At last, Yu Darvish is a Cub, signed by the team Saturday to what could be, if he meets all incentives, a six-year, $150 million contract.
Here are some of the details we know now:
Clarification: Darvish six-year guarantee with #Cubs is $126M with ability to get to $150M, according to sources.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 10, 2018
So with the guarantee $126 million over six years, that’s a $21 million AAV hit to the luxury tax limit. Further:
Sources: Chances of Darvish getting to $150M with #Cubs quite slim; would need to win multiple Cy Young awards. His guarantee is $126M over six years, making contract the longest and richest free-agent deal of off-season.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 10, 2018
And even if Darvish makes all the incentives and gets to $150 million total, that’s still $5 million (total) less than the Cubs committed to Jon Lester three years ago. It’s a very, very reasonable contract for the No. 1 starting pitcher on the free agent market this winter. But then there’s this intriguing detail:
The Yu Darvish $126 million deal with #Cubs includes no trade provisions and opt outs— Bob Nightengale (@BNightengale) February 10, 2018
Without any detail given on when the opt outs happen, I’d guess there’s going to be one after three years. Why? Because three years would mean that every member of the Cubs’ current rotation is locked up for the next three seasons.
Jon Lester has three years remaining on that six-year deal. Jose Quintana has three years left on his contract (actually, one year, plus two option years which the Cubs will almost certainly pick up). Kyle Hendricks is arbitration-eligible for 2019 and 2020, after which he’ll be eligible for free agency. And Tyler Chatwood signed a three-year contract earlier this winter.
Thus the Cubs send the clear sign that they are going to go for a World Series title for at least the next three years, during which basically everyone on the 25-man roster is locked up, either by contract, by arbitration status, or being pre-arb over the period 2018-2020.
Now let’s have a look at payroll.
Last month, when I last took a look here at the Cubs’ payroll figures for 2018, I had the total of payroll expenditures, minor-league payroll and other numbers that count against the luxury tax coming to approximately $160.6 million.
Add the $21 million tax hit for Darvish for 2018 and you’re at about $182 million, which is $15 million below the luxury tax limit for this year. That should allow plenty of money for incentives that could be hit and also for a mid-season acquisition if Theo & Co. decide they need someone to make the team a World Series contender.
This is well done all the way around. It gives the Cubs a three-year window to win again before some of the big bills come due for guys like Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Javier Baez and Addison Russell as they approach free agency, and locks down a solid 25-man roster for those three seasons.
This also might begin to break the logjam of other free agents signing, as Darvish was widely considered the best pitcher on the market. Teams that were looking at him as a possibility might now turn their attention to Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn, the next three hurlers on that FA list. We’ve still got a few days before spring camps officially open and I’d think there could be a flurry of signings this week.
Oh, and one last thing: I’m guessing Drew Smyly is going to give up the No. 11 he was assigned for this year. Darvish has worn No. 11 his entire career, all the way back to Japan, except for his two months with the Dodgers, where he took No. 21 because No. 11 was taken by Logan Forsythe.
Congratulations, Theo & Co. Well done.
And welcome to the Cubs and six years of puns, Yu Darvish.