Should the Chicago Cubs sign Yu Darvish?

      2 Comments on Should the Chicago Cubs sign Yu Darvish?

Ok, so a while back I recommended the Chicago Cubs sign Tyler Chatwood, Alex Cobb, or Doug Fister. They signed Chatwood (hooray!), and they still might sign Cobb. It’s possible the Cubs are being public about Yu Darvish to put pressure on Cobb to sign. It’s also possible the Cubs have moved on from Cobb and are focused on actually signing Darvish.

Oh, I so wanted the Cubs to sign Darvish years ago when he was 25 years old in 2012! Turns out he was injured for all of 2015, and the Cubs won the 2016 World Series without him, so I guess they didn’t miss out on much. It would have been REALLY nice to have him in 2017 though.

Darvish is 31 now, and last month I opined that his career is about to crash because of all the innings on his arm at a young age (1,667 innings by age 26). But if the Cubs are seriously looking at him, maybe there’s something I’ve missed. That’s the beauty of this Cubs front office. Sure, everyone makes mistakes, but they don’t do anything stupid, so maybe there’s more to Yu than I originally thought.

Remember my comparisons of Yu Darvish to Carlos Zambrano and Felix Hernandez? Well, I went over those comparisons again, looking at average fastball velocity.

Like most pitchers, Hernandez and Zambrano’s velocities declined with age, but Darvish has actually increased his velocity the last 2 years! Hey now, I like that trend! In fact, at the age of 30, Darvish is throwing as hard as a 22 year-old Felix Hernandez, 94.7 mph. Meanwhile, the 30 year-old Felix has plummeted to 90.5 mph.

Granted, Darvish’s ERA is up the last 2 seasons (3.76 ERA, up from his 3.26 ERA in his first 3 seasons), but a 3.76 ERA in the AL is more like a 3.35 ERA in the NL (https://www.fangraphs.com/tht/the-statistical-impact-of-switching-leagues-for-pitchers/). Sure enough, last year his 4.01 AL ERA turned into a 3.44 ERA in the NL (his xFIP dropped from 3.82 to 3.19 also). His K/9 went from 9.7 in the AL to 11.1 in the NL. It was only two months, but those are the numbers of an ace, folks. His NL xFIP was 3rd in the league, trailing only Clayton Kershaw and Jimmy Nelson. His NL K/9 trailed only Max Scherzer and Robbie Ray.

Based on his velocity increasing, the amount of rest his arm has had the last 4 years (only 430 innings), and perhaps even the extra day of rest he received as a young pitcher in Japan, I daresay Yu Darvish is not quite ready to fade. A shorter term deal of 4-5 years is sounding very appetizing, as I’m thinking he should be very good for at least the first 3 of those years.

Last year, Fangraphs estimated Darvish to be worth $28 million,

Jim Young-USA TODAY Sports

even with his 10-12 record and 3.86 ERA. I’d say he should easily be worth $30 million/year for the next 3 years. Giving him a 4th or 5th year at $25 million/year makes the deal a fair one, meaning he should actually provide the value you’re paying for. How often do you get a fair deal in free agency? Usually you have to overpay.

All right, Theo and Jed, you’ve convinced me. Let’s go get Yu Darvish.

2 comments on “Should the Chicago Cubs sign Yu Darvish?

  1. Paul

    Meh, I think they are kicking the tires on a whole lot of SPs. The thing is Darvish had a clause in his former contract barring a trade to any Chicago team. Makes me wonder how serious any of this really is.

    1. Ryan Daniels Post author

      You may be right. Darvish did take the meeting without a translator to test his English abilities. But is that something you do if you’re really serious about joining a team? Then again, Theo is renowned for his sales pitch to free agents. So even if Darvish wasn’t that interested initially, I’m pretty sure Theo has him seriously considering it now.

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