The Tommy John surgery that cost Darvish the part of the 2014 season and the entire 2015 season stands out. To his credit though, Darvish did throw 186.2 innings this year in his first full regular season of action since 2013 followed by another 14.2 innings in the postseason.
Of course, Darvish does come with a fair share of risk.
Darvish in those 186.2 innings posted a 3.86 ERA and 3.83 FIP. That was his worst showing since his debut season with the Texas Rangers in 2012 when he posted a 3.90 ERA and 3.29 FIP. Even his 3.65 xFIP in 2017 was the worst in his career since 2012. Darvish simply did not have the season we are all accustomed to seeing from him.
That said, the Los Angeles Dodgers appeared to have fix Darvish when they acquired him from the Rangers in late July. In nine regular season starts with Los Angeles, Darvish posted a 3.44 ERA and 3.38 FIP in 49.2 innings. Small sample size, yes, but those numbers were more in line with his career ERA and FIP.
While the two bad World Series starts against the Astros stand out due to recency bias, I recommend you do not allow those two starts to cloud your judgement.
Per Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, an anonymous Astros’ player detailed how the team knew which pitch Darvish would throw next.
"According to a Houston player, the Astros often knew what Darvish was about to throw by the way he brought the ball into his glove in the set position. (Darvish pitches exclusively out of the stretch.) The player said it worked like this: Darvish holds the ball at his side when he gets the sign from the catcher. Whether he re-grips or not as he brings the ball into his glove was the tip-off whether he was going to throw a slider/cutter or a fastball."
In theory, tipping pitches are a correctable mistake. Most likely this is a temporary issue and wasn’t due to a decline in Darvish’s skill set, which would’ve been of greater concern. Per his Fangraphs player profile, his velocity in 2017 for the most part was similar to his career readings.
In terms of cost, Heyman noted that Darvish could reasonably seek a similar deal to Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175 million contract that the Nationals’ star signed back in 2016. The initial contract demands will likely be quite high.
Despite any red flags or the high price tag, the Astros will have plenty of competition for Darvish’s services.
The former Ranger and Dodger had recently met with the Chicago Cubs, and by Heyman’s report, the meeting went quite well. Darvish has been tied to the Cubs for quite sometime in anticipation of his eventual free agency.
Besides the Astros and Cubs, Heyman also notes in his article that the Minnesota Twins, Seattle Mariners and Philadelphia Phillies have been linked in some shape or fashion to Darvish. Even the Rangers have been noted by Heyman as “monitoring the situation.” And there are likely even more teams who are interested in Darvish. Despite the slight decline and injury history, he will be in high demand. Pitchers like Darvish just don’t hit the open market often. The key is not to overpay, which will still be a difficult plan to accomplish when evaluating the current market.
**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**