Washington Nationals: Yu Darvish not worth it


Although the Washington Nationals need a starter, the needs at bench and catcher make Yu Darvish too pricey. Here is why.

Yu Darvish is the top free agent this winter. The Washington Nationals are in search of a starter. Is this a good match?

Darvish spent five solid seasons with the Texas Rangers. It took six years to do it but, around a Tommy John surgery, he excelled in the heat of Arlington. With the Rangers, he posted an ERA of 3.42 with a 52-39 record and 1.181 WHIP over 122 starts. A strikeout pitcher, Darvish fanned 1021 in his career over 832.1 innings.

A free agent, Texas traded him to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the deadline this year for Willie Calhoun and two prospects. With Los Angeles, he went 4-3 in nine starts with an ERA of 3.44.

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You understand why he is among the top players on the market.

In his National League playoff appearances, he emboldened his resume by beating the Arizona Diamondbacks and Chicago Cubs in consecutive starts. Earning two World Series starts versus the Houston Astros, including Game 7, Darvish fell apart.

Over 3.1 innings, he surrendered nine hits and runs two walks and two home runs while failing to strike out an Astro. Ouch. In his first fall classic, Darvish posted a 21.60 ERA.

With the Tommy John surgery under his belt, Darvish overall compares well with Stephen Strasburg pre-2017. A solid pitcher who will strike out a ton but struggles to get into the seventh inning.

Washington is not in search of an ace. Strasburg and Max Scherzer fit the role well. Any interest in Darvish comes as a third starter. Not a bad problem to have for either side. His predicted vale of $20 million a year fits in line for a strong second or third starter on a contender.

For Washington, is he a good fit?

Two red flags pop out at you with Darvish. Durability and ability to pitch under extreme pressure.

Where Darvish pitches in the future expects 30-33 starts and 200 innings. He has not cleared 200 since 2013. That year, he struck out 277 and finished second in the American League Cy Young vote. He was ace material.

Last year, he threw 186.2 innings over 31 starts. Even with a strong bullpen, you want to see Darvish throw into the seventh more. Not a deal breaker, but a strong concern.

Then there is the World Series disaster. With the full-scale changes made in coaching staff and philosophy, it is hard to imagine the Nats wooing him. Although Washington is a high-spending team, another $20 million on the books is not cheap.

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If filling the rotation was Washington’s biggest priority, Darvish is worth a hard look. With catcher and bench sharing equal billing, the money is better spent elsewhere.