We don’t know if the Nippon-Ham Fighters will post Yu Darvish this offseason, but many MLB teams are getting prepared for the possibility.
Rangers general manager Jon Daniels scouted Darvish earlier this summer and Blue Jays general manager Alex Anthopoulos told Gregor Chisholm of MLB.com that he went to see the 24-year-old right-hander in person earlier this week.
“I’m doing my homework,” Anthopoulos was asked about his team’s level of interest in Darvish. “If I go see guys for the Draft … it doesn’t mean that we draft those players, or we have them high on our list. But I go see them, I want to have as much information as we can on all players.
“But there’s no question, he’s the reason that I went. I can sit here and [joke], say I went there to experience the culture, or build relationships. But if he hadn’t pitched I wouldn’t have gone, at least not in 2011.”
With Anthopoulos in attendance Wednesday, Darvish allowed one run over eight innings while striking out nine and walking two. He is now 16-4 with a 1.54 ERA over 21 starts this season. This includes a 206/27 K/BB ratio over 175 innings. He has a 2.04 ERA over parts of seven seasons in the Nippon Professional Baseball League.
Darvish would have to go through a posting process this offseason, which will likely come at a steep price. The Athletics bid $19 million for exclusive negotiating rights with Hisashi Iwakuma last offseason, but were unable to come to terms on a deal. The fee for Darvish should easily exceed that figure.
The Cardinals have officially signed outfielder Dexter Fowler to a five-year, $82.5 million contract. Fowler will also get a full no-trade clause.
The Cardinals gave Fowler a bigger deal than many speculated he’d get, as some reports predicted he’d get something in the $52-72 million range. His skills, however — he’s a fantastic leadoff hitter who plays a premium defensive position — definitely earned him some major dough. Fowler hit .276/.393/.447 with 13 homers, 48 RBI and 13 steals over 125 games in 2016 for the World Series champion Cubs.
For the Cardinals, this will allow Matt Carpenter to move down to the middle of the batting order and will shift Randal Grichuk to left field. It also takes a prime piece from the Cardinals’ biggest rival. For their part, earlier this offseason the Cubs signed former Cardinal center fielder Jon Jay. So that’s fun.
The Cardinals have always emphasized building from within. In the 2016-17 offseason, however, they may end up being one of the bigger free agent buyers. At least according to some informed speculation.
St. Louis is already in agreement with Dexter Fowler. But Derrick Goold and Ben Frederickson of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch write today that the Cardinals “could become more aggressive than previously believed,” with Mark Trumbo and Edwin Encarnacion as “possible pursuits.” Worth noting that separate reports alleged some interest on the part of the Cards front office in free agent third baseman Justin Turner.
The Cardinals are already losing their first round pick due to the Fowler signing, so any other top free agent won’t cost them more than the money he’s owed. And as far as money goes, the Cardinals have a great deal of it, despite being a small market team. They have a billion dollar TV deal coming online and Matt Holliday and Jaime Garcia are off the payroll now. Spending big on a free agent or three would not cripple them or anything.
Encarnacion or Trumbo would be first baseman, which wold fly in the face of the Cards’ move of Matt Carpenter to first base (and, at least as far as Encarnacion goes, would fly in the face of good defense). Getting either of them would push Carpenter back to second, displacing Kolten Wong, or over to third, displacing Jhonny Peralta. If you’re going to do that, I’d say that Turner would make more sense, but what do I know?
Either way, the Cardinals may be entering a pretty interesting phase of their offseason now. And an unfamiliar one as, quite possibly, the top free agent buyer on the market.