A Yu Darvish-Dodgers reunion would take a lot, but it might be worth it

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It’s almost mid-January and there are still some premium free agents on the market. It’s been a slow offseason for most, but this is almost unprecedented.

One guy I thought would be locked up for sure by now is Yu Darvish. Despite a poor showing in the World Series, he was really good with the Dodgers and good in the postseason up until the Fall Classic.

What if the Dodgers bring him back?

Be mad at him for his World Series performance if you want — and if you are, are you also mad at Kenley Jansen for blowing Game 2? — but his Twitter game has been strong this offseason.

What if that “one more team” he alludes to is the Dodgers? It makes some sense, but getting Darvish to come back to Los Angeles would take quite a bit — and not just money.

The Dodgers are, by the roughest of calculations, anywhere between $17 and $21 million under the luxury tax threshold of $197 million. Darvish has no incentive/reason to give the Dodgers any kind of hometown discount, so don’t think he’s coming back for $15 million a season. The only kind of “discount” I could see is the average annual value being lessened by tacking on an extra year. For example, if he wanted to sign for $150 million over six years, perhaps the Dodgers could give him a seventh year to knock his AAV from $25 million to $21.4 million. It’d mean an extra year of him on the books, but it’d also make him easier to fit under the threshold. This hasn’t really been tried by any team yet, but I’m sure it’s coming at some point.

Here’s what some in the baseball writing world have predicted in terms of Darvish’s contract this offseason:

  • FanGraphs (Dave Cameron): 6 years, $168 million ($28M AAV)
  • FanGraphs (Median Crowdsource): 5 years, $125 million ($25M AAV)
  • FanGraphs (Average Crowdsource): 5.4 years, $130.7 million ($24.5M AAV)
  • Jon Heyman: 6 years, $144 million ($24M AAV)
  • Heyman (Expert): 6 years, $155 million ($25.83M AAV)
  • MLB Trade Rumors: 6 years, $160 million ($26.67M AAV)

That’s a lot of dough. I’m not sure Darvish gets the 6/168 predicted by Cameron, but it’d be mildly surprising if his AAV (which is what’s used to calculate the luxury tax number) is any less than $23-24 million per season. With the Dodgers wanting to stay under the tax threshold this year to reset the penalties, that number doesn’t work, which means there would have to be trades to get Darvish to fit.

Also, the Dodgers want to remain flexible, payroll-wise, to add a significant player or two at the deadline (which they have in each of the last three years). But if they bring back Darvish, that need isn’t as pressing (and could still be worked out if enough money comes off the books).

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Matt Kemp is the most obvious trade candidate. He’s making $21.5 million in each of the next two seasons, but he carries zero trade value. In the early stages of last week’s trade, I had hoped Kemp was going to the White Sox. It didn’t happen, and while it still could, I’m not holding my breath. I tried to find him a home a couple weeks ago, one spot of which included Chicago, with Kansas City and Tampa Bay being the others. If the Royals can’t bring back Eric Hosmer and/or Mike Moustakas (and they’re not bringing back Lorenzo Cain), then maybe a deal could be made. Of course, Joakim Soria was one such player who could come back, but he went to the White Sox in the 3-way deal. For the Dodgers to move Kemp now, it’s going to take them attaching a quality prospect or two. Not Walker Buehler, but it might take a guy like Yadier Alvarez, Yusniel Diaz, Keibert RuizAlex Verdugo or Mitchell White to get rid of a significant portion of Kemp’s contract.

Yasmani Grandal would be next up since he’s projected to make $7.7 million via his last year of arbitration. With Austin Barnes emerging as the No. 1 catcher and Kyle Farmer around to hold be a decent backup until Will Smith is ready, perhaps the Dodgers trade from their catching depth to free up some money — if they feel losing Grandal and gaining Darvish is a net gain.

Logan Forsythe is also a possibility to get dealt. He’s making $8.5 million in the final year of his deal and is probably closer to the player he was in Tampa than the one he was with LA last season. The Mets make some sense, but they did just sign Jay Bruce to a $13 million/year deal, so I’m not sure how much money they have left for a second baseman.

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Say what you want about Darvish, but he’s a really good pitcher. If the Dodgers had more time with him, they might be able to maximize Darivsh’s potential — or at least get him back to the pitcher he was in his pre-2017 days with the Rangers.

Yes, he pitched poorly in the World Series, but he isn’t the sole reason the Dodgers didn’t win. To get a pitcher of his stature back would be a definite boost to the pitching staff. It’d also help guard against the potential loss of Clayton Kershaw after the season (which I still don’t see happening). It’s going to take a large commitment and it isn’t out of the question, but there would have to be some other moving parts.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif.