According to an article by Fort Worth Star-Telegram reporter Jeff Wilson, free agent pitcher Yu Darvish has narrowed his prospective future teams down to five: the Chicago Cubs, Los Angeles Dodgers, Minnesota Twins, New York Yankees and Texas Rangers.
While Darvish has yet to make a decision, and seems to be in no rush as the stove remains cold in this glacial offseason, it is never a bad idea try to make an educated guess.
Before any prospective rankings, one has to look at the ups and downs of the Japanese star’s 2017 season. With Darvish, said downs primarily had to do with one thing: tipped pitches. As reported by Sports Illustrated’s Tom Verducci, Darvish tipped whether he was pitching a fastball or either a slider or cutter by whether he re-gripped the baseball whilst bringing the ball back into his glove following his catcher’s sign. This, according to an anonymous Houston Astros player, is how they dominated the ace in the Fall Classic, knocking Darvish out of both games he pitched in less than two innings and leaving him with a 21.60 ERA on the biggest stage in organized baseball.
Taking that knowledge now being out in the open, things bode well for a future more akin to his late regular season with L.A., where he went 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA.
So, the question remains for Darvish: where? Each team remaining has very valid arguments. The Dodgers was one game away from a World Series win, and going back would offer Darvish a shot at redemption. The Bronx Bombers were ahead of schedule last year and will only get better in the years to come with their young core, offering Darvish a shot to join the next great Yankees dynasty. The Chicago Cubs are just a year removed from their historic World Series victory, and the addition of Darvish could be what delivers them back to the promised land. The Minnesota Twins are another team with a young core, and offer similar benefits to Darvish with a youthful core and his old personal catcher and friend, Chris Giminez.
Still, the Texas Rangers are a healthy competitor in the Darvish sweepstakes. Even if there was no formal business discussed in a Dec. 20, 2017 dinner shared by the pitcher and Rangers GM Jon Daniels as reported by Dallas Morning News Writer Evan Grant, it does open up the possibility that there was discussion anyway.
Even more than the meeting, however, there is one selling point that shines brightest for, and only for, the Texas Rangers.
In short, Darvish LIKES Arlington. He likes the fans. He likes his teammates. He likes the Rangers staff. He said as much in the full-page ad he took out in the Dallas Morning News following his mid-season trade.
While many other teams can sell him on their youth, shots at redemption or a better chance for a World Series ring, no one else can offer Darvish the chance to come back to his home-away-from-home. That is what makes the Texas Rangers the most likely to sign Darvish this offseason.