While the Rangers are keeping in touch with free agent Yu Darvish, they don't appear to be the favorites to sign him.
In fact, it's probable that Darvish will land with another suitor, such as the Cubs, Dodgers, Yankees, Brewers or Twins.
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In a Friday interview with MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM, Rangers president of baseball operations and general manager Jon Daniels confirmed that he has remained in contact with Darvish this offseason. But Daniels did not express optimism about the chances for a deal, citing the club's previous decision to distribute payroll among newly acquired starters Matt Moore, Mike Minor and Doug Fister.
"I generally don't like to comment on specific free agents who aren't our own guys; obviously he was most recently with the Dodgers," Daniels said of Darvish, who made four All-Star appearances with the Rangers before last July's trade to Los Angeles. "All along, I've felt like this was not the year -- for a variety of reasons -- that we were going to be in at the top of the market. We tried to be aggressive in identifying some pitchers we liked, but we were spreading out resources.
"We've maintained contact with Darvish for a variety of reasons, not the least of which is we really like the guy. We think very highly of him, both on and off the field. He lives here [in Texas]. We have a long relationship with him. I still maintain it's unlikely we're ultimately going to bring in one of the upper-end pitchers at this point."
One player for the Rangers to consider with regard to long-term pitching commitments: Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw, who was born and raised in the Dallas area and has an opt-out in his contract following the upcoming season. Kershaw maintains close ties to Texas and could be intrigued by the idea of pitching at home, especially with the Rangers' new home, Globe Life Field, set to open in 2020.
Daniels confirmed one humorous Hot Stove scoop that appeared on Darvish's Twitter feed. The two met for dinner earlier in the offseason and Darvish picked up the tab, which was perhaps (or perhaps not, depending on whom you believe) a departure from prior lunches among Daniels, Darvish and former Rangers assistant GM Thad Levine, who's now the GM in Minnesota.
"It got way too much publicity, but not enough publicity over the fact that he paid," Daniels said. "He claims he paid for these lunches over the years. Thad was at some of them. I'm 100 percent certain that's not the case. But Darvish texted me when I made that comment that he never paid before. He said he was going to go back and look at his credit-card record and prove it, but I haven't gotten any documentation."
When Daniels was asked about reasons for the slow pace of this winter's free-agent market, he said "a combination" of factors are involved.
"For me, looking at it from our standpoint, it's the system that's been set up, in a lot of ways," he told MLB Network. "You hear the term 'tanking' thrown out there with some clubs -- and 'apathy,' etc. The reason the Cubs and the Astros, in particular, had great success is the system that was created -- not just this past CBA, but multiple CBAs -- rewarded teams with the worst record. You had the top Draft pick. You had really strong pools, both internationally and in the Draft. Waiver priority. Rule 5 [Draft position]. There were a lot of incentives, a lot of accelerators to a rebuilding program that encouraged that . . . and you had two teams do it really successfully in a short period of time.
"The system kind of created incentives for these teams. They did it really well. We're a copycat industry, and you've got some of that going on. That's how I look at it. I think a lot of things set in motion over time and, for whatever reason this year, [seem] to be culminating in a slow market."