After a little bout of illness last week that saw him scratched from what would have been his Cubs spring debut, Yu Darvish is set to instead make his debut tomorrow at Sloan Park. Woo hoo! Or should I say woo … Yu? [Brett: OK, I added that part, not Michael. Sorry, sorry, trying to delete.]
Over the past week, several interesting stories emerged on the newest Cubs starting pitcher, so I thought we could take a tour around each and do a little “Mini-Darvish bullets,” to keep up.
In short, we’re going to hear from Darvish himself on how he wound up with the Cubs (ESPN), from Rangers Assistant GM Josh Boyd on Darvish’s remaining upside (The Athletic), and from the Cubs’ leading back-up catcher candidate, Chris Gimenez, on everything he’s learned about the Cubs newest starting pitcher (Cubs.com).
Sound good to you?
- First, at ESPN, Jesse Rogers writes about how Yu Darvish went from having the Chicago Cubs on his no-trade list to signing a massive six-year, $126 million deal just a year later. As you can imagine, Darvish’s camp didn’t add the Cubs (and Indians) to his no-trade list just after the 2016 World Series because he didn’t want to go to either place (clearly, he does like Chicago on some level), but instead he didn’t want to be traded away from the Rangers, and he figured the two reigning World Series champions were among the teams most likely to try. At the deadline, when the Dodgers were looking like the best team ever, Darvish changed his tune about trade, in hopes of securing a World Series ring just before hitting free agency (and what do you know, he came really close, whooping the Cubs in the process).
- Shockingly, Darvish also claims that the Cubs were the very first team he had a meeting with once the 2018 offseason began, adding that they were very serious about acquiring him and how his agent was selling him hard on how good of an organization the Cubs are (including us, the fans!). After a series of emails back-and-forth between the Cubs and Darvish (directly!), things started to heat up. And once the front office added the sixth year, the deal was as good as done.
- At The Athletic, Patrick Mooney shares some comments from Rangers Assistant General Manager (in charge of professional scouting) Josh Boyd, who seems to believe the best of Darvish is still in front of him, even at age 31. On the idea that he has untapped potential and an even higher ceiling than we’ve already seen, Boyd says “I think so. I really do.”
- In particular, Boyd seems to be blown away (as we all are) with Darvish’s robust pitching arsenal. He explains how, for certain games or stretches of the season, Darvish would swap in and out pitches like nothing he’s ever seen. “It was amazing because nobody does that. Nobody’s able to be like: ‘Oh, I’ll just bust out another plus pitch and put [away] one of my most effective pitches.'” With that said, Boyd seems to believe simplifying things can unlock some greater consistency, but we already know that the Cubs are very interested in mixing and matching with that huge arsenal.
- And finally, at Cubs.com, we get to hear from Chris Gimenez, who’s currently the front-runner for the Cubs backup catcher gig, and a former catcher/current friend of Yu Darvish. Gimenez recalls first meeting Darvish and how the two eventually became close friends. Interestingly, Gimenez remembers learning early on the Darvish is the type of pitcher who likes to call his own game and throw things when he wants, the way he wants. That’s obviously interesting in its own right, but it also stands out given what we know about the Cubs planned approach with Darvish this season (basically, they want him to pitch however he’s comfortable).
- Gimenez also reveals that Darvish is an extreme competitor, more so than people realize, and how that has, in the past, even amounted to arguments between the two (but don’t worry, they seem like the sort of arguments you only have with someone you’re really comfortable with). Indeed, Gimenez seems to have a very open/honest working relationship with Darvish, and that alone could be beneficial to the Cubs in an off-the-field sort of way.
- And, needless to say, I’m glad Gimenez is in the organization, because Darvish sounds like a big project (in a good way!) for people who are unfamiliar: “He’s a little bit of a different animal,” Gimenez said of Darvish. “His thought process is a big thing, and it’s probably the hardest thing to get on the same page with. … He’s got like 37 pitches, so trying to get on the same page can be difficult.”