It took until February 10, but we have our first MLB free agent signing worth $100 million-plus.
The signing comes at the hands of the Chicago Cubs, who have agreed to a six-year, $126 million deal with starting pitcher Yu Darvish, per The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal. Darvish will have the potential to earn up to $150 million over the lifetime of the deal with the Cubs through incentives that have been deemed unlikely to be reached.
Chicago has been considered the favorites for Darvish for a while now, but there was for sure competition for Darvish’s services. This competition reportedly included the Los Angeles Dodgers, who also made a six-year offer to Darvish to try and retain him. The Milwaukee Brewers, a National League Central division rival of the Cubs, reportedly made an offer for five-years that featured over a $100 million, as did the Minnesota Twins.
With Darvish now finally in the mix for the Cubs, they can add him to their starting rotation that features Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana, and Tyler Chatwood, who was signed by the Cubs to a three-year, $38 million contract earlier in the off-season.
Darvish is also the 7th different pitcher to be signed by the Cubs this off-season, joining Chatwood, Brian Duensing, Brandon Morrow, Drew Smyly, Steve Cishek, and Dario Alvarez. ESPN’s Jesse Rogers notes that the 7 free agent pitchers signed by the Cubs in free agency is the second most ever, behind the 2001 Texas Rangers. Darvish is also the 3rd $100 million signing by the Cubs in free agency in the last 4 off-seasons, joining Jason Heyward, who signed for $184 million, and Lester who signed for $155 million.
The signing of Darvish means we can close the book on Jake Arrieta returning to the Cubs, as the teams that missed out on Darvish will now likely pivot towards Arrieta. One team to watch in the Arrieta sweepstakes is the Brewers, who have been linked to Arrieta throughout the entire off-season, and are hungry to add starting pitching, with the money available to sign a high-caliber pitcher.
Free agent pitchers Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn should also have more interested teams after them now that could potential speed up their signing process, but it is unknown how the positional player market will change, with free agents like J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Mike Moustakas still available.
Cubs star catcher Willson Contreras reacted accordingly to the news on Twitter:
Holly cow another aggressive move by @Cubs
Can’t wait to catch @faridyu Welcome to Chicago Cubs 🙌
— Willson Contreras (@WContreras40) February 10, 2018
It should be fun for Contreras to catch Darvish, as ESPN notes that Darvish has averaged 11 strikeouts over 9 innings in his career. That is the highest ratio in MLB history for pitchers that have started at least 100 games, ranking just ahead of hall of famer Randy Johnson, and Boston Red Sox ace Chris Sale.
The 31-year-old Darvish spent the 2017 season with both the Texas Rangers and Dodgers, with the Dodgers making the move to acquire him ahead of the trade deadline for prospects Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy, and Brendon Davis. He posted a 3.44 earned run average in the regular season for the Dodgers, and was instrumental towards getting the Dodgers to the World Series, but the wheels fell off against the Houston Astros in Game 7 of the World Series when he allowed 4 earned runs in 1.2 innings of work and was accredited for his second loss of the series.
Still, it’s obvious the Cubs see a lot to like in Darvish, and Darvish had a great postseason game against them by going 6.1 innings and allowing just one run in a Dodgers victory in the National League Championship Series. Lifetime, he has a career 2.42 earned run average against the National League Central division.
For his career, Darvish has a 56-42 record, with a 3.42 earned run average, and 1,021 strikeouts in 832.1 innings of work.
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