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MLB.com expert predicts Yu Darvish could end up with Mariners

Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yu Darvish watches from the dugout during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Houston Astros on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. Could he be a fit for the Mariners next season? (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)
Los Angeles Dodgers’ Yu Darvish watches from the dugout during the eighth inning of Game 7 of the World Series against the Houston Astros on Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017, in Los Angeles. Could he be a fit for the Mariners next season? (Matt Slocum / Associated Press)

The Hot Stove league is heating up, and the Seattle Mariners might be a player this year for some of the bigger names available in Major League Baseball free agency.

The free agent signing period started 5 p.m. on Monday. While there were no major signings on the first day players were eligible to change teams of their own volition, there was certainly plenty of speculation.

One of the more informed takes on the subject came from former MLB general manager and baseball insider for MLB.com Jim Duquette, who evaluated the top 25 MLB free agents and predicted where those players might end up.

In the end, Duquette suggested that right-handed pitcher Yu Darvish, late of the World Series-losing Los Angeles Dodgers and before last year’s trade deadline the Texas Rangers, would end up signing with – drum roll, please – the Seattle Mariners.

From Duquette’s piece:

Darvish is the top starting pitcher available, and he should command top dollar, given his stellar stuff and longstanding track record of success. The right-hander showed the ability to adapt late in 2017, tweaking his delivery and pitch mix to spark a strong finish after struggling at times in July. He should command a contract in the range of six years, $140 million, despite his World Series struggles.

The Mariners are hardly the only team interested in Darvish’s services. Duquette goes on to list the Dodgers, Rangers, New York Yankees, and St. Louis Cardinals in addition to the M’s as interested teams. And it’s interesting that Duquette doesn’t really give a reason why he thinks the Mariners win a bidding war for Darvish.

Duquette also thinks Yonder Alonso will re-sign with the M’s after spending the latter half of the season in Seattle, hitting .265/.353/.439 with six home runs and 18 RBIs in 42 games with the Mariners. Again, he provides no basis for why he thinks Alonso will end up back at Safeco next season.

Duquette ties the M’s interest to a couple of other players as well: RHP Jake Arrieta, 1B Eric Hosmer, 1B Logan Morrison, 1B/DH Carlos Santana, RHP Jason Vargas, and LHP CC Sabathia.

It’s no secret the M’s are in dire need of a front-line starter and slugging first baseman.

The starting rotation was besieged by injury last year. The M’s used a whopping 17 starters over the course of the season, and guys were shuttled back-and-forth from Tacoma the entire season. James Paxton and Felix Hernandez both missed significant chunks of time, and Drew Smyly never made an appearance.

For the Mariners to really be committed to competing in the twilight of the careers of Robinson Cano and Nelson Cruz, and not waste the prime years of Kyle Seager and Jean Segura, they need to secure a rotation anchor – a true ace – which would allow Paxton to dominate as the No. 2 guy.

Darvish could be that guy. He’ll be just 31, and his peripherals are still quite solid. The memory of his dismal World Series performance will linger, however, but that’s not going to stop some team from giving him a gajillion dollars.

Could that team be the Mariners?