Yu Darvish might not make himself available until January

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FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal heard Saturday that Japanese ace Yu Darvish is expected to be posted soon after this week’s annual Winter Meetings in Dallas, Texas. But that might not be the case.

In an update to his Saturday column, Rosenthal writes that Darvish’s father is telling news services in Japan that his son might not make himself available to major league teams until mid-to-late January and that it’s only 50-50 that he actually accepts a deal.

The uncertainty is natural — Darvish would be leaving his comfort zone in Japan and taking on great expectations in the majors — but waiting until a month or so before the start of spring training would almost certainly mean disaster for the right-hander’s market value. MLB teams can’t afford to be patient when it comes to filling vacant starting rotation spots.

Darvish, 25, posted an 18-7 record, a 1.44 ERA and a 276/36 K/BB ratio across 232 innings this past season for the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters. He has a 1.99 career ERA over seven seasons in Japan.

Royals sign Michael Saunders to a minor-league deal

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Free agent outfielder Michael Saunders has agreed to a minor-league contract with the Royals, the team announced Friday. While the move comes just two days after Saunders agreed to terms with the Pirates, he allegedly asked for his release after the club acquired outfielder Corey Dickerson in a multi-player swap with the Rays on Thursday. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan adds that Saunders will make $1.5 million upon reaching the majors, with a potential $500,000 in bonuses.

After earning his first spot on an All-Star team in 2016, Saunders followed up a solid campaign with a career-worst performance in 2017. The 31-year-old split the season between the Phillies and Blue Jays’ camps, batting a combined .202/.256/.344 with six home runs and -0.7 fWAR in 234 plate appearances. Although he remained healthy throughout the year, with no sign of the lingering hamstring strain that has plagued him on and off since 2013, he wasn’t productive enough to merit a full-time role on either roster.

With Dickerson slated for a starting role in Pittsburgh, it was unlikely that Saunders would have commanded anything other than a backup role in 2018. Now, however, he’ll compete for playing time amid a slew of outfield options, including Alex Gordon, Cody Asche, Jorge Bonifacio, Tyler Collins and Paulo Orlando.