Dodgers: The Capology Behind Re-signing Yu Darvish


Yu Darvish is still a free agent, making a return to the Dodgers always a possibility. With the reports and non-reports of another ace being taken off the market, LA may be facing one less suitor.

The Houston Astros were considered one of the potential destinations for former Dodgers pitcher Yu Darvish. But today there was tons of noise around them, the Pittsburg Pirates and Pirates ace Gerrit Cole. First, he was headed to H-Town.

Then he wasn’t.

With their focus on acquiring the former UCLA Bruin and Orange Lutheran Lancer, the field for Yu Darvish may have shrunk, giving the Dodgers some footing in negotiations for the Japanese ace. However, this is if they want to re-sign him.

We know the Dodgers want to stay under the $197 limit to avoid further luxury tax penalties moving forward. The Orange County Register had the projected payroll for 2018 around $183 million after signing Tom Koehler, and the only significant move the Dodgers made after that was the three-team trade which brought Scott Alexander over while saving some money.

Baseball Reference has a projected $190.4 million payroll for the upcoming season. But that is an estimate as they are estimating Los Angeles pay $23.3 million in arbitration to Yasmani Grandal, Alex Wood, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Pedro Baez, Enrique Hernandez, and Joc Pederson.

So if we go for the worst case scenario from the two, the Dodgers would “only” have $6.6 million to work with, making it hard to sign Darvish to the enormous contract $20+ million a year contract many are expecting him to receive.

There are ways to make enough space to sign him though, but it would require some nifty and hard work. The obvious would be to shed Matt Kemp’s contract. That’s highly unlikely, so any money they can get out of is valuable. But the only way you’ll get another team to eat any of his money would be to give away a talented prospect, and knowing the front office, that is highly unlikely, considering the Dodgers are already under the tax threshold.

The next bet would be to move one of the arbitration-eligible players. Yasmani Grandal is the obvious and popular choice. He is entering the last year before becoming a free agent, could make between $7-$10 million in arbitration, and the Dodgers have Austin Barnes and Kyle Farmer, who proved to be capable of carrying the workload, on the depth chart.

So why not save money and see what you can get for a guy you won’t want to overpay for? And don’t be fooled. He is one of the top catchers in baseball, end-of-season withstanding.

Pedro Baez is another guy who you could move. As Josh Burke pointed out, he is more replaceable on the team than others.

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So right there, you can have around $10 million freed up and $16.6 million to work with. ZiPS’s projection for Yu is six years, $156.6 million, which is $26.6 million annually. Now that is probably more than LA would want to splurge and as high as they will go. But with not much movement within free agency, his price tag may decrease.

If we use the OC Register’s $183 million-estimate, everything becomes much more comfortable because you’ll already have $14 million to work with and every dollar you shed from thereon is a bonus. If you move Grandal and Baez, you can be down to around $173 million.

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But remember, these are all hypotheticals. No one knows what Yu’s demands are, what other teams will value him at, if he wants to return, if the Dodgers want him, and what the Dodgers payroll will ultimately be.