When Yu Darvish arrived in Texas from Japan in 2012, the Rangers were coming off consecutive World Series appearances.
As was expected with his celebrated entrance then, Darvish is pitching for a World Series contender. However, he is doing so out on the West Coast for the Los Angeles Dodgers instead of in Texas, where he never won a postseason game and was not even part of winning a playoff series.
With a third straight American League West title long out of reach, and a wild-card spot becoming ever more distant with each loss, the Rangers obtained three minor league players for Darvish, the pitcher they spent more than two years scouting and more than $107 million to acquire.
After completing a trade with the Dodgers minutes before Monday’s nonwaiver deadline, Rangers General Manager Jon Daniels was asked if he thought Darvish was worth it — the time, $56 million in salary and more than $51 million the Rangers had to pay his team in Japan.
“I do, on a variety of levels,” Daniels said. “But ultimately he was outstanding when he was on the field for us — pitched at a level very, very few pitchers do. He got hurt, and that’s the nature of the game.”
Daniels added, “But he produced an extremely high level when he was here.”
Darvish was 52-39 with a 3.42 E.R.A. in 122 starts for Texas. Coming off Tommy John surgery he had before the 2015 season, he was 6-9 with a 4.01 ERA in 22 starts this year, going 0-5 in his last eight outings.
The Rangers got no immediate help after dealing Darvish, who made his fourth All-Star team this season. Darvish had elbow surgery and missed all of 2015, when Texas made a late push to an A.L. West title in Manager Jeff Banister’s first season after the midseason addition of the left-hander Cole Hamels.
When the Rangers lost in Hamels’s debut two years ago on Aug. 1, they were eight games back in the A.L. West. They were four games back in the wild-card chase, with four teams between them and the second spot.
After a sloppy 6-4 loss to Seattle on Monday, the Rangers were 19 games behind the division-leading Houston Astros in the A.L. West, and five and a half games out of the second wild-card spot with five teams ahead of them, including their division foes Seattle and the Los Angeles Angels.
Banister maintained that his team’s mind-set was the same after the trade. “We know where we’re at; we know what we’re up against,” Banister said. “I relish the fact that some of this is going to go down as well, the Rangers are now not part of the equation.” He added: “That DNA is still there. That want-to and the drive is still there.”
Hamels is signed through next season with a club option for 2019, but Darvish — who turns 31 in two weeks — can become a free agent this winter. So can starters Andrew Cashner and Tyson Ross, both on one-year deals.
This week the Rangers also traded catcher Jonathan Lucroy to Colorado for a player to be named, and sent reliever Jeremy Jeffress back to Milwaukee for a Class AA pitcher. Both players were nonwaiver deadline additions last summer.
But at that same time this year, Daniels acknowledged that the Rangers were somewhat caught in the middle — not in position to just add a player to “finish off the club” for a pennant chase, but not completely out of the mix for a possible playoff push.
“Bit of a challenging call to make,” Daniels said of the Darvish trade. “But ultimately we decided that the package that we got, these three young players, was over the line for us.”
Adrian Beltre, their 38-year-old third baseman and the newest member in the major league 3,000-hit club, said Rangers teammates were disappointed to see Darvish traded but weren’t giving up on the season.
“We know that we can win without him,” Beltre said. “Hopefully, guys as a group can step up and do a better job — offensively, defensively and pitching — and use this as a motivation.”