I don't really have a snazzy opening paragraph cooked up in my head yet, and I'm anxious to start rolling out one Darvish post after the next until I somehow manage to run even this topic into the ground, so let's go ahead and get to it:
● This is probably the most attention-grabbing item in the lot, and that merits first mention: ESPN.com's Dan Szymborski has gone ahead and projected what Darvish's performance might look like over his next five years in Arlington (assuming that Texas offers him at least that much security), and has his mean projection down at 22.4 WAR over that span -- good for some $112 million in total value -- compared to 27.5 WAR ($138 million) at his 85th percentile "optimistic" projection and only 5.5 WAR ($27 million) at his 15th percentile "pessimistic" projection. That's an enormous spread between the two ends of the projection spectrum, as well as a quite skewed projection that favors Darvish panning out as very good pitcher, but also leaves the door open for an exceptionally disappointing trans-Pacific translation in his performance. And in the abstract, that makes sense.
If we go ahead and roll with that average annual 4.5 WAR projection on Darvish, though, you arrive at a couple of quick conclusions: (a) that's not too dissimilar from where C.J. Wilson's projection was going to be next year, which leaves the Rangers in a similar boat strictly as far as their rotation is concerned (though Darvish is a higher-variance acquisition with a lower performance floor and higher ceiling), and (b) beefing up the front of the rotation with what could prove to be a 2.5-3.0 WAR upgrade is absolutely enormous from the standpoint of the win curve. In what figures to be a tight division race, those couple of extra projected wins could very easily prove to be the difference between first place and fighting tooth and nail for the fourth or fifth seed via the wild card system.
● FanGraphs' Paul Swydan writes at some length about the ramifications of the now-probable Darvish signing upon the starting rotation, and deems the idea of the Rangers dealing from their surfeit of starting pitching for help elsewhere to be the "most likely option" for clearing the six-man rotation logjam, with Colby Lewis being his top pick to land on the trading block. He then arrives at the logical conclusion that having six starters who figure to range somewhere between solid and great is actually a pretty damn nice arrangement to have on your hands, and ultimately appears to back off the notion of Texas undertaking a serious push to move Lewis or any of their other ML-capable starters.
The problems with trying to aggressively move Lewis are, of course, that he's under contract for only one more year, experienced a down 2011 season, and has been hampered for some time by a (chronic?) hip condition, which renders him only modestly appealing to contending clubs and even less so to middle-tier and worse clubs. It's nice to believe that he could recoup a decent return solely on his own merits, but a pitcher with Lewis's profile and contractual situation just isn't going to bring back blue-chip minor league talent, and those contending teams that actually would make some kind of push for Lewis probably aren't too eager to relinquish useful major league pieces at 1B/CF for the privilege of obtaining a mid-rotation starter on a short-term commitment. I can't buy into the let's-trade-Lewis proposition.
Nor, for that matter, can I really foresee a trade going down -- though that certainly doesn't mean it's not possible. In fairness, every absurd little trade scenario that we can dream up is theoretically possible. It just so happens that a lot of things are possible. But if we're going by order of likelihood here, I'm still going to stand by the notion of moving Alexi Ogando back to the bullpen and into a late-inning capacity, then hopefully adjusting his role on the fly and re-acclimating him to life in the rotation if a serious long-term health problem should befall one of Darvish, Lewis, Matt Harrison, Derek Holland, or Neftali Feliz. It doesn't sound very fair to Ogando on the surface (which is probably because it isn't), but it may very well be the best way of balancing the club's depth-to-performance ratio -- and it sure as hell beats marching into war with Scott Feldman as your lone ML-ready rotation insurance policy.
● Finally, FOXSports.com's Ken Rosenthal remarked in his morning column that, clearly, "something changed," as it was still his understanding that the financial issues about which he wrote the previous week truly did exist, and it was his belief that Rangers ownership either stepped way out on a limb and dug deep into its pockets to produce the successful bid, or that the front office was sandbagging every step of the way. What seems to make less sense, though, was this passage:
A week ago, the Rangers were making trade offers for starting pitchers such as Cubs righty Matt Garza, Athletics lefty Gio Gonzalez and Rays righty Wade Davis. If one of those offers had been accepted, they might have taken a different approach with Darvish, according to a source with knowledge of the team’s thinking.
The Rangers had invested three years of time, money, and energy into scouting Darvish. They ultimately produced upwards of $50 million just to have the chance to talk to him. They clearly believe he is the greatest thing to come along since sliced bread. I'm having trouble reconciling those apparent realities with the idea that the Rangers might have diverted their course away from pursuing Darvish if they had traded for Wade Davis, who is only a few ticks above replacement level. And while both Garza and Gonzalez boast materially stronger credentials, the reported cost in prospects had verged deep into irrational territory, and neither offers the true No. 1 potential that the Rangers were seeking.
That's what should give you a substantial buzz today. That's also what should strike legitimate fear into the hearts of the Angels -- the distinct possibility that Darvish acclimates quickly to American-style baseball, flourishes into an All-Star-caliber pitcher as early as this coming season, and helps the Rangers maintain their divisional dominance. You're not supposed to do what the Angels did a couple of weeks ago and still finish as a second-place team ... but the chances of exactly that happening are looking substantially stronger than they did just 24 hours ago.