When Yu Darvish finished second in the AL Cy Young Award balloting on Wednesday, he not only made franchise history by becoming just the second pitcher, other than Fergie Jenkins, to finish that high in the Cy Young race, but he also started the process of possibly landing an extension before he becomes a free agent down the road.
Darvish finished with a 2.83 ERA and led all of baseball with 277 strikeouts, nearly 12 Ks per nine innings. The Rangers might secretly be thankful that Max Scherzer turned in a 21-3 record and a 2.90 ERA to win the award in a landslide, though, because Darvish is on his way to being able to opt for free agency before the 2017 season.
Per his contract, Darvish can now void the 2017 season of his contract and instead opt for free agency instead of taking the very meager $11 million salary (assuming Darvish keeps this up) if he finishes second through fourth in the AL Cy Young voting in two of the next three seasons, which seems very attaintable. A first-place finish in the next three seasons will also allow him to void the 2017 year and become a free agent after the 2016 season.
Now, what should the Rangers do about this? Darvish has had two great years, and last season was stellar. If he continues to get better, or even stay the same, the Rangers will want to seriously consider a big payday for Darvish, who is coming on the cheap right now when you look at his on-field production.
There's no need to worry about an extension before next winter, but if Darvish puts up another year in 2014 similar to what he did in 2013, it's time to start crossing that bridge. Currently, Darvish is set to make $10 million per year over the next three seasons before his $11 million option in 2017. That is a very reasonable amount for the Rangers for a guy of Darvish's caliber, and if he gives them a reason, they'll need to pony up and give him a bigger contract before 2016.