Nick Nelson

Offseason Lowdown

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Lowdown: Getting Closer to Yu

Thursday, January 25, 2018


In an offseason so strangely devoid of meaningful developments, we've had no choice but to treat rumors and insinuations as news.


Yu Darvish has exemplified this reality. There's been plenty of reporting around the top free agent nationally, but ultimately little substance. Darvish has visited with multiple front offices, stoked his own rumor mill via Twitter, and received at least one five-year offer.


But with February rapidly approaching and spring camps less than a month away, Darvish remains unsigned. And, to an extent, it is fair to say he's holding up all of free agency.


Alas, the lead story in today's column is yet another hypothesis framed in speculation. But I feel fairly confident in saying this one has legs.


Yu Darvish seems very likely to sign with the Cubs, and soon.


Hear me out. I come at this from the perspective of a Twins fan who's been following the situation with vested interest. Minnesota entered the Darvish derby with two core advantages, both relating to the starter's days in Texas: existing relationships with GM Thad Levine and catcher Chris Gimenez.


Levine, who played a big role in Darvish's initial transition over from Japan as assistant GM for the Rangers, has been adamant about making the right-hander a priority for the Twins this offseason. However, it was always understood that Minnesota would have a tough time winning a bidding war against big-market heavy hitters.


Sure enough, Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press reported this week that the Twins have likely fallen out of the running for Darvish with his market heating up. Many around the club felt the recent signing of Addison Reed to a $16 million deal was a signal the Twins were no longer in on Darvish.


So that would be one team out of the mix. And meanwhile Gimenez, who was Minnesota's backup catcher in 2017 and had reportedly been actively recruiting Darvish to the Twins this offseason despite being a free agent himself, signed a minor-league deal with the Cubs on Monday. Gimenez was Darvish's personal catcher for a time in Texas and the two have a strong bond. This move is not going to sway the starter on its own, but struck me as a potential precursor.


Later on Monday, an AP report indicated that the Cubs were in "active talks" with Darvish. And as of Wednesday morning that is where things stand, with Jon Morosi tweeting that the 31-year-old is "increasingly likely" to sign somewhere before the week's over.


So again, while we still don't have any fire, there is plenty of smoke rising from the north side of Chicago. Stay tuned.


A-Jax is a Giant


Last week in this space I wrote about San Francisco's vacancy in center field, which was not addressed by the blockbuster acquisition of Andrew McCutchen.


At a glance, it would appear the Giants fulfilled their need on Monday by agreeing to terms with Austin Jackson on a two-year deal worth $6 million plus incentives. After all, Jackson slashed .318/.387/.482 for Cleveland last year, and spent more time in center than either corner spot.


But the Indians coaxed maximum value out of the 30-year-old by using him strategically. They fed him tons of ABs against lefties, against whom his OPS was over 1.000, and limited his exposure in center, where his speed isn't what it once was.


The Giants appear poised to utilize him in similar fashion. Regarding the possibility of Jackson serving as regular center fielder, GM Brian Sabean said "probably not," adding that the team will continue to monitor low-salary trade options. From the sounds of it, though, San Francisco is out on Lorenzo Cain.


Milwaukee Making Play for Yelich?


The Brewers are another team that's been connected to Cain this offseason. However, they may be turning their gaze instead to the trade market in search of an outfield upgrade. Craig Mish of SiriusXM reports that Milwaukee has "put together a trade offer" for Christian Yelich.


The Marlins star is one of the hottest commodities out there right now. Still only 26, he has been a consistently productive hitter with stellar on-base skills and burgeoning power. His contract (four years, $43 million) makes him especially attractive to cost-conscious teams like Milwaukee.


Depending on what they're willing to offer, the Brewers have what it takes to make Miami think long and hard about dealing Yelich, whose relationship with the team has badly eroded.  


Quick Hits: Curtis Granderson finalized his one-year, $5 million deal with the Blue Jays ... According to the New York Post's Mike Puma, the Mets still view free agent Todd Frazier as a possible solution at third base ... Astros outfielder Jon Singleton was hit with a 100-game suspension for a third positive test for a drug of abuse ... Mets GM Sandy Alderson said the Mets have received several trade inquiries on Brandon Nimmo ... Danny Duffy told MLB.com that his elbow is feeling great following surgery in October to remove loose bodies of cartilage and bone fragment.



Nick Nelson is a frequent contributor to Rotoworld's baseball coverage and regularly blogs about the Minnesota Twins at Twins Daily. Follow him on Twitter @NickNelsonMN.
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