Let's say the Astros surprise us and sign Yu Darvish. Let's count the many reasons why such a move makes sense.
First things first, you know how we've been waiting for the free-agent dominos to fall? Well, this would send them tumbling in the pitching market.
If Darvish is the first of the top-of-the-rotation starters off the market, that's great news for Jacob Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. Suddenly the Brewers, Cubs, Yankees, Phillies, Mariners, etc., would feel more urgency to get a deal done with one of those three.
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And that's good for the Rays, too. They'd get more clarity regarding Chris Archer's value. He's the guy who could bring a bounty of prospects.
Back to the Astros and Darvish. He wasn't atop GM Jeff Luhnow's shopping list when this offseason began.
Given the depth of the Astros' starting rotation, Luhnow focused on upgrading his bullpen and considering a left-handed bat to replace Carlos Beltran.
But we're almost two months into free agency, and Darvish remains unsigned. Why not take a shot? Darvish has already met with the Cubs and is scheduled to have a chat with Rangers GM Jon Daniels.
Here are five reasons Darvish makes sense for the Astros:
1. He makes them better. Let's not overthink this. Darvish is 31 years old and has averaged 11 strikeouts per nine innings in his five seasons in the Majors. His career WHIP is 1.179.
2. If you're focused on the problems he had in this year's World Series -- 0-2 record, 21.60 ERA -- you're missing the larger point. Some believe he was tipping his pitches. Given the results, that seems probable. Nevertheless, since Darvish arrived in this country in 2012, he has made 131 starts and showed consistently dominant stuff.
3. How do you prevent a World Series hangover? One of the things every executive is concerned about is how much he should change the mix of his team after winning a championship. Group dynamics constantly change. On the other hand, why tweak what's working?
4. Luhnow is at least investigating the possibility of making a move that would be a shock to the Astros' collective system. And if he could line up a rotation with Justin Verlander, Dallas Keuchel, Lance McCullers, Charlie Morton and Darvish, that would be the best in baseball.
5. Financially, the deal makes some sense. Keuchel is a free agent after the 2018 season, and Verlander is up after 2019. The Astros are already approaching a $150 million payroll for 2018, but have just $56 million on the books for 2019.
In the end, Darvish probably can name his price in a bunch of places, and the Cubs and Rangers have a greater need for starting pitching than the Astros. If any team has a home-court advantage, it might be the Rangers since Darvish still makes his home a few miles from Globe Life Park.
He was comfortable -- and popular -- there until the Rangers traded him to the Dodgers at the non-waiver Trade Deadline. With rotation uncertainty behind ace Cole Hamels, Darvish would give the Rangers a nice boost.
But the Astros have some selling points as well: the Majors' highest-scoring offense, a solid defense and a clubhouse environment that is second to none.
In the end, it'll probably come down to where Darvish wants to play. He's in high enough demand that as many as a half-dozen teams probably will meet his contract demands.
Having already seen National League MVP Giancarlo Stanton get traded from the Marlins to the Yankees, Darvish signing with the Astros wouldn't be the offseason's biggest surprise.
But it would be a close second. And the moves after that -- and the speed of those moves -- might be even more interesting. Isn't this why we love the Hot Stove?