When Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole signed to absolutely record-shattering contracts this week, it was a pretty natural instinct to look around at other, existing deals around baseball and consider their value through a new lens.
In particular, to Cubs fans, the four years and $81 million left on Yu Darvish’s deal started to look mighty nice, particularly after his dominant second half. Sure, Darvish is now 33 years old, but he’s also incredibly fit, hasn’t seen any deterioration in his arm strength, and could be among the strikeout pitchers who age well into their mid-30s. I’m loving that the Cubs have that guy on a reasonable contract for the next four years.
So, sure, of course, other teams would see the Cubs entertaining trade inquiries on other players and come calling. Per Joel Sherman: “The Cubs also received inquiries on Yu Darvish, who has four years at $81 million remaining. Perhaps when the best of the remaining free-agent starters vanish, Chicago will hear steadier requests for the righty.”
Again, I’m sure they will. Doesn’t really mean diddly poo, though, as I can’t see a trade actually happening.
Why are we so quick to dismiss this one and not inquiries and rumors about star positional guys like Kris Bryant and Willson Contreras?
Well, I guess I’ll do the obligatory thing up front and say, yeah, yeah, anything is possible. Nothing is off the table. Anything would be considered. Yada yada.
But I think the odds that Darvish would be traded are significantly lower than Bryant or Contreras for a few reasons.
For one thing, the return on Darvish would be considerably lower than for Bryant or Contreras. Sure, Darvish’s contract looks pretty nice in the current market, but it’s still more than $20 million per year – the surplus value on a deal like that is necessarily going to be a whole lot less than a couple years of Kris Bryant at around $22 million per year, or three years of Willson Contreras at around $7 million per year (and, if one of those guys would break horribly, God forbid, they can be non-tendered, where as Darvish’s deal is entirely guaranteed).
For another thing, the big reason the Cubs are considering moving guys like Bryant and Contreras is because they are looking ahead to the post-2021 transition when they will potentially be losing a ton of guys. Darvish is already under contract for four more years.
For still another thing, while the Cubs could plausibly absorb the blow of losing one of Bryant or Contreras thanks to the return they’d net, plus the money they could spend, plus internal reorganization, trading away Darvish doesn’t work the same way. Not only are you much less likely to get a big-league-ready impact arm in such a deal (which team out there is trading that guy in a package for a much more expensive pitcher?), but also you cannot come even close to covering Darvish’s spot internally. So then you’re left spending the money saved just to replace his spot … and you didn’t get a huge return in the process like you could have with Bryant or Contreras.
If you want to argue that dealing Bryant or Contreras doesn’t make sense right now, I am open to having that conversation – I can see both sides. But even if you’re open to it, trading Darvish for a *realistic* return right now makes much less sense to me.