Darvish Seeking $175 Million, Brewers Could Get “Ultra-Aggressive”

It sounds like Jake Arrieta isn’t the only one using Stephen Strasburg’s seven-year, $175 million deal as a template. According to FanRag’s Jon Heyman, that’s roughly the amount Yu Darvish, who currently has at least one nine-figure offer on the table, is seeking.

Whether he actually gets anything close to that is yet to be determined, but the Brewers appear to be a very serious participant in the race for his services. Not long after Ken Rosenthal reported that Milwaukee was unlikely to pursue another big-ticket free agent addition, mainly due to payroll constraints, owner Mark Attanasio said he was willing and able to add an arm.

A quick note on the payroll situation, since we’re muddying the waters somewhat here. The Brewers’ theoretical ability to add payroll without penalty is not in question. They’re nearly $90 million under the mythical “soft cap” and could easily afford Darvish and another pitcher. It’s more the actual payroll that weighs heavily here, as that’s the amount actually coming out of their overall revenue stream.

But back to that whole thing about adding more than just one pitcher. Heyman writes that “it’s possible they will be satisfied if they land Darvish,” which feels kind of pregnant to me. Like, maybe it hasn’t actually taken a test yet, but it’s feeling a little queasy and has a sense that there’s something going on beyond bad shrimp from last night.

What I mean is that in addition to the overwhelming sense that they’re going big on Darvish, there’s a tingle of Spidey-sense saying that they may just go for broke. The common thought to this point had been that they’d do so via trade, though Rosenthal, for one, may be changing his tune on that.

If we circle back to the idea of Strasburg’s contract as a template, that’s where this really starts to make sense for the Brewers, either for just Darvish or a pair of starters. We know that they have a ton of space under the CBT threshold but that they may not want to inflate the raw payroll too much, so how can they balance those things? Deferrments.

Inked prior to last season, Strasburg’s extension pays him $25 million AAV, but never costs the Nationals more than $18.33 million in any one season. In fact, he’ll only earn $5 million in 2019 and $15 million in each of the final three years of the deal. The kicker is that he’ll then receive $10 million annually from 2024-30, which is a pretty sweet setup.

The Brewers could eat $25 million AAV and still have $60 million or more left, while the more palatable actual salary means they don’t need to worry as much about not selling out the 70 home games that don’t feature the Cubs. But why stop there? After all, the Nats have a similar contract with Max Scherzer. Maybe the Brewers could land Arrieta with the same looooong term offer.

That’s totally insane and there’s probably no way it happens, but we’d have said the same thing about trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain in the same night. Though previously rumored, those moves came out of the blue to a large degree. And as we discussed here recently, Arrieta’s market has been awfully quiet lately.

Don’t get too worried, though, this is just me rambling wildly as we careen headlong into spring training with an All-Star team of free agents still unsigned.

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