Rangers likely to shut down Yu Darvish for the season

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No official announcement has been made yet, but during a radio appearance today Rangers general manager Jon Daniels indicated that Yu Darvish is unlikely to pitch again this season because of an elbow injury.

Darvish was placed on the disabled list with elbow inflammation on August 13 and here’s what Daniels said this afternoon (via Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News):

By the calendar and how close to the end of the season we are, I don’t know that it will allow him to pitch again. I think it’s critical going into next year for us to put all these injury issues and concerns behind us as we possibly can. It doesn’t seem to make a whole lot of sense to me to take a risk when the MRI clearly shows there is something going on in there.

Darvish has taken a surprising amount of criticism–from seemingly uninformed local media members and also from his manager–but why the Rangers would rush him back to throw meaningless September innings for a last-place team is unclear. Daniels at least seems to recognize that, saying:

There is a difference between playing when you are tired or a sore ankle vs a pitcher when he’s got an elbow issue. They are two very different things. That’s why medical staff and people like myself make these decisions. This not an emotional thing about quitting on the team. Yu has an elbow issue that fortunately looks like it won’t have a long-term impact and we’re not going to let it.

Hopefully that will squash any notion of Darvish sitting out with an injury he could pitch through. If he’s done, Darvish will finish his third MLB season with a 3.06 ERA in 22 starts, leading the league in strikeout rate for the second year in a row at 11.3 per nine innings.

Seattle Mariners to make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani

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Mariners general manager Jerry Dipoto said in a team-sponsored podcast the other day that the M’s will make a “full-court press” for Shohei Ohtani. To that end, Dipoto said that the M’s would be willing to let the two-way star to pitch and to hit, which is something Ohtani is interested in doing in the United States. Not all clubs are likely to let him do this, with most likely seeing him as a starting pitcher only.

Ohtani, who is expected to be posted by his Japanese team, the Nippon Ham Fighters, possibly as early as today, can sign with anyone he wants. He is, however, subject to the international bonus pool caps, so the bids on him will be somewhat limited. The Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have the most money available: $3.535 million for the Rangers and $3.5 million for the Yankees. The Twins ($3.245 million), Pirates ($2.266 million), Marlins ($1.74 million) and Mariners ($1.57 million) are the only other teams with more than $1 million left. Twelve teams — including the Dodgers, Cubs, Cardinals and Astros — are limited to a maximum of $300,000, having met or exceeded their caps for this signing period already.

Ohtani, however, is said to be less motivated by money than he is by finding the right situation. While a lot of guys say that, the fact that Ohtani is coming over to the U.S. now, when his financial prospects are limited, as opposed to waiting for two years when he is not subject to the bonus caps and could sign for nine figures, suggests that he is telling the truth. As such, a team like the Mariners that is willing to allow him to hit and pitch could make up for the couple of million less they have in bonus money to spend.

As for how that might work logistically, Dipoto said that the team would be willing to play DH Nelson Cruz a few days in the outfield to accommodate Ohtani, allowing him to DH on the days he’s not pitching. That might be . . . interesting to see, but given how badly the Mariners could use a good starting pitcher, they have an incentive to be creative.

Ohtani, 23, suffered some injuries in 2017, limiting him to just five starts and 65 games as a hitter. In 2016, however, he hit .289/.356/.547 with 22 homers in 342 at-bats and went 11-3 with a 3.24 ERA, and a K/BB ratio of 146/51 in 133.1 innings as a starter.

Five clubs have more money to spend on Ohtani than the Mariners do. None of those teams are on the west coast, which some Asian players have said in the past they preferred due to faster travel back home. The Mariners, owned for a long time by a Japanese company which still retains a minority interest in the club, and long the home for high-profile Japanese players such as Ichiro and Hisashi Iwakuma, likely have a better media and marketing reach in Japan than most other teams as well, which might be a factor in his decision making process. Is all that enough to sway Ohtani?

We’ll find out over the next couple of weeks.