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There’s another report connecting Yu Darvish and the Cubs

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He’d be a good addition... but at what cost?

Yu Darvish at Wrigley during the 2017 NLCS. Will he “play ball” with the Cubs?
Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Late last week, there was a Japanese media report connecting free agent righthander Yu Darvish with the Cubs. I wrote about that Friday.

Now, Bruce Levine, who seems to be fairly plugged-in regarding Cubs rumors, has essentially stated the same thing that came from the Nikkan Sports site in Japan:

After signing four pitchers in the past nine days, the Cubs have eyes on landing a bigger catch: free-agent right-hander Yu Darvish. The Cubs are showing interest in Darvish, a source said.

Darvish and Jake Arrieta are considered the top starters available in free agency, and Darvish’s camp has also had talks with the Twins and Astros lately.

The note about the Twins and Astros also matches what was reported in the admittedly brief story at Nikkan Sports.

No question, Darvish would be a fine addition to the Cubs rotation, despite his woes in the World Series. Those have been attributed to him possibly tipping his pitches, something that generally has a pretty easy fix.

Since Darvish returned from Tommy John surgery in mid-2016, he hasn’t been quite the same pitcher he was before. However, sometimes it takes a bit of time before a TJS pitcher returns to his previous level of performance. Darvish’s best year was 2013, when he posted a 2.83 ERA and 1.073 WHIP for the Rangers. He had 5.8 bWAR that year and finished second in A.L. Cy Young voting, while leading the major leagues with 277 strikeouts.

Darvish made $11 million last year in the final year of the contract he signed with the Rangers after he came to MLB via the posting system prior to the 2012 season. 2018 will be his age-31 season, as he doesn’t turn 32 until next August. He’s five months younger than Jake Arrieta, so the question you might ask is: Why not just re-sign Jake?

That’s a good question. It would appear that both of these pitchers are asking for somewhere around the same kind of AAV in a contract; that could wind up being in the $25 million range. Signing Darvish (or Arrieta), then, would take up almost all of the $27 million in “luxury tax” space that I estimated the Cubs have for 2018. That wouldn’t leave much room to bring on more relief help, or a veteran backup catcher.

However, a contract like this conceivably could be structured so it has a lower “tax hit” in 2018, and a somewhat larger one in 2019-20-21, when the Cubs should have more room under the luxury tax.

If you’re wondering about Alex Cobb, who previously had seemed a no-brainer addition to the Cubs’ rotation, Levine reports:

The Cubs were looking intently at free-agent right-hander Alex Cobb a week ago. It’s unclear how that may play out, though. The price and length of the contract that Cobb was seeking an the Winter Meetings was prohibitive in the Cubs’ mind, a source said recently.

Yu Darvish would be a fine addition to the Cubs’ rotation, and given the Cubs’ reported interest in him, management obviously feels the same way. The only real question in my mind, then, is whether they can afford him.