General manager Brian Cashman confirmed Thursday that the Yankees are interested in free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish and even suggested that the club could abandon its quest to get under the luxury-tax threshold to sign the righthander.
Cashman, appearing in studio for an hour on WFAN’s new afternoon show, said the Yankees’ current plan is to stay under the tax threshold. He added, “Unless ownership changes their mind on that.”
Darvish finished the season with the Dodgers after a midseason trade from the Rangers. He started this round of speculation Wednesday when he seemed to confirm a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report that listed the Rangers, Yankees, Cubs, Astros and Twins as teams he is considering.
“I know one more team is in,” he playfully posted on Twitter in English. (It is believed he means the Dodgers are still in play.)
Darvish’s tweeting skills are formidable, but it’s the 31-year-old’s pitching chops that are likely to land him a contract in excess of $100 million. Even though he was lit up in Game 7 of the World Series against the Astros — he allowed nine runs in 3 1⁄3 innings in two Series starts — Darvish and Jake Arrieta are the top starters on the free-agent market. Darvish has a big-league record of 56-42 with a 3.42 ERA.
But would Hal Steinbrenner really sandbag the club’s carefully crafted plan to stay under the luxury-tax threshold in anticipation of next year’s massively attractive free-agent class just for Darvish?
“He’s a tremendous pitcher,” Cashman said. “Do we recognize Yu Darvish as a unique talent and a premier starting pitcher available in this marketplace? The answer to that is yes. Would we in the end be one of the last teams standing? I can’t answer that. But I have talked to Joel Wolfe, his agent. I can acknowledge that. And I will continue to do my job, which is to stay engaged with what’s available in the marketplace to make sure that any opportunity that does exist I share with ownership . . . so [I] can make the most informed decision for this franchise. And I’ll leave it at that.”
Cashman, though, did not leave it at that when he was asked if there is a player for whom the Yankees would exceed the tax threshold.
“The answer is, ‘I don’t think so,’ ” he said. “But there are no absolutes on anything. The one thing I’ve learned over time [is] people do have the right to change their minds. And I’m not trying to encourage a great deal of social media or news coverage of ‘Hey, we may not do this.’ We’re absolutely committed to getting under that tax. I don’t believe that will change. But again, if asked the question, ‘Is it possible it could change?’ — yeah, I guess it’s all possible.
“Time will tell, but we’ve been working hard toward this goal. We will deliver on that pledge and that’s the expectation, and I do think there are things that we can do to create more flexibility if we so choose, and that’s why you stay in touch with players as high end as a Yu Darvish amongst others out there.”
One thing the Yankees could do to “create more flexibility” is trade Jacoby Ellsbury and the more than $68 million he is owed the next three years. But they have been unsuccessful in that pursuit, plus Ellsbury has a no-trade clause. Or they could dip into their bullpen and trade David Robertson (owed $13 million for 2018) or Adam Warren or Dellin Betances, who are arbitration-eligible.
Or the Yankees could just watch Darvish sign with another team and stay under the tax.
“Just let it all play out and see how things settle,” Cashman said. “But I do think we are prepared to go with what we have right now.”
Hicks, Kahnle agree. Outfielder Aaron Hicks agreed to a one-year, $2,825,000 contract with the Yankees and reliever Tommy Kahnle agreed to a one-year, $1,312,500 deal. Starting pitcher Sonny Gray, relievers Dellin Betances, Chasen Shreve and Adam Warren, shortstop Didi Gregorius and backup catcher Austin Romine remain eligible for arbitration. — AP
Yu Darvish’s free-agent resume:
MLB DEBUT: April 9, 2012
MLB SEASONS: 5
Missed 2015 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his right elbow.
INNINGS: 832 1⁄3
INNINGS: 26 1⁄3
EARNED RUNS: 17
HOME RUNS: 8