Late last week, a report out of Japan indicated that the Cubs were not only involved in the Yu Darvish pursuit, but were – depending on your translation – seriously involved.
Then, Bruce Levine added confirmation over the weekend that, yes, the Cubs were “kicking the tires” on the top free agent starter.
If Levine’s latest is accurate, then you can upgrade “kicking the tires” to something more like “talking to the sales manager”:
Cubs Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer landed in Dallas this afternoon. Free agent Yu Darvish meeting is likely destination for the two execs.
— Bruce Levine (@MLBBruceLevine) December 18, 2017
Darvish takes his offseason meetings in Dallas? I guess he played there for a very long time, so it makes sense. I’ll hold back just a little bit in case the meeting is with someone else (Jake Arrieta’s from Texas, you know), but I’m guessing Levine isn’t just throwing that out there from nowhere. (UPDATE: Jon Heyman also reports the Cubs were meeting with Darvish.)
In any case, if the Cubs are sending their top execs to a meeting with Yu Darvish, that’s not just keeping tabs on a player’s market. That’s either gauging how serious each sides’ interest might be, or it’s flat out trying to get a guy signed. There is smoke. Billowy, plumes of smoke.
As for a Darvish addition, it would obviously make sense for the Cubs from a performance standpoint, as Darvish figures to be the top starting pitcher to change teams via free agency this offseason, just ahead of Jake Arrieta. (In this tier of players, it’s not super important, but it’s worth noting that Darvish is not tied to draft pick compensation, and Arrieta, by contrast, could net the Cubs a pick after the second round if he signs elsewhere (so re-signing him “costs” the Cubs a pick).)
Does Darvish make sense financially? Well, the Cubs can certainly add him on the right deal and stay under the luxury tax threshold for 2018. And if they’re planning to exceed the threshold after 2018 anyway, then maybe the financial considerations are not in the front seat. After all, Epstein did say that going after the top tier pitchers in free agency makes sense only about once every three years (the team signed Jon Lester three winters ago).
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 freaking you out. It’s extremely fixable.
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.