The deal is not officially official yet, though that figures to come in the next two days or so.
According to multiple sources, Darvish’s contract can escalate up to $150 million if he wins multiple Cy Young awards over the coming seasons, but the exact particulars are not yet known. On top of that, Darvish receives some kind of no-trade protection (again, the full details aren’t quite out yet), and an opt-out after the second year of his deal. Soon enough, we’ll have a clearer picture of this contract, but for now, those are the details we know about. (UPDATE: Bob Nightengale has some details on the escalators – Darvish can earn extra bucks for finishing anywhere from first to fifth in Cy Young voting – and says the no-trade clause is “almost full,” which is another way of saying it is not quite a full no-trade clause. (UPDATE: Jon Heyman says the no-trade clause is full for “part of the deal,” and then it drops to a 12-team list.))
As for my thoughts on the deal … I’m super stoked. I cannot believe the Cubs were able to land such an impactful starter like this on a deal that’ll pay him just $21M annually. That’s simply not that much to pay for one of the best 15-25 pitchers in baseball, and, of course, in the new luxury-tax-matters environment, the benefit of added “cap space” from a lower AAV has its own value.
Think about it this way: Jon Lester was the same age when the Cubs gave him six years and $155 million … THREE YEARS AGO. You could argue that Lester was the slightly better pitcher then than Darvish is now, but the cost of a starter should’ve gone up after three seasons. Instead, it apparently went down by $30 million (at least in terms of his guarantee). Such is the market, it seems, and the value of Lester’s exceptional health track record.
Darvish about 8 months older than Lester when he signed with Cubs. Lester made $29 million more. 5 seasons leading up to FA …
Lester: 74-51, 3.54 ERA, 1,038 IP. Coming off 16-11, 32 starts, 2.46 ERA
Darvish: 56-42, 3.42 ERA, 832 1/3 IP. Coming off 10-12, 31 starts, 3.86 ERA
— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) February 10, 2018
I suppose we have to factor in the value of the opt out, especially if Darvish’s deal proves to be front-loaded. In any case, there’s almost no version of the opt out, escalators, and no-trade provisions that will make this deal anything but fantastic for the Cubs.
If Darvish is good enough to win multiple Cy Young Awards over the next several years, the Cubs will be happy to pay him the extra $24 million in escalators. If he doesn’t quite win enough awards, but is good enough to opt out and get more money after two years (at age 33), the Cubs will be happy to get what they got and let a 33-year-old starter enter into free agency without having to pay for his declining years. And if he’s just 75% of the pitcher he has been over the life of this contract (with some quality seasons up front and more mediocre seasons at the back end), the Cubs are still going to be happy to have an obvious piece of the rotation cost-controlled for several years.
As with all deals, there is obviously the risk of injury and/or a sudden and extreme drop in effectiveness (as we’ve seen with some other contracts that looked great the day they were signed). But as we analyze the deal as we know of it today, this looks like a very good one for the Cubs.
One thing I will say in the opposite direction is that this is not the sort of pitcher we’re used to seeing the Cubs front office target for the rotation (via free agency). In the past, they’ve made a point to find guys who do not rely on velocity, because they generally expect those players to age more gracefully (think Lester). Darvish doesn’t necessarily rely on velocity (he’s got a robust arsenal of pitches), but he’s certainly a high-velocity pitcher. With that said, we know this front office chased Darvish back when he first came to the United States, so clearly they’ve always liked something about him.
Okay, so now that I’ve gotten some of my initial reactions out of the way, let’s check in on some other random Darvish notes, bullet style:
- First and most notably, Patrick Mooney (The Athletic) has the full story on how the Cubs wound up landing the top free agent starting pitcher on the market, and you’ll definitely want to check it out. One of the parts I found most interesting, is how the remaining cost-controlled years on Jose Quintana helped Theo Epstein get over the hump of committing another $100 million deal to a starting pitcher.
- Elsewhere, Gordon Wittenmyer provides some historical context for the Cubs:
Biggest contracts in Cubs history:
Heyward: $184 million (8 years)
Lester: $155 million (6)
Soriano: $136 million (8)
Darvish: $126 million (6)
— Gordon Wittenmyer (@GDubCub) February 10, 2018
- And Willy sure seems to love the deal!
- According to Jon Heyman, the Dodgers were the other team willing to go six years and on Darvish, but their offer was closer to $100 million (which is also, apparently, what the Brewers and Twins were offering, but over five years). Meanwhile, the Yankees, according to Ken Rosenthal, never wound up making an offer. Needless to say, the Cubs did what they needed to (an extra year and more money) to get the deal done and still make it affordable.
- New Cubs backup catcher, Chris Gimenez, on the addition of his friend and future battery-mate:
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 10, 2018
- I know there’s so many reasons and ways Gimenez is not “the new David Ross” … but also, the whole process was so eerily similar. And, perhaps more importantly, he’s so clearly cut from the same cloth as Ross (smart, experienced, positive, veteran leader). He’ll be a big part of the Cubs this season. Here’s more on and from Gimenez at Cubs.com., including what he says he heard about Darvish’s playoffs: “I heard [the Dodgers] took his breaking ball away from him [Darvish threw just three curveballs in the World Series after throwing the pitch 6 percent of time during the regular season]. I can understand, it’s not like his slider, but it does effectively set up other pitches. I watched him pitch in the World Series, and it wasn’t necessarily him.”
- Also, recall, the Astros say Darvish was tipping pitches in his two disastrous World Series starts. That’s the kind of thing that I have no doubt will be addressed long before Darvish throws a regular season inning for the Cubs.
- On that point, the Cubs’ new pitching coach, Jim Hickey, had some really nice things to say about Darvish, including a comparison to Greg Maddux, in their ability to mask their pitches:
— MLB Network Radio on SiriusXM (@MLBNetworkRadio) February 11, 2018
- And perhaps that leads perfectly into this gif:
Just gonna share this amazing overlay GIF of five Yu Darvish pitches at once. No reason at all. pic.twitter.com/05a581DZp4
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) January 23, 2018
- Against Darvish, so long as he’s not tipping his pitches, you just have to guess. And sometimes, guessing can make you look very silly:
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 11, 2018
Yu Darvish doesn’t throw a slider. He throws a wiffleball. pic.twitter.com/3UuZBV7D7N
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 10, 2018
- And, hey, if there’s a particularly strong lefty coming up, Darvish can always just change arms (I’m kidding, of course, but he can pitch left-handed shockingly well):
— Baseball is Fun (@flippingbats) January 3, 2018
- This is good:
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) February 10, 2018
- This tweet made some people unnecessarily upset:
The Cubs have four pitchers who could make a case for “Opening Day starter.” That’s a very good problem.
— Michael Cerami (@Michael_Cerami) February 10, 2018
- Here’s the thing, the Cubs’ rotation currently has two of the 2016 Cy Young finalists (Kyle Hendricks and Jon Lester), both of whom could be “Opening Day” starters, regardless of how you define that term (plus, Hendricks was the Cubs’ Game 1 starter in the 2017 postseason, and Lester is the veteran leader of the staff). It also has the offseason’s top free agent starter, Darvish, who happens to be a four-time All-Star and 2013 Cy Young runner-up. And despite all three of those pitchers’ existence on the roster, the Cubs’ best starter might actually be the guy they acquired at the deadline last season, Jose Quintana. By my count, that means they have four guys who, by the end of the year, might be the Cubs’s nominal “ace.”
- As for how they actually shake out, it’s hard to go wrong, but Jose Quintana, Yu Darvish, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Tyler Chatwood gives you an alternating look, with Quintana getting the ball first.
- We like to have fun:
Fly the Double Yu! pic.twitter.com/DjXPyTwIys
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) February 11, 2018
— Nathan Marzion (@natemar3i0n) February 10, 2018