The Dallas Morning News
Sherrington: Please don’t let Darvish walk
RANGERS SPRING TRAINING Historically, Rangers don’t grow aces, so keep ’em while you have ’em
Over their long and semi-sordid history in Arlington, the Rangers have slogged through enough material to make Mike Shropshire’s Seasons in Hell a Netflix series instead of a ’70s snapshot. But if there’s been one constant, it’s this:
The Rangers wouldn’t know an ace if they drew a handful of them.
Even after all these years, their two best homegrown pitchers remain Kevin Brown and Kenny Rogers. To give you kids out there some perspective, I could have written that same sentence 20 years ago.
And that’s one of the reasons Jon Daniels should lock up Yu Darvish sooner than later. Before Darvish gets the idea it’s personal, anyway.
For the record: Despite some early growing pains, Daniels has presided over the most glorious era in club history, assembling pennant contenders on a near perennial basis. His moves bear the uncanny knack of beating nearly everything I suggest. Still, you’ll forgive a lack of faith in Daniels’ ability to grow an ace anytime soon.
Granted, few teams are much good at developing top-of-the-rotation types. Developing, I said. Not acquiring. Anybody could see Fergie Jenkins, Nolan Ryan or Cole Hamels coming by the time the Rangers had them under binoculars. Forecasting a true No. 1 is like drafting a franchise quarterback, only harder. Generally speaking, they don’t fall into your lap in the fourth round, after you took Charles Tapper first.
But if you’d like a somewhat local perspective, the Astros have done a pretty fair job growing aces. Pretty much throughout their history, in fact. Consider Larry Dierker, Don Wilson, J.R. Richard, Roy Oswalt and, lately, Dallas Keuchel, to name several.
As you’re no doubt aware, the last few years the Rangers have used their top pitching prospects as currency. We’ll see if Kyle Hendricks, Jerad Eickhoff, Alec Asher or Jake Thompson develop into anything other than middle-ofthe-rotation types. As it stands now, Hendricks rates the best chance to beat the odds. Even if the Phillies trio makes it whole, I don’t fault Daniels for the Hamels deal, and not just because I kept bugging him about it. A No. 3 or 4 shouldn’t be so difficult to locate, though the Rangers led you to believe otherwise this winter.
If you’ve got to give up a couple of candidates to get a guy with the credentials of Hamels, plus a top catching prospect and a center fielder, too, and you managed it without so much as a squawk from your colleagues, well, that should tell you how hard it is. Boston practically had to pack up the Green Monster for Chris Sale.
The Rangers’ best prospect currently? Brett Martin, a lefty, and there’s no guarantee he’ll fit at the top. And at best he’s at least a couple of years away.
Meanwhile, the Rangers already have a perfectly good candidate on Hamels’ heels.
By just about any metrics, Darvish, a three-time All-Star, has been among baseball’s best starters since he came to Texas from Japan in 2012. What’s not to like about an upper-90s fastball and maybe the game’s best slider? Not to mention an assortment of other pitches he seems to make up when bored.
The knock against him is a lack of durability, owing almost entirely to the elbow injury that led to Tommy John surgery. And, of course, he hasn’t exactly distinguished himself in postseason play: 0-2, 5.40 ERA.
Maybe you’d argue the Rangers should wait to see how he does this season, in the last year of his contract. A breakout year — which is what I’m predicting, for what it’s worth — simply means more leverage for Darvish with the Rangers.
But if Darvish goes Cy Young, I’m thinking it just might go to his head. He’d be in bigger demand than Adele. Aces don’t come up for auction often. The Dodgers or Yankees would pay. And what about the Angels’ Arte Moreno? He’s just about out of bad contracts. He’d go six years, $180 million without so much as checking his balance first.
Can you imagine Darvish throwing Wiffle Balls past the Rangers while Mike Trout smirks in center?
I’ll wait a minute while you get that image out of your head. Sorry. My bad.
For you hardliners, the problem with making guys earn their big contracts is that often they’re just about used up when they do. True, Darvish will turn 31 in August. But he’s got a rebuilt elbow and only a hundred innings on his shoulder the last couple of seasons. As a result, probably, his fastball last season clocked better than ever.
Daniels is leery of spending big, what with the bloated contracts of Shin-Soo Choo and Prince Fielder still on his résumé and ledger sheet. But those expire in 2020, and Elvis Andrus’ contract is up in ’22. By then the revenue streams from the new ballpark should be overflowing.
Of course, there’s the possibility that Daniels is waiting to see how the club fares, in case he has to start selling off parts at midseason. Let’s not go there so soon. Give hope a chance, friend, before it gives way to the heat and humility of summer.
So here’s my suggestion, Jon Daniels: Go to Darvish’s agent this spring and offer five years, $150 million. If that’s not good enough, tell him Ray Davis and Bob Simpson have plenty more where that came from. Tell him you’ll never let A.J. Pierzynski within 100 feet of him again. Tell him he’s going up on the Rangers’ Mount Rushmore of starters. Tell him you’ll call the new digs the Yumidor. I will, anyway. Always glad to help out.