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Would Yu believe? Darvish stirs Hot Stove

Free agent keeping followers updated on social media
MLB.com @DKramer_

Yu Darvish seems to be enjoying the courtship of free agency. He has shared as much to his followers on social media.

As Darvish's market has heated up this week, complete with meetings with the Cubs, Astros and Rangers, albeit in a social encounter with his former club, Darvish was active in the Twittersphere on Thursday.

Yu Darvish seems to be enjoying the courtship of free agency. He has shared as much to his followers on social media.

As Darvish's market has heated up this week, complete with meetings with the Cubs, Astros and Rangers, albeit in a social encounter with his former club, Darvish was active in the Twittersphere on Thursday.

First, Darvish shot down a report that he had signed with the Cubs pending a physical.

Tweet from @faridyu: #fakenews https://t.co/he5qmoqhcx

Then, Darvish shared a picture of himself and Rangers general manager Jon Daniels, with whom he had dinner on Wednesday in Dallas.

Tweet from @faridyu: I went to dinner with my friend John last night. pic.twitter.com/8KTq3R2Toj

The Rangers do not plan to play "at the top" of the free-agent market, according to MLB.com's T.R. Sullivan, which would likely eliminate them from landing Darvish, perhaps this offseason's top available starting pitcher along with Jake Arrieta.

Wednesday's dinner had been planned all offseason. MLB Network insider Jon Heyman echoed that sentiment in a Thursday report, saying that the Rangers would clearly like Darvish back, but probably at their own price, indicating a reunion was unlikely. Daniels and the Rangers signed Darvish as an international free agent in 2012, and he spent his first four-plus seasons in Texas before being dealt to the Dodgers ahead of this year's non-waiver Trade Deadline.

In a tweet roughly translated from Japanese, Darvish wrote earlier this week that his meeting on Tuesday with Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer went well.

Chicago, with Arrieta and John Lackey having departed for free agency, is looking to fill out what would be a loaded rotation, where Darvish would slot in as the No. 1 or 2, with Jon Lester likely in the other spot. The Cubs already signed former Rockies right-hander Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million deal earlier this month as the No. 4 or 5 starter, and they also have 2016 National League ERA champion Kyle Hendricks and deceptive left-hander Jose Quintana, whom the Cubs acquired last summer from the White Sox. The Cubs have also been linked to free agent Alex Cobb, who is more of a contact specialist than a pure-stuff ace like Darvish.

Video: Rosenthal discusses Darvish meeting with Cubs

On Tuesday, Darvish met with the defending champion Astros, a club whose courtship of the right-hander presents plenty of intrigue, notably in that he made his most recent outings against them in the World Series, going 0-2 and giving up nine runs in just 3 1/3 innings.

Hot Stove Tracker

Should Darvish land in Houston, he would provide long-term stability, as Justin Verlander enters his age-35 season and Dallas Keuchel hits free agency next offseason. Lance McCullers Jr., Charlie Morton, Brad Peacock and Collin McHugh have shown signs of promise but also vulnerability.

Video: Hoyer discusses positive meeting with Darvish

The Twins, who have a promising young rotation and were the surprise team to reach the postseason in 2017, have also been linked to Darvish. And MLB Network insider Ken Rosenthal reported on Wednesday that the Yankees and Dodgers, who are each attempting to stay under the luxury tax threshold, remain interested in Darvish, who is projected to sign a multiyear deal in the $20 to $25 million range.

Video: Twins are making a run at signing Yu Darvish

Darvish, 31, went 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and is arguably one of the top starters in the game. He has a mid-to-high 90s fastball to go with an elite range of offspeed pitches. In September, Darvish became the fastest pitcher in MLB history to reach 1,000 strikeouts, in both innings (853) and games (134).

Daniel Kramer is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @DKramer_.

Yu Darvish