If there is any way for the Yankees to sign Yu Darvish and still stay under the luxury-tax threshold, GM Brian Cashman made it obvious just how much he’d love to do it, heaping praise on the free-agent righthander on Thursday.
Problem is, of course, there doesn’t seem to be any way the math works, unless the Yankees’ GM unloads significant salary — ideally Jacoby Ellsbury — in a trade.
Nevertheless, speaking on WFAN’s afternoon drive show on Thursday, Cashman offered an intriguing answer to a question about potentially signing Darvish, leaving the door open to the possibility.
“Do we recognize Yu Darvish as a unique talent and a premier starting pitcher in the marketplace?” Cashman said. “Yes we do. Would we be one of the last teams standing (in any bidding for Darvish)? I can’t answer that.
“I do think there are things we can do to create (payroll) flexibility. And that’s why you stay engaged with high-end guys in the marketplace.”
Hmmm. Trading Ellsbury, which is complicated not only by the three years and $ 63 million he has remaining on his contract, but also by the outfielder’s no-trade clause, is the most obvious way for the Yankees to create such flexibility, even if they had to eat some of the money.
Until Yu Darvish signs elsewhere, the idea of him pitching in the Bronx can’t be ruled out entirely.
(Mark J. Terrill/AP)
But if Cashman were determined to find other ways, there are two primary candidates whose 2018 salaries are large enough to create significant room on the payroll: David Robertson, who will earn $ 13 million in 2018, or Brett Gardner, who will earn $ 11.5 million.
Would the GM do that to add Darvish? Both players could be vital to the cause this season, though the Yankees have the bullpen depth to absorb the loss of Robertson.
In any case, nobody knows down to the penny how much the Yankees can still spend and stay under the $ 197 million luxury-tax threshold, especially because they want to leave room to add players at the July trade deadline.
But even in this slow-moving free-agent market, it seems unlikely that Darvish will be signed for less than $ 20 million a year, and Cashman made it clear that would put the Yankees over the tax threshold, which he said remains a priority.
“Unless ownership changes their mind,” he said.
(Mark J. Terrill/AP)
When asked if there was a player who would cause such a change of mind, Cashman said, “I don’t think so.”
Still, Cashman indicated he’ll stay in contact with the Japanese star righthander.
And adding to the buzz Cashman created, Michael Kay said on his ESPN radio show that the Yankees made Darvish an offer of seven years and $ 160 million at some point during this offseason, then pulled it off the table when the pitcher didn’t immediately agree to take it.
Kay said at that point the Yankees were prepared to trade Robertson to create the needed payroll flexibility.
If it’s true, Darvish may be regretting not taking the deal, because it’s hard to believe he’ll get one for that much money anywhere else.
Bottom line for all of this: until the righthander signs elsewhere, Cashman clearly isn’t ruling out the possibility of Darvish pitching in the Bronx.