Amid a swirl of rumors about the Cubs’ top pitching targets this offseason – Alex Cobb? Yu Darvish? A trade? A reunion with Jake Arrieta – ESPN’s Jesse Rogers just hopped on ESPN 1000 with Kap & Co. to talk about, among other things, the Cubs’ pitching pursuits. You can listen to a replay here.
From Rogers’ perspective, the issue in the Cubs’ search for pitching on the free agent market is all about the years. Specifically, it sounds like the Cubs are hoping to get Alex Cobb on a three-year deal, while he’s holding out for more. And then if the Cubs are pushed to four years on Cobb, Rogers said, “I think the Cubs are thinking ‘Alright, if we’re gonna have to go to four or five years, why don’t we pay the marquee guy in Yu Darvish?'”
But if Darvish is going to require five or six years, that’s a pretty huge jump from Cobb to Darvish, isn’t it? Well, here’s a surprise: Rogers repeatedly said there’s a chance Darvish may wind up getting only four years. Unlike Jake Arrieta – whom Rogers says is seeking six or more years – Darvish has nearly twice as many professional innings on his arm (including his time in Japan), which could make teams more weary about a very long-term deal.
Rogers wasn’t sure if Darvish is looking for five years and the Cubs are at four years, but he said that’s possible. That should make you smile, because the possibility of getting Darvish on a … say … four year, $100 million deal? That would be almost shockingly good.
I’d believe that kind of deal when I see it – and that would make it obvious why the Cubs haven’t hurried to finish a deal with Cobb – but we do have to remember that two of the biggest, most attractive spenders on the market are more or less sitting this year out. The Dodgers and Yankees want to stay under the luxury tax cap this year so that they can go nuts next year, and that has manifested itself in the Dodgers doing a lot of nothing besides an accounting trade with the Braves, and the Yankees unloading players so that they could add Giancarlo Stanton’s AAV in a mostly salary-neutral way in 2018. Heck, the Giants and Red Sox seem to be taking it easy, too.
Perhaps the big boys sitting out is creating a perfect storm for another big market team like the Cubs to be able to get a great deal on a top pitcher like Darvish. Or, you never know, the Cubs could get Arrieta back on a five-year deal with a reasonable AAV. He’s reportedly been seeking upwards of $200 million, though, so until and unless that changes dramatically, you won’t see the Cubs seriously involved.
In the end, Darvish on a four-year deal is a dream scenario. It would be more than a pleasant surprise, and I’m still expecting he gets at least five years. But we’ll see.
(Again I’ll mention it, even though it’s not a TOP CONSIDERATION, it’s a factor: Cobb is tied to draft pick compensation, and would cost the Cubs their second highest draft pick in 2018 and $500,000 in IFA pool space. Darvish is not tied to draft pick compensation. Arrieta is tied to draft pick compensation, and although the Cubs wouldn’t “give anything up” to sign him, they would not receive the draft pick after the second round that they would receive if he signs elsewhere.)
Michael Cerami contributed to this post.