The Chicago Cubs have reportedly come to an agreement with Yu Darvish for $126MM over six years, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Darvish is coming off a 2017 campaign with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers where he was 16th in fWAR among pitchers, and 12th in K/9. The 2017 season was a learning one for Darvish as he went back to the pitch selection of his earlier days in Japan and his first two seasons in Texas. The right-hander’s four-seam fastball use went down 8.6% from 2016, while his usage of the slider increased by 6%. Darvish underwent Tommy John surgery, which required him to miss the whole 2015 season. After the surgery, Darvish has experienced increases in velocity of all his pitches along with a 3.2% flyball decrease in 2017. With the shift in hitting, going towards a launch angle approach the 3.2% decrease is even more valuable There has been an increase in studies being done on certain pitches and their correlation with elbow stress. This can be seen as one of the factors for the increase in Darvish’s offspeed use with the Dodgers along with Los Angeles bringing on Driveline Baseball to assist in pitcher development.
This is the deal the Cubs needed to make after a “disappointing” 92-win season and failure to return back to the World Series. With this deal, the Cubs will bolster a rotation that already includes Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood. Fangraphs projects a 4.1 WAR for Darvish for the 2018 season. The addition of Darvish will most likely push Mike Montgomery, who has a projected 1.5 WAR as a starter, back to the bullpen. I would keep Montgomery’s name in mind for a deadline deal. The lefty has voiced his desire to be a starter. Darvish along with Chatwood headline the newest additions for the Cubs. With the departure of Chris Bosio, Jim Hickey will take the helm as the pitching coach on the North Side. Hickey will have large shoes to fill. Bosio is seen as one of the most intricate parts of the Cubs recent success, responsible for the emergence of Kyle Hendricks and Jason Hammel, and for the resurrection of Jake Arrieta.
This free agency has been rather pedestrian. Some may say a six-year contract for a 31-year-old pitcher only two years removed from Tommy John is too much of a risk. The terms of this contract should not be surprising to anyone. Being in a market like Chicago and with a team like the Chicago Cubs, there is a “win now” mentality. If the resources are there, you use them. The deal reportedly is for a guaranteed $126MM which is a discount from reports that Darvish wanted a contract ranging from $150MM-$170MM. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have been known to win while developing. Eight of the Cubs top ten prospects are pitchers headlined by Oscar De La Cruz. With this deal, the Cubs rotation becomes even older with the youngest pitchers being 28 years old (Hendricks and Chatwood). The Cubs still have many assets to use in trades if needed.
Darvish will bring a new, needed energy to The Windy City. Whenever he pitches, there seems to be more excitement in the crowds during his starts, especially from the Japanese-American community. Hopefully, this will be even better than the 2008 season, when the Cubs signed Kosuke Fukudome. Chicago has the largest Japanese-American population outside of the West Coast.
Hopefully, this move opens the door for rest of the free agents. This is looking to be the busiest February in offseason history. There are only four more days until pitchers and catchers report!
Image: Wednesday, Nov. 1, 2017. (Robert Gauthier | Los Angeles Times/TNS)