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Age Is Just A Number

Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

The Padres shored up the front-end of their starting rotation for the foreseeable future on Thursday afternoon, signing veteran right-hander Yu Darvish to a six-year, $108 million contract extension. The 36-year-old was slated to hit free agency at the conclusion of the upcoming 2023 season, but the two sides were able to find common ground on a front-loaded deal that will keep him in San Diego through the 2028 season when he turns 42 years old. It’s within the realm of possibility that Darvish – who spent seven years pitching professionally for the Nippon Ham Fighters in Japan’s Nippon Professional Baseball prior to his stateside arrival – winds up finishing his remarkable career, which also includes stops with the Rangers, Dodgers and Cubs, in Southern California.

From a fantasy perspective, Darvish has aged magnificently over the last two years in San Diego and represents a borderline top-20 starting pitcher in drafts this spring. His strikeout rate dipped slightly last season for the first time in his career, but his control returned to previously-elite levels, fueling some gains from a run-prevention standpoint as he finished with a sparkling 3.10 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 197/37 K/BB ratio across 194 2/3 innings (30 starts). He’s been an extremely durable workhorse over the last few years, making at least 30 starts in each of the previous three full seasons since 2019. He was phenomenal down the home stretch last year, allowing three earned runs or fewer in 12 of his final 13 starts after the Midsummer Classic. There are very few guarantees when it comes to starting pitchers, but given Darvish’s extensive track record, there’s very little reason to doubt that he’ll remain an upper-echelon fantasy contributor for the next few years.

Despite locking up Darvish to front their formidable starting rotation, San Diego might not be done this spring as they’re also expected to pursue a long-term contract extension with superstar shortstop Manny Machado prior to Opening Day, according to Dennis Lin of The Athletic. The 30-year-old superstar third baseman has the ability to opt-out of his contract with the Padres, which contains a player option that extends through 2028, at the conclusion of the 2023 campaign. He’s a virtual lock to head back out onto the open market next offseason, unless the two sides are able to agree to a mammoth contract extension.

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Ashby Likely To Miss Opening Day

Just a few days after Brewers general manager Matt Arnold revealed that left-hander Aaron Ashby would be delayed at the outset of spring training due to left shoulder fatigue, Milwaukee manager Craig Counsell added that the young southpaw isn’t expected to be ready in time for Opening Day. “It’s a remnant from last year that manifested itself as he ramped up throwing again,” Counsell explained. “We had to take a pretty big step back as far as rest.” It certainly doesn’t sound like Ashby will have enough time to fully ramp up his throwing program in time for Opening Day, which is just seven weeks away in late March. There isn’t an exact timetable for the 24-year-old’s return to the Brewers’ pitching mix, and given these latest developments, it seems extremely unlikely that he’ll be counted on as a member of Milwaukee’s starting rotation, at least during the early stages of the 2023 season. His absence virtually guarantees that soft-tossing veteran southpaw Wade Miley, or perhaps right-hander Adrian Houser, makes the club’s season-opening rotation as a fifth starter.

Ashby has shown some flashes of immense fantasy potential in recent years, especially given his ability to consistently generate swinging strikes, but this latest shoulder issue might be enough to knock him off mixed-league radar screens for fantasy managers in drafts this spring. He’s a worthwhile stash candidate in deeper mixed leagues and NL-only formats, but his path to a rotation spot is seemingly littered with obstacles.

MLB Quick Hits: Blue Jays signed SS Bo Bichette to a three-year, $33.6 million contract that buys out all three of his arbitration-eligible seasons through 2025 … Kyle Tucker lost his arbitration hearing against the Astros on Thursday and will make $5 million this season … Nationals and OF Victor Robles avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.325 million contract for the 2023 season with a $3.3 million club option for 2024 … Marlins and INF/OF Jon Berti avoided arbitration by agreeing to a one-year, $2.1 million contract with a $3.5 million club option for 2024 … Reds acquired OF Will Benson from the Guardians for OF Justin Boyd and a player to be named later or cash considerations … Cardinals acquired LHP Anthony Misiewicz from the Royals for cash considerations … Mets claimed RHP Sam Coonrod off waivers from the Phillies … Guardians claimed RHP Jason Bilous off waivers from the White Sox … Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson told The Athletic recently that DJ LeMahieu‘s bat speed and swing appear back to pre-injury levels … Josh Jung told reporters this week that he’s fully healthy entering the 2023 season after playing through shoulder issues at the end of last season … Tejay Antone (forearm) will miss the start of the regular season after receiving a platelet-rich-plasma injection in his right arm … Jared Walsh (shoulder) … Anthony DeSclafani (ankle) … Ronald Guzmán will get an opportunity to pitch as a two-way player this spring in Giants’ camp … Reds designated INF Alejo Lopez for assignment … Cardinals designated RHP James Naile for assignment … Mets designated INF/OF Khalil Lee for assignment … Pirates signed LHP Caleb Smith to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Mariners signed OF Leonys Martin to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Rays signed INF/OF Charlie Culberson to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Giants signed OF Stephen Piscotty, LHP Sean Newcomb and RHP Trevor Hildenberger to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Astros signed RHP Bryan Garcia to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Tigers signed OF DJ Peters to a minor league contract with an invitation to spring training … Guardians signed C Zack Collins, RHP Dusten Knight and LHP Phillip Diehl to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Padres signed SS Wander Javier and INF Rangel Ravelo to minor league contracts with invitations to spring training … Twins signed LHP Tyler Webb to a minor league contract … Phillies signed LHP Kyle Hart to a minor league contract … Cardinals signed SS Arquimedes Gamboa to a minor league contract … Mariners signed RHP A.J. Puckett to a minor league contract … Blue Jays released LHP Matthew Gage.