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Thad Levine: ‘Yu Darvish is a priority for us’


The Twins are prepared to make a play for free agent right-hander Yu Darvish and two-way star Shohei Ohtani, according to comments made by general manager Thad Levine on Sunday. While the club isn’t the presumed frontrunner in the Ohtani sweepstakes, they still have a significant amount of bonus pool space remaining and could make a compelling case for the 23-year-old’s services when he’s posted next month.

“He’s a unique free agent, but we don’t know a lot about him personally yet,” Levine told MLB Network Radio’s Jim Duquette. “It’s exciting for us because we have a chance to sign a player like him […] He’s a top priority for us.”

Darvish, meanwhile, could easily command one of the biggest contracts this winter. The 31-year-old right-hander worked a collective 10-12 record in 31 starts for the 2017 Rangers and Dodgers, supplementing his efforts with a 3.86 ERA, 2.8 BB/9 and 10.1 SO/9 over 186 2/3 innings. Over five full seasons in the major leagues, the righty has amassed 19.0 fWAR, four All-Star nominations, three 200-strikeout campaigns and a strikeout rate that has never dipped below 10.0 SO/9. As the top starting pitcher currently on the market, he’s projected to attract a multiyear deal upwards of $150 million.

Of course, Darvish and Ohtani won’t be the Twins’ only targets this offseason. Levine said that he’s been in contact with the agents for free agent starters Jake Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, as well as several back-end bullpen arms. Arrieta will also command a pretty penny in free agency, but Lynn and Cobb represent solid starters with much lower price tags and could easily boost a pitching staff that finished 22nd in the league in 2017.

Jason Vargas fractured his non-pitching hand

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Mets left-hander Jason Vargas has a non-displaced fracture of the hamate bone in his right hand, the team announced Sunday. Vargas sustained the injury after taking a comebacker off of his hand on Friday and is expected to consult with a hand specialist later today as the team settles on a course of action. Comments from GM Sandy Alderson indicate that surgery is a possibility, though the left-hander may also pitch through it for the time being.

Vargas, 35, signed a two-year, $16 million pact with the team last month. He completed a four-year run with the Royals in 2017, earning his first career All-Star nomination with an 18-11 record in 32 starts and producing a 4.16 ERA, 2.9 BB/9 and 6.7 SO/9 over 179 2/3 innings. Prior to the incident, the southpaw was expected to help fill out the back end of the Mets’ Opening Day rotation.

Kristie Ackert of the New York Daily News estimates that Vargas will likely miss the start of the season as he faces a two- to six-week recovery period. It’s a disappointing turn of events for a pitching staff that has been absolutely ravaged by injuries over the last couple of years.