Report: Darvish would like to return to Dodgers, payroll an obstacle
With the free-agent market in somewhat of a standstill two months away from Opening Day, it's become increasingly apparent why the top starting pitcher on the market hasn't signed.
Yu Darvish has yet to come to terms on a new deal and is reportedly holding out for the Los Angeles Dodgers to free up payroll space to sign him, according to Andy McCullough of the Los Angeles Times.
Darvish spent the final two months of the season with the Dodgers after being traded from the Texas Rangers for a package including prospect Willie Calhoun. He was part of a Dodgers squad that made it to the World Series and pitched in Game 7 against the eventual champion Houston Astros. Despite a strong showing down the stretch and early on in the playoffs, Darvish allowed eight earned runs while retiring 10 total batters over two starts against the Astros.
In their quest to bring back the 31-year-old right-hander, the Dodgers have looked into trading away Yasmani Grandal, Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Logan Forsythe, who would be useful, but ultimately wouldn't receive guaranteed playing time.
Grandal appears to have lost his starting role as catcher to Austin Barnes after a breakout 2017 campaign and is owed $7.9 million in the final year of his deal next season.
Ryu has struggled with injuries over the past four seasons, posting a 3.77 ERA and 4.74 FIP over 126 2/3 innings last season. He would figure to be the club's fifth starter heading into next year, but would likely be bumped from the rotation - or perhaps cycle in with Kenta Maeda when necessary - if the club landed Darvish. Also entering the final year of his deal, Ryu is due $7.83 million in 2018.
Meanwhile, the 31-year-old Forsythe is coming off a down year after being acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays last offseason for pitching prospect Jose De Leon. Like Grandal and Ryu, Forsythe is in the final year of his deal and is owed $8.5 million next year.
In an effort to free up payroll room earlier this winter, the Dodgers swapped first baseman Adrian Gonzalez for Atlanta Braves outfielder Matt Kemp. Since the deal, the Braves have designated Gonzalez for assignment, though Kemp remains as a member of the Dodgers.