Sources told ESPN that Rangers general manager Jon Daniels began calling potential suitors Monday and telling them the team is open to trading Darvish for the "right deal." If no team offers a return package to the Rangers' liking, Daniels has informed clubs that Texas will hold on to Darvish and continue to make a push in the American League wild-card race.
The latest development appears to be the Rangers' most declarative statement yet on Darvish, who instantly becomes the prize catch of the trade deadline. After 4 p.m. ET next Monday, trades become considerably more challenging to complete because players must first clear waivers.
Darvish, 30, is a four-time All-Star over five seasons with the Rangers. He's 6-8 with a 3.44 ERA in 21 starts this year and ranks fourth in the AL in strikeouts (143), fifth in wins above replacement (3.6) and seventh in WHIP (1.12).
The Rangers' postseason prospects improved slightly with a weekend sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays, leading to speculation that Daniels was learning toward keeping Darvish at the deadline. But after a 4-0 loss to the Marlins on Monday, the Rangers are 48-51 and tied with the Baltimore Orioles for seventh in the wild-card race, 3½ games behind the Kansas City Royals. FanGraphs gives them a 16.5 percent chance to make the playoffs as a wild-card team.
The Dodgers, Astros, Yankees, Cubs and several other contenders have dispatched scouts to watch Darvish in his recent outings. It's unclear at this point whether Clayton Kershaw's expected absence for four to six weeks with a back injury has made the Dodgers more motivated to acquire a front-line starter. The Washington Nationals are also dealing with some uncertainty in their rotation after Stephen Strasburg left his latest start after two innings because of forearm stiffness.
Darvish will be eligible for free agency in November. So a trade partner would have to decide if it's willing to part with an elite prospect -- or prospects -- to potentially only have Darvish in its rotation for August, September and the postseason.
Oakland's Sonny Gray, the other top starter on the market, is under team control until after the 2019 season. But some potential suitors are concerned about Gray's recent injury history. Gray threw only 117 innings in 2016 because of forearm issues and began this season on the disabled list with a strained lat muscle.