This week, a report out of Japan seemed to indicate that the Cubs were something of a surprising new contender in the Yu Darvish free agency pursuit. The report was from a credible source, but because of the vagaries involved in translation, I didn’t want us all getting too hyped up until we heard a little more.
This would qualify as a little more:
Something to keep your eye on . Cubs in on numerous pitchers and are kicking the tires on Yu Darvish now .
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 16, 2017
Kicking the tires, eh? Sounds like that report out of Japan did have some legs.
Darvish is projected to get a contract in the five to six year, $125 to $150 million range, which would be a surprising and substantial investment for a Cubs club that would be pushing the luxury tax cap at that point, with many arbitration raises looming in the next few years, AND a large and compelling free agent class coming next offseason.
It’s possible that Darvish has found the market lacking, though, and the Cubs are simply doing what we’ve said all along that they would do – stay involved, and see what happens. You never know when a bargain might shake loose, especially when you consider how many other big markets are trying to stay under the luxury tax limit this year (the Dodgers just made a significant move to get under it). If Alex Cobb is pushing for significantly more money than expected, perhaps the Cubs elected to engage Darvish more seriously, at least as an alternative to Cobb and the trade market. There are some concerning trends in Darvish’s peripherals, but it’s not as if he’s not still a top 20/30 starter in the league. We earlier discussed his Steamer projections for 2018:
Stats: 179.0 IP, 3.81 ERA, 3.69 FIP, 3.7 fWAR
I genuinely don’t know if the Cubs are going to dip their toe into the deep end of free agent starting pitchers, but if they were to, Yu Darvish would probably be there guy. The projections are fairly kind. In terms of ERA, FIP, and WAR, Darvish’s projections for 2018 are even stronger than 2017. He does come up a little shy on the inning count, but it’s rare that you see any starting pitcher projected for 200+ innings these days. Perhaps the most exciting projection for next season is that he’s not expected to lose anything on his excellent strikeout (27.2%) or walk (7.6%) rates.
They’re not traditional “ace” quality numbers, but they’re certainly quality projections, and similar to the sort of numbers Darvish put up last year, when he was among the top 20 or so pitchers in baseball.
Here’s our full free agent profile of Darvish. And here’s the story about how he was tipping pitches in the World Series and thus got blown up by the Astros, in case that was still freaking you out. It sure seems like a simple, two minute fix.
I think a trade or a reasonably-priced Cobb signing still are more likely than a whopper for Darvish, but the Cubs have every reason in the world right now to stay involved. They need an arm and Darvish has a great one. The longer his free agency drags on, the more plausible it becomes that he might not get quite the monster deal we’ve been expecting.