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The case for the Cubs signing Yu Darvish

Hear me out. Or, more accurately, hear the Fangraphs argument.

Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images

I’m going to begin this article in a way that rather belies the headline, as I’m not 100 percent convinced the Cubs should sign Yu Darvish.

The reason I’m writing this is that Travis Sawchik of Fangraphs is convinced and wrote so in an article on that site Wednesday.

Sawchik says Darvish is the “top option” among starting pitcher free agents, notes that the Cubs are losing two starters to free agency, Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, who combined for a large number of innings over the last few seasons and they’re going to have to replace that:

Arrieta threw 594.2 innings for the Cubs over the last three seasons and was the NL Cy Young winner in 2015. Lackey, meanwhile, absorbed 359 innings the last two seasons. The Cubs are not only losing quality, they are losing a significant volume of innings. Their farm system isn’t exactly teeming with premium talent ready to fit in a major-league rotation.

It’s not that Cubs project to have a poor rotation: Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester and company are projected at the moment to compose the 12th-best rotation (13.0 WAR) in baseball. But context matters here. Consider the teams rated above them: the Dodgers (No. 1), Nationals (No. 4), Cardinals (No. 8), Diamondbacks (No. 9), and Rockies (No. 11). Those, of course, are the other four NL playoff teams from 2017 and the division-rival Cardinals.

Many of you thought the Cubs should have gone after Darvish last summer. After trading for Quintana, though, they might not have had what the Rangers were looking for. Plus, this:

That’s an interesting list and doesn’t necessarily make a lot of sense. You’ve got a West Coast team, a couple of East Coast teams, teams with hitters’ parks, teams with pitchers’ parks... there’s no clear pattern. And it doesn’t necessarily mean Darvish wouldn’t be open to a contract offer from the Cubs, who were interested in signing him when he first came over from Japan.

If the Cubs sign Alex Cobb, something I’m 100 percent in favor of, would they have payroll room for Darvish? MLB Trade Rumors says the Cubs could give him a six-year, $160 million contract, but that’s the page that also says Arrieta’s going to sign a four-year, $100 million deal with the Brewers, so I might put that idea aside. A deal like that would be similar to the one Lester received from the Cubs three winters ago. Darvish just turned 31; Lester turned 31 about a month after he signed with the Cubs, so they would be comparable age-wise at the time of this deal.

Forget about Darvish’s well-known failure in the World Series. Check out this video for the likely reason that happened:

Tipping pitches happens to the best of pitchers. A good pitching coach can fix that.

Darvish isn’t quite the pitcher he was before he had Tommy John surgery, but he was still quite effective during the regular season for both the Rangers and Dodgers, posting 3.9 bWAR. He also had a very good walk rate of 2.8 per nine innings, best of his career.

Circling back to the reason I wrote this article, I’m not as convinced as Travis Sawchik that the Cubs need Yu Darvish. He’s kind of like that luxury SUV you see in the showroom that looks slick and fancy and you’d feel great driving it, but you know you’d be better off saving some money and getting the model one level down from there. On the other hand, Sawchik concludes:

They’ll have to overpay, perhaps, but it might be a necessary move to compete in the NL, in what is increasingly becoming a neighborhood of Haves and Have Nots. Keeping up with the Joneses requires luxury items.

He might be right. The Cubs’ young core should produce several more contending/division title seasons. I am not, however, convinced that “one more luxury item” is the be-all and end-all to winning. If the Cubs can get Darvish at a reasonable price — which I admit is unlikely — they should do it. Otherwise, pass.


Yu Darvish...

This poll is closed

  • 38%
    Too expensive. Pass
    (677 votes)
  • 57%
    Sign him, but only at the right price
    (1013 votes)
  • 4%
    Sign him at ANY price
    (79 votes)
1769 votes total Vote Now