Cashman confirms Yankees' interest in Darvish

NY reportedly among 6 ballclubs on free-agent pitcher's list

January 11th, 2018

NEW YORK -- has placed the Yankees on his short list of potential destinations, and general manager Brian Cashman confirmed on Thursday that the team has spoken with the free-agent right-hander's representative.

Darvish is also being pursued by the Astros, Cubs, Rangers and Twins, as well as a mystery team that is believed to be the Dodgers.

The pitcher playfully teased his situation on Twitter late Wednesday evening, confirming a Fort Worth Star-Telegram report by saying, "I know one more team is in."

"Do we recognize Yu Darvish as a unique talent and a premier starting pitcher available in this marketplace? The answer to that question is yes," Cashman said during an in-studio appearance on WFAN. "Would we be, in the end, one of the last teams standing? I can't answer on that. I have talked to Joel Wolfe, his agent. I can acknowledge that."

The Yankees would like to add another starter to their current rotation of , , , and , but they are also considering upgrades at second base and third base, where prospects and could play key roles.

"You wrestle with all of those things," Cashman said. "At the same time, you recognize there's two important positions on the infield right now that you could potentially be turning over to kids on a team that you want to plug-and-play and compete."

Cashman said he would be fine if Andujar and Torres were simply "OK-to-good" big leaguers in 2018, and if they were able to land Darvish, it might be worth the gamble. The 31-year-old was 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts for the Rangers and Dodgers in 2017, going 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA for Los Angeles.

Darvish pitched well against the D-backs and Cubs in the first two rounds of the postseason but was hit hard in the World Series by the Astros, going 0-2 with a 21.60 ERA in two starts.

"He's obviously a tremendous pitcher," Cashman said. "I can't answer it directly. I would just say that we do have some flexibility. To create more flexibility, the higher the cost of the player … I would have to create more financial room so we do not trip up that luxury tax when the dust settles at the end of this year, unless ownership changes their mind on that."

Yankees managing general partner Hal Steinbrenner has said the team's payroll will be below the $197 million luxury-tax threshold in 2018, resetting their penalty rate. Cashman declined to give exact figures, but the Associated Press reported the recent signing of Sabathia raised the Yankees' projected payroll to $178 million for luxury-tax purposes.

It is possible that the Yankees could add a player like Darvish -- they have also pursued the Pirates' , among other hurlers -- and off-load salary in a separate trade, as they did last month by shipping third baseman to the Padres.

If not, Cashman said the Yankees' next move could be their last of the winter. Their preference would be to move , who is due $68 million over the next three years and has lost the starting center-field job to .

"I still think he's a quality player and I still think he can help us," Cashman said of Ellsbury. "He's got a full no-trade and a lot of money. If there was the right opportunity that presents itself over time, we can pursue trying to fix that and give us more flexibility. But if that doesn't present itself, I still think he is a viable option to compete for an everyday job."

Left fielder ($13 million) and right-hander ($11.5 million, for luxury-tax purposes) are eligible for free agency next offseason and could also be candidates if payroll were needed to be cleared for an addition like Darvish.

"I will continue to do my job, which is to stay engaged with what's available in the marketplace," Cashman said.