ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) — The loaded Los Angeles Dodgers made a late trade for Texas ace Yu Darvish on Monday, their boldest move in pursuit of a World Series crown that’s eluded them for nearly 30 years.
The runaway NL West leaders, already with the best record in the majors and the highest payroll, acquired the 6-foot-5 right-hander from Japan for three minor league players in a deal Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said was completed in the last 10 minutes before the non-waiver trade deadline.
“It’s an honor to be wanted by the team,” Darvish said through his translator, adding that he had “nothing but appreciation” for his time in Texas.
Darvish was an All-Star this year for the fourth time in his five seasons playing for the Rangers. He joined Texas before the 2012 season, and missed all of 2015 after elbow surgery. In 22 starts this season, he is 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA.
In 122 starts overall for the Rangers, he was 52-39 with a 3.42 ERA and 960 strikeouts over 782 2-3 innings. But the pitcher who turns 31 on Aug. 16 was 0-5 with a 5.81 ERA in his last eight starts. He was tagged by the Miami Marlins for a career-worst 10 runs last Wednesday, and later revealed he was tipping his pitches.
Rangers manager Jeff Banister said he wished Darvish luck and challenged him to do something memorable.
“There were times where he was just dominating as we’ve seen previously with the fastball, the swing-and-miss slider, the sinker, the split, slow curve,” Banister said. “He’s going to wipe out hitters on days when his stuff is there. You’re going to sit back and watch, and marvel just what he does.”
In return for the ace that initially cost the Rangers more than $107 million to acquire, Los Angeles sent them second baseman/outfielder Willie Calhoun, right-hander A.J. Alexy and infielder Brendon Davis to the Rangers.
After the Rangers had to pay $51,703,411 to his team in Japan, they gave the pitcher a $56 million, six-year contract.
Darvish got a call from his agent right before Monday’s 4 p.m. EDT deadline for making trades without waivers.
“I was mentally prepared for the announcement,” said Darvish, though only minutes before that he had tweeted a picture of himself wearing a Rangers cap while at his locker.
Dodgers rookie first baseman Cody Bellinger tweeted a greeting to Darvish even before the deal was official.
Daniels said his team wanted to capitalize on the opportunity to add three talented young players. The GM said Darvish wasn’t dealt because of the possibility that he wouldn’t re-sign during the offseason.
“It really didn’t play any role at all,” Daniels said. “We know that if you don’t sign your own free agent by opening day usually he’s going to test the market. … I don’t feel like the odds really changed a whole lot.”
When asked if he would consider returning to Texas in free agency, Darvish said he would have to wait and see during the offseason. He said he would be willing to talk to all teams.
Texas won the AL West title each of the last two seasons, but went into Monday night’s game against Seattle tied for third and 18 games behind division-leadings Houston. The Rangers were 5 1/2 games out of the second American League wild card spot, with five other teams also at least that close.
Third baseman Adrian Beltre, who on Sunday became the 31st player in major league history with 3,000 career hits, said players had anticipated Darvish could be traded, though they hoped it wouldn’t happen.
“Because we still believe in this team. We know we have the pieces to compete and hopefully grab a spot in the wild card,” Beltre said. “At the same time, Yu was probably the best pitcher we had for five years.”
The Dodgers haven’t won the World Series since 1988, when Orel Hershiser was their ace. They’ve reached the playoffs 10 times since, including the last four years with star Clayton Kershaw.
Earlier Monday, Los Angeles acquired lefty reliever Tony Watson from Pittsburgh.
Calhoun, 22, hit .298 with 23 home runs and 67 RBIs in 99 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Alexy, 19, was 2-6 with a 3.67 ERA in 19 starts at Low-A Great Lakes. Davis, 20, hit a combined .241 with nine home runs and 43 RBIs at Great Lakes and High-A Rancho Cucamonga.
The Rangers also Monday sent reliever Jeremy Jeffress back to Milwaukee for Double-A pitcher Tayler Scott.
Jeffress was the 16th overall pick in the 2006 amateur draft by the Brewers. He had been sent with two-time All-Star catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Texas exactly 52 weeks earlier in another deadline deal. Lucroy was traded by Texas to Colorado on Sunday night for a player to be named.