Why the Cubs are Pursuing Yu Darvish

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Outside of the incredibly obvious reason, why are the Chicago Cubs pursuing Yu Darvish? He has a ton of innings on his arm. Darvish is less accomplished than someone like Jake Arrieta. Has a higher price tag than someone like Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn. He impressed against the Cubs in the NLCS but was exposed in the World Series.There are a ton of questions that go into the Cubs pursuing Darvish for sure.

Knowing that there will be a lot of people that are heavily against this, I want to offer some reasoning behind the recent interest in Darvish.

Theo and Jed indeed met with Japanese pitcher, Yu Darvish. You certainly can expect the team to keep quiet, Darvish on the other hand said it was a great meeting.

Why not Jake Arrieta?

If each player is expected to make somewhere north of $20 million a season, why wouldn’t the Cubs be more in on Arrieta? Afterall, Jake is a known commodity in Chicago, is playoff tested, and has performed at an elite (actually all-time) level.

Yu Darvish has been good in the regular season, but has only thrown more than 200 innings once since coming to the states. He has pitched in 30 or more games twice since coming to the states, and has been on the DL six times in the last three seasons. He also has more than 2,100 innings pitched across all professional stops.

Jake on the otherhand has 1,000 less innings pitched and has been to the DL twice since 2012. Sure his unorthodox delievery gives Dr James Andrews hope for a future patient, but Jake is one of the physically fit players in the game.

Getting down to the nitty gritty…

Yu’s stats stack up against anyone, owning a 3.42 ERA, 1.179 WHIP, 3.24 xFIP, 11 K/9, and 3.32 BB/9. Jake is equally impressive, 3.57 ERA, 1.169 WHIP, 3.68 xFIP, 8.29 K/9, and 3.12 BB/9. Also, if you’re into this sort of thing… Jake has had 72 wins to Yu’s 56 since Darvish has been in America.

For every statistic Jake is better than Yu in, Yu is better than Jake in the next. For a pair of pitchers with career records so similarly matched, it comes down to investment. Heck, it comes down to investment for any of the pitchers on the market.

During the Winter Meetings there was a report suggesting Arrieta wanted a $200 million deal. Likewise, Alex Cobb’s price point drifted north of $15 million a season. Both of these numbers scare the Cubs off.

While the real Jake number isn’t $200 million, he’s north of $150 million over six-years. Signing a contract with $25 million AAV or more past 2021 gives the team future issues.

Cobb’s asking price is an undervalued deal from the team’s perspective. Alex’s agent is properly playing deals off competing clubs. But, could it backfire? The Yankees were in on Cobb and they turned back to C.C. Sabathia for $10 million. The Cubs were in on him, but after the last month or so of this union being a sure bet – the club is seriously pursuing every other option.

One of those options is Darvish.

I had written earlier in the offseason about how the Cubs wanted to strengthen their rotation from the bottom up. Signing Tyler Chatwood and Cobb would have done just that. The backend would have been as strong as anyone’s fourth and fifth starters, and the top three guys are top five in baseball as it is.

Darvish strengthens the rotation from the top down. I’m not suggesting he would be the team’s ace, but slotting him behind Kyle Hendricks and before Jose Quintana would make this rotation pretty incredible.

  1. Jon Lester
  2. Kyle Hendricks
  3. Yu Darvish
  4. Jose Quintana
  5. Tyler Chatwood

The Cubs would get an advantage from a starting pitching perspective in most any matchup.

Dollars & Cents

There has been talk of Darvish only seeking $110 million deal. We are also hearing that the Cubs would be willing to go to five years for Darvish. With an AAV of $22 million, a Darvish deal isn’t as financially handicapping as originally thought.

Once the Cubs core is ready to be re-signed, the club will likely blow past the luxury tax. A deal like Arrieta’s could place the team in the maximum penalty, while a four-year deal would be off the books by year-end 2021. The team will still likely be over, but the penalty will not be as severe.

A Darvish deal would still push the team into those top brackets of the tax, but they wouldn’t be there for multiple seasons. With every other starter’s contracts ending in 2020-2021, he would give the Cubs one insurance into the future as well.

The Cubs will have to re-up their core guys in 2020-2022, but their pitching staff will also have expiring deals at the same time. By this time, and as long as all goes well, several of the Cubs pitching prospects will be ready to make the step to the big leagues. With a $200 million commitment to your position players, it would be tough to turn the pitching reigns off to rookies. Darvish can be that grizzled vet in the rotation helping them along.

Corn on the Cobb

Alex Cobb plays a role in the Cubs pursuit of Darvish. As soon as the offseason began, the Cubs and Cobb began talking. But as Cobb’s salary demands began to increase, and his agent played deals off of each other, the Cubs smartly looked elsewhere.

Why wouldn’t they?

Sure free agency is about maximizing earning potential, but eventually the Cubs want guys who want to be here. This is how they got Lester, Ben Zobrist, and Jason Heyward to sign here for less. They had an attraction to winning in Chicago.

The Cubs have already climbed the Mount Kilimanjaro or Mount Everest of sports. So sure a little bit of that mystic has worn away. It is the understanding that the Cubs haven’t low-balled Cobb either.

For someone that talked about how wonderful it would be to be a Cub, he doesn’t seem overly interested in being a Cub.

And so the team moved on. Looking at trade partners, looking at free agents. None of which seems to fit perfectly, so they wound up with Yu Darvish. I don’t mean that in a negative light, not at all. Yu was supposedly out of the Cubs ballpark. He wasn’t necessarily looking for Jake coin, but it was expected that he would make north of $25 million a year. When the news came out that his price wasn’t that high (nor was it as long GM as some suspected) Theo and Jed slid into his DM’s.

There are even reports that Yu might be interested in a four-year deal with a huge salary and a vesting option for a fifth year. This all the more fits into what the Cubs want to do.

Playoffs

Personally I think Yu gets too much hate for his playoff performance. Especially since most of his playoffs were great.

In his start against the Arizona Diamondbacks, Yu gave up a single run and three baserunners. In his NLCS start he was equally impressive, giving up a run and six hits. It was his World Series which raised eyebrows.

Before we go further, Yu had quite a bit of things going on. He had come off the DL, was traded, pitched further into the season than he ever has.

But we also forget, the Houston Astros were a very good hitting ball club. Then it is said he was tipping pitches.

There isn’t a single reason to stay away from Yu based on this information. Tipping pitches could be fatigue related. But even if it isn’t, that can be trained out of him. Pitching deep into seasons will become a part of the routine, as will a management team with a watchful eye.

When it comes down to it, you want guys that will help a team get to the playoffs – regardless of their past playoff performance. Barry Bonds (PEDs or not) was a horrible playoff player, but any team would of loved to have him. We really don’t know now what Yu is in regards to playoff performance, but I know he performs at an extremely high level through 162.