If you’d told me last week after the Winter Meetings that, on Monday, I’d be popping up an “Obsessive Yu Darvish Watch,” I would have been highly dubious. “Why are you stretching, Brett? Is the stove that cold that you’ve gotta freak about nothing?”
But that Brett wouldn’t have known what I know – that, after a rapid swell of rumors, the original from which came out of a reputable source in Japan with particularly strong language (probably) about the Cubs’ interest, the Cubs would be sending their top two executives to Dallas in order to meet with Darvish. Had I known that, well, my tune would have been as changed as it is today.
Also, just to confirm Bruce Levine’s report:
sources: cubs are indeed meeting with yu. they have cast a wide net on free-agent/trade markets for a top starting pitcher. cobb, lynn, arrieta, duffy, archer among other possibilities. https://t.co/enuahpAKTm
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2017
Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer are not traveling together to meet with a tip top free agent unless they are legitimately interested in signing that player, and believe it could possibly happen. This is real.
To be fair, I should be very clear about what I’m saying: the Cubs are interested in signing Yu Darvish, and they must want to know if a realistic deal can be worked out. That’s a significant step forward from where we thought things might be between these two sides (the Cubs stay in touch, but do not necessarily pursue). But I am not here saying the Cubs are aggressively pursuing Darvish (yet) or that they’re the favorites to sign him (yet) or that they’ve made a substantial offer (yet). We only know now that the interest is real.
Whether that interest is limited to an opportunity to get a bargain and, in the process, apply some pressure to Alex Cobb and/or pitching trade partners? Well, that part we cannot know. It’s plausible. It’s at least as plausible as the Cubs being ready to plop down $120+ million on a starting pitcher in this class.
Either way, I like that the Cubs are sincerely keeping this option on the table. Maybe you prefer not to go with a nine-figure pitcher right now, but you can’t argue that the player fits. And if the right deal is available at the not-quite-perfect time? Sometimes you’ve gotta just pull the trigger anyway and get the right deal when you can. Consider how many big market clubs are not going to be going after top free agents this year because of their luxury tax situation – the Dodgers and Yankees being two of the biggest.
So, then, an Obsessive Watch? Yup. I’m on it. Darvish is a profoundly impactful player and the interest is real. (Our free agent profile of him is here if you want more of our take on how he projects and how he might fit with the Cubs.)
The Cubs, of course, are not alone in their interest in Darvish, though. His market has been relatively unclear to date, with a number of other major suitors kind of in that same range we believed the Cubs to be – interested in a good deal, but just kinda hanging around.
One team that is pretty clearly much more eager than that is the Minnesota Twins.
GM Thad Levine (who was Assistant GM in Texas when Darvish signed with the Rangers) has said that Darvish is a “priority,” and the Star Tribune reports, “Players and front office members, over the past few days, are speaking more optimistically about the 31-year-old righthander than they ever have about top free-agent targets.”
A source in the article predicted that it could still be a month before Darvish signs, which would take things into mid-January. That’s not unheard of for top free agents, and in a market as delayed as this one has been, I guess we might be waiting on a long time on this one – unless the Cubs move more quickly on something else.
For now, we know the Cubs are legitimately interested, and we know the Twins see Darvish as a priority. If it came down to those teams, you’ve gotta like the Cubs’ many selling points, though you never know for sure just how aggressive the Twins might go on dollars, and how much Darvish might prefer a different setting than we might expect.
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.