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Yu Darvish named to All-MLB team

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An honor for the Cubs righthander. Now, should they trade him?

Photo by Kirk Irwin/Getty Images

The All-MLB team is a thing that Major League Baseball created a year ago, intended to honor the best in baseball at various positions. (Not coincidentally, they also got a sponsor for this. Everything MLB seems all about money these days.)

Late Wednesday, MLB announced the players named to the All-MLB first and second teams, and Cubs righthander Yu Darvish was named one of five starting pitchers on the first team, along with Trevor Bauer, Shane Bieber, Jacob deGrom and Max Fried. No real surprises there, that’s the two Cy Young Award winners and the second-, third-, and fifth-place finishers in the NL. (Dinelson Lamet finished fourth in NL voting and is on the “second team.”)

Darvish posted a 2.01 ERA and 0.961 WHIP in 12 starts in 2020, leading the major leagues in wins (eight) and the NL in FIP (2.23). While it’s difficult to compare the pandemic-shortened 2020 season to a normal-length season for various reasons, this was by far Darvish’s best year in MLB. Since the 2019 All-Star break, Darvish has posted a 2.40 ERA and 0.882 WHIP in 25 starts covering 157⅔ innings.

Here are the rest of the players named to the All-MLB teams. Darvish was the only Cub so honored.

This seems especially important in the wake of this MLB.com article that suggests the Cubs should trade Darvish. The writer, Thomas Harrigan, suggests the Cubs could get a good return for Darvish and clear $59 million from the books. Here’s where his argument falls flat, in my view:

Another reason the Cubs should be trying to trade Darvish this offseason? He’s 34 years old and has battled right arm injuries.

Darvish underwent Tommy John surgery in 2014, missed all of ’15 and made only 17 starts in ’16. He spent most of the 2018 season on the sidelines with a strained right triceps and a stress reaction in his right elbow, on which he had an arthroscopic debridement procedure.

Furthermore, Darvish’s performance has been uneven in recent years. Prior to his dominant 2020 campaign, he posted a 4.02 ERA with a 4.08 FIP across 2017-19.

Darvish’s diverse repertoire gives him a good chance to remain effective into his late 30s, but the Cubs would still be taking a sizable risk if they were to wait on a trade. It’s a risk they arguably can’t afford to take given their precarious roster situation.

While all of that is true regarding Darvish’s injury history, he has been completely healthy since his return to action in 2019 after missing most of 2018 with that elbow debridement. I would argue that the previous injury history and numbers are less relevant than the 43 starts he’s made without health issues since the beginning of 2019. I cited his post-All-Star numbers plus 2020 above; since the beginning of 2019, Darvish has a 3.39 ERA and 1.056 WHIP in those 43 starts covering 254⅔ innings, and that’s been worth 4.2 bWAR.

The Cubs are in a strange almost-interregnum as we stand between 2020 and 2021. They’re clearly not going to spend any more money on big-name players this offseason and in fact, are likely to cut payroll. But they could also “go for it” one last time with the current core of players. Without Darvish, they’ve got one quality starting pitcher (Kyle Hendricks).

I’d keep Darvish and try to win in 2021. If by mid-season they’re not contending, sure, then it’s time to start trading off parts. But now isn’t the time, in my view.

Poll

Regarding Yu Darvish...

This poll is closed

  • 0%
    Trade him now, for whatever the return
    (1 vote)
  • 28%
    Trade him now, but only if the return is significant
    (44 votes)
  • 33%
    Trade him at the 2021 deadline if the team isn’t contending
    (52 votes)
  • 4%
    Don’t trade him until after the 2021 season
    (7 votes)
  • 33%
    Don’t trade him at all
    (53 votes)
  • 0%
    Something else (leave in comments)
    (0 votes)
157 votes total Vote Now