Report: Rangers Gauging Interest in Yu Darvish

Seattle Mariners v Texas Rangers

Courtesy: Getty Images

Will he stay or will he go?

The ongoing saga concerning the future of pitcher Yu Darvish in a Rangers uniform takes another interesting turn. Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan reported earlier this morning that Texas was open to at least discussing possible deals on the table for righty, who’s due to become a free agent after the season.

One team that was said to show some interest is the defending World Series champion Chicago Cubs. According to MLB.com’s Jon Morosi, a trade between the two teams is more plausible now than before the All-Star Break.

The Cubs originally didn’t seem like a spot for Darvish simply because they were looking for controllable pitchers to stick in the rotation for the long term, while Darvish would likely be considered a rental before hitting the free agent market.

On the other side, the Rangers weren’t completely sold on idea of letting their ace go. In fact, Texas wasn’t sold on moving anyone while still in contention for an A.L. wild card. Plus, there was the feeling the club could also sign Darvish to a deal that would keep him in Arlington.

“I think wants to be here,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels told NBC 5 sports director Newy Scruggs last month. “In his own ways, he’s become a leader on this team. Behind the scenes, you see more than up front, just the way he handles certain personalities and how he interacts with other people.  We would love to have him back.”

Important to also point out that Daniels said he would be open to talks and evaluating where things stand with the entire team leading up the trade deadline.

Now, here we are approaching the end of July. That deadline is right around the corner. A week of decision-making is about to happen.

The Rangers stumbled out of the gate after the All-Star Break, losing five straight, including a four-game sweep at the hands of the Baltimore Orioles. The wild card spot is slowing slipping away. The crazy thing is despite how bad the Rangers have played recently, they’re still in the chase.

Meanwhile in the senior circuit, the Cubs have caught fire, having won six straight games to start the second half and now have the N.L. Central Division title in their sights. The Cubs recently landed pitcher Jose Quintana in a blockbuster deal with the cross-town White Sox and appear to be interested in acquiring more arms for a shot to defend their title.

Let’s just say a deal happens and Darvish is sent to a contender, whether it would be the Cubs or anyone else who gets in the mix. Does that mean his days in Arlington are officially over?

Not exactly.

Take a look at the New York Yankees situation with reliever Aroldis Chapman last season. The Yankees sent him to the Windy City and got a prospect package in return from the Cubs. Chapman helps the Cubs break the curse and win the World Series, and then returns to New York on a free agent deal.

It’s not out of the realm of possibility the same thing could happen with Darvish and the Rangers. That’s just the way baseball go.

However, Darvish may not be the only name floated out there as a trade piece for the Rangers. Catcher Jonathan Lucroy and first baseman Mike Napoli might also be on the move should Texas continue to slip. Just like with Darvish, both Lucroy and Napoli could walk at the end of the season. Even if the Rangers jump back in the middle of the wild card race, Lucroy could still be dealt to shore up the bullpen, which has been a big reason Texas is in this situation. The emergence of Robinson Chirinos at the catcher position has helped make that more of a possibility.

As for the here and now, Darvish takes the mound Friday night against the Rays in what may be the most important series of the season for the Rangers, at least right now. Tampa is one of the teams the Rangers will need to catch in the wild card standings. The good news for the Rangers is that Darvish is 4-0 with a 1.09 ERA in five career starts against the Rays.

Right now, it’s just the business of gauging interest. This time next week, it could be a whole new ballgame.

The Continued Process and Resurgence of the Mean Green Football Program

2017 UNT CUSA Media Day

It’s a new culture in Denton. Last season was the beginning; this season is the expected continuation.

Coming off the 2016 season that saw North Texas achieve the goal of playing in a bowl game, the focus this year for the Mean Green under second-year head coach Seth Littrell is to build off that momentum and continue raising the standards in the football program.

Needless to say, the players are on board.

“More guys, I think, have bought into what is it we are trying to do as one, as a family,” said defensive back Kishawn McClain during Wednesday’s Conference USA Media Day in Irving. “Guys want to work, everybody is working now, everybody is focused and everybody is listening to one another.”

North Texas is picked to finish fourth in the West division this season. However, despite the 5-8 record in 2016, the Mean Green had the second-best turnaround in the Football Bowl Subdivision in terms of wins. It was enough to earn a bid to the Heart of Dallas Bowl. A little isn’t enough at North Texas, not anymore.

“It’s the mindset, it’s all in the mind and in the heart,” said running back Jeffrey Wilson. “We want to change the culture because everyone perceives us as being the bottom team or the pushover in the conference. “

The culture movement, along with an increase in consistency, will be important for North Texas to continue the momentum gained last season. The question is– how?

“Holding each other accountable to whatever your standards are, whatever your beliefs are, on a consistent basis daily,” said Littrell. “It’s a challenge for any program, but I think it all goes back to your core values and how you set the culture.”

Littrell would know a thing or two about building and maintaining a winning culture. The former running back was a team captain on the 2000 Oklahoma Sooners team that won the national championship under Bob Stoops, who recently announced his retirement.

“I’ve always had opportunities to call him and we talked a lot about this job and different things,” said Littrell. “He’s definitely someone who I looked at as a mentor.”

Looking back at last year, the way things ended was bittersweet for Littrell and the Mean Green. The goal of making it to a bowl game was achieved. What the scoreboard read after time expired at the Heart of Dallas Bowl was considered a disappointment. Army, a team the Mean Green beat earlier in the season, walked away with the 38-31 win in overtime.

“That was our goal from day one, to go to a bowl game and win it,” said Wilson. “Obviously, to lose in a bowl game to a team you already defeated, it’s a heartbreaker but it also makes you stronger. Our mission is to get back to a bowl game and get the results that we want.”

The mission is already underway and the journey officially starts on September 2 in Denton against Lamar.