Given Joe Maddon’s update yesterday on Yu Darvish, who was still not throwing five days after receiving a cortisone shot to help calm inflammation in his elbow caused by an impingement, I can’t claim to be surprised by this morning’s rough update on the Cubs righty.
From the Cubs’ pitching coach, Jim Hickey, to The Score:
The optimistic outlook is for Yu Darvish to return in late July, #Cubs pitching coach Jim Hickey says. He has to go through process of building up arm strength, which will include bullpen sessions, a simulated game and at least one rehab start.
— 670 The Score (@670TheScore) July 5, 2018
In other words, like we guessed yesterday, Darvish does have to start all over.
And, if everything goes as smoothly as possible, you’re looking at a week of throwing, at least (from whenever that starts), then at least two bullpen sessions covering a week or so, then a simulated game and at least one rehab start that’ll cover another 10 days. So, yeah, Hickey’s math checks out – that’s end of July in a perfect, no-setback world.
That, I’m afraid, causes some serious timing problems for the Cubs.
The end of July, of course, is the non-waiver trade deadline. So if the Cubs wanted to add a starting pitcher, they could do so without having to futz with waivers only if they complete the trade by July 31. But … they might not know exactly what they have in Darvish by then. Will he have another setback and miss more time? Will he have to ultimately have surgery to alleviate whatever is causing the impingement and miss the rest of the year and the postseason?
The Cubs have a full rotation right now, but only because everyone else is healthy, because Mike Montgomery is succeeding as a starter, and because Tyler Chatwood is still in the “just a little more time to figure it out” zone. Behind them, as Luke has explored, there is some starting depth, but Adbert Alzolay is out for the year, Jen-Ho Tseng has not looked big-league-ready, Eddie Butler’s been hurt, etc.
Given this timeline for Darvish, I would say the urgency to pick up a depth starting pitcher – one who doesn’t necessarily have to be on the 25-man roster right away – just ticked up considerably. (Yes, maybe Drew Smyly gets back in time to contribute as a depth starter, but that’s not really something you can *count* on with a guy coming back from Tommy John surgery.)
The priority should still be getting Darvish right, and in a position to contribute in August, September, and, most importantly, October. No depth starter you pick up is going to be as good as Darvish could be in the postseason. Instead, a depth starter just helps cover you and keep you going in the race.
So the Cubs’ alternative is to go harder after a real impact starting pitcher at the deadline, but they likely don’t have the prospect might to pull it off. Would they then rob the big league roster to help on the pitching side … even though Darvish might be back and good to go in August? Maybe they could straddle the line and add a pretty-darn-good rental starter that just costs second tier prospects?
This news is not good, my friends, and the Cubs are in a bit of a box. Here’s hoping Darvish starts throwing soon – pain-free – has a smooth rehab this time around, and is able to make at least one big league start before the deadline so that the Cubs aren’t totally with their backs against the wall, without any leverage, and without any useful information.