darvish deal is $126M for 6 years, source says. #cubs
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 10, 2018
So, it's finally happened. After approximately 40 months, Yu Darvish has finally made it official with the Cubs, signing a 6-year, $126 million deal. There are incentives that could increase the total take to $150 million, but the first indication is that those incentives are somewhat difficult to maximize (a mix of start totals/ASG/Cy Youngs). Generally, the idea behind incentives is that you WANT him to hit them, so I'm all for it.
When I was musing about a "reasonable" contract for Darvish, I sort of felt 5/$125 was fine. To get the 6th year at $1 million is reasonble – it will be Darvish's age-36 season and at the point he'll almost certainly be a 5th starter or bullpen arm. If the Cubs win the 2018 and/or 2019 World Series, absolutely no reasonable Cubs fan will give a shit about the $21 million albatross in the Cubs rotation in 2022/2023.
Yu Darvish was either #1A or #1B in the free agency wishlist depending on your thoughts about Jake Arrieta. I think I leaned towards Arrieta with injuries as the tiebreaker (Arrieta is hurt much less often), but Darvish is the slightly better projection going forward. Pretty difficult to watch Darvish annihilate the Cubs in the NLCS last year and not come away impressed. He was tipping his pitches in the World Series and may well have cost them the entire thing, but that seems to be an issue that is fairly easy to resolve. Darvish throws righty, strikes out a ton of batters (27.3% K rate), and features one of the better sliders in baseball. Darvish is also unique in the sense that he features 4 primary offerings (4, slider, sinker, cutter all used 15% of the time or more), a secondary offering (curveball around 5% of the time), and 2 novelty pitches (a change he might throw twice a game and a splitter he might throw once). He's nearly impossible to counter-sequence because he's willing to throw nearly any pitch during nearly any count. That said, he has traditional splits (in fact, lefties hit him slightly better than you'd expect from someone with normal splits), and you'd think intuitively that any body who can generate run to both sides of the plate would be able to split-neutralize. Not Darvish.
If you're looking for something to gripe about, you don't have to look far. From 2014 to 2016, his inning totals were 144.1, 0, 100.1. That's very troubling – allayed slightly by his 2017 campaign and the fact that he got stronger as the year progressed. Still, he's got a long list of ex-DL stints, and they'll tell you he's in pain. He's got a blank slate now, though.
Yu Darvish hit a home run in 2016.In fact, he has more than quintupled Shohei Otani's MLB total for their careers.
The bottom line is that the Cubs absolutely needed another starter to be competitive in the upper echelon of baseball this year. The Cubs were set 1-5 in an age where you need at least 6 starters in a given year (and probably 7 or 8). They have 4 playoff-caliber starters in a league that requires 4 or 5. In my opinion, this is a very solid signing and pretty firmly puts the Cubs in the driver's seat of the NL Central (apologies to the Cardinals and Brewers).
Let's grab Alex Cobb anyway and call it an off-season.