Rangers 'confident' in finding deal for Darvish

July 28th, 2017

The Sweepstakes is officially underway.

A source confirmed to MLB.com that the Rangers have notified teams around the Majors that they plan to trade their ace by Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. Texas has already started speaking with interested clubs and has been exchanging names for potential deals.

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MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal first reported Thursday night that the Rangers plan to move the right-hander and are "confident" they will get a quality trade for Darvish.

This latest twist thrusts Darvish to the top of the trade market, surpassing Oakland's and Detroit's despite a brutal outing Wednesday night that saw Darvish allow 10 earned runs in only 3 2/3 innings against the Marlins.

Darvish's immediate future has been one of the great mysteries leading up to Monday's non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Rangers had been debating whether to hang on to their ace and make a run at an American League Wild Card spot or trade him for prospects. If Texas holds on to Darvish, it risks losing him as a free agent this winter while receiving only a marginal Draft pick as compensation.

At 49-52, the Rangers are 4 1/2 games behind the Royals for the second AL Wild Card spot, though three teams are between the two clubs in the standings. Texas has never been more than three games over .500 this season, though it climbed back from a 13-20 start thanks to a 10-game winning streak in May that put the team in the thick of the Wild Card race.

But the streaky club hasn't been able to find any consistency, winning five of six games from July 5-15 before immediately dropping five straight. The Rangers won four of five after the losing streak, but Wednesday's 22-10 beating at the hands of Miami seemed to be the sign that general manager Jon Daniels has been looking for.

According to a source, the Dodgers, Astros and Yankees appear to be the three most likely suitors, as all three have been linked not only to Darvish, but also to Gray and practically every other top pitcher that might be made available this week.

The Dodgers were reportedly interested in dealing for Darvish even before landed on the disabled list last weekend with a back injury. A source told MLB.com that the Rangers are enamored with outfielder Alex Verdugo, who ranks as the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect according to MLB Pipeline, and have done their due diligence on the 21-year-old.

"If the Dodgers will trade Verdugo, then Darvish is probably going to L.A.," the source said.

The Yankees were making progress this week toward a deal with Oakland for Gray and first baseman , though nothing was imminent. The A's are said to be interested in outfielder Estevan Florial and infielder/outfielder , two prospects the Yankees appear willing to part with for Gray, who comes with two more years of team control.

A source with knowledge of the Yankees' thinking said it's unlikely that GM Brian Cashman would deal both players for a two-month rental such as Darvish, though things could change if Gray winds up being traded elsewhere.

Then there's the Astros, who would surely cement their status as AL favorites with the addition of Darvish. But GM Jeff Luhnow has been hesitant to part with his top prospects before, making Houston a long shot to land the ace from its division rivals.

"It's hard to see Jeff paying a high price for a rental," a source familiar with the Astros' situation said.

Some believed the Nationals would enter the fray now that right-hander has landed on the DL with a nerve impingement, though the injury is expected only to keep him sidelined for one start. A source said Thursday night that Washington is "not in it" and has no plans to pursue Darvish.

On Wednesday, Rosenthal reported that the 10 teams on Darvish's no-trade clause are the Orioles, Red Sox, Cubs, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Tigers, Athletics, Pirates and Blue Jays. Of those teams, the Cubs are the only one that would even be in the mix for the right-hander.

Darvish is 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 starts this season, though he posted a 3.11 ERA through the end of June to earn his fourth All-Star selection, his first since undergoing Tommy John surgery in 2015. In five July starts, the 30-year-old is 0-3 with a 7.20 ERA, a stretch capped by Wednesday's rough outing.

Ironically, that start -- which may be Darvish's last for the Rangers -- may be the one that lands the right-hander in another uniform by next week.