The Milwaukee Brewers have a need at the top of their starting rotation. Yu Darvish is the top name on the free agent market this winter and could be on the radar for the Brewers.
Darvish is coming off of the worst two starts of his career at the worst possible moment: the World Series right before he hits free agency. He was projected to receive approximately six years and $160 million this winter. But now that contract is in doubt. With such a poor performance in the clutch, Darvish may have cost himself a year and several million dollars on his next contract.
In a recent chat, an expert at MLBTR thinks Darvish may now be around five years and $110 million, bringing him closer to a realistic option for the Milwaukee Brewers. Getting into a bidding war up near $160 million would not be wise for GM David Stearns. But potentially saving $50 million could make this deal worth it for Milwaukee.
Darvish is the prize of the free agent class. And if the Brewers can snag him away from the big market teams, it will send shock-waves throughout baseball. This is actually a more realistic possibility than anyone previously thought. MLB Trade Rumors just posted an excellent piece on how the Milwaukee Brewers are in a position to spend and chase some top free agents.
They fully expect the Brewers to go after Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta as a way to improve their roster for 2018. A bunch of the big market teams may sit out this winter in favor of saving money for next year’s free agent class that is loaded with superstars. So this may be the time to strike the iron while its hot.
Darvish is 31 years old and his 3.86 ERA in 2017 was his highest in MLB since his rookie season in 2012. He missed the entire 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery. If he signs for anything above the 5 year, $110 million deal Jordan Zimmermann signed two years ago, he would set the record for a contract signed by a Tommy John patient.
Is Darvish a Fit?
He certainly would be a great fit for the rotation. How he fits into the payroll is a completely different matter. Even if he signs at the low end of the spectrum for 5/110, he would get $22 million per season. The Brewers would have $42 million locked up in just Darvish and Ryan Braun. That’s literally half of the payroll given to two players. His fit with this organization is dependent on the size of his contract.
Brewers brass has said they may be able to punch a little above their weight this year and have hinted at a plan to increase payroll this winter. Which increases the odds the Crew will go after Darvish. While he could certainly anchor the rotation, Darvish should not get more than five guaranteed years from the Milwaukee Brewers. A six year deal means he’s under contract until he’s 37 years old. He likely won’t be worth that contract at that point.
The Brewers may be able to spend money on free agents to complement their young inexpensive core. But those young players won’t be cheap forever. Eventually they’re going to need to sign large contract extensions to keep them in Milwaukee long term. Darvish’s contract would eat into that money heavily.
If owner Mark Attanasio is comfortable ramping up payroll once again then it would be a great fit. But Milwaukee has never gone above a $105 million payroll. And it will take a lot more than just Yu Darvish to keep the Brewers competitive for years to come. But in the near future, Darvish gives Craig Counsell a bona fide ace at the top of his rotation to go with Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Jimmy Nelson who will return later in the season.
Frontloading a deal with Darvish may be in the best interest of David Stearns. That way he wouldn’t be stuck overpaying for a much older pitcher towards the end of the contract. Especially since that would be around the time the Brewers young core would need to be signed to big contracts.
The last thing the Milwaukee Brewers want to repeat is 2014. Where they maxed out the payroll and didn’t achieve any success, forcing the team into a rebuild. Adding just Darvish wouldn’t do that but it’s still a concern considering the team is just finishing up a rebuild.
Brewers fans shouldn’t be completely surprised to hear that Milwaukee is in the bidding for Darvish, but also shouldn’t be expecting the Crew to sign him. But now there have been actual rumors connecting the Brewers to the pursuit of Darvish. Making him an important player to keep an eye on this winter.
If Milwaukee is going to convince Darvish to come to the smallest market in baseball, they won’t be able to do it at a bargain. Think something like the Zack Greinke deal with Arizona. They went way above what everyone else was even considering offering and signed him. It would take something like that for David Stearns but it may not be worth it at that price.