Let me be the first to say it – welcome to Chicago, Yu Darvish. It’s clear now that the Cubs have more than just a general interest in the free agent righty, and yesterday’s meetings were more than just the front office exercising due diligence. The one-two punch of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer skipped down to Texas to meet with Darvish in an effort that seems somewhat reminiscent of their courtship of Joe Maddon.
In fact, a second meeting may actually be occurring today. The thing that struck me about yesterday’s summit is that there has been no mention anywhere of Darvish’s agent being present. That may just be speculation on my part, but we know for a fact that the free-agent pitcher did not bring a translator with him. If this was just Theo, Jed, and Yu (that sounds like a Star Wars reference, but it’s not) hanging out and informally talking baseball, I’d say the next step may be contract offer or potential announcement. Am I getting too far ahead of myself?
This came together pretty quickly and out of nowhere. There are a lot of theories on #BaseballTwitter as to why and how this came about, but the non-market for free-agents may be at the core. I don’t want to mention the word “collusion” — though I guess I just did — but it seems to me that since Tyler Chatwood still represents the second-largest contract this offseason, something is slightly amiss. More likely, it is just Epstein and Hoyer trying to take advantage while other teams continue to pursue the remaining 30+ aging bullpen options. If that means getting Darvish, well, dilly, dilly.
The Japanese star has a lot to offer, despite crashing and burning against the Astros in the World Series. Across 832 1/3 MLB innings, Darvish comes armed with a 3.42 ERA, 11.04 K/9, 3.33 K/BB rate, and 19 fWAR, firmly establishing himself as a front-of-the-rotation presence. He carries a nearly 30 percent strikeout rate, and his walk rate has been below league average since his return from Tommy John surgery in 2016.
The potential signing would set up pretty nicely for a Cubs rotation that could conceivably slot Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks as their third and fourth starters. It also may allow the Cubs to trade Mike Montgomery for a final bullpen piece.
As far as future financial ramifications if the Cubs do welcome Darvish to Wrigley Field, I am no longer going to put anything past this front office. This is not a done deal, but by all indications it was a positive first step. Epstein must have some Canadian Mountie blood in him. He always seems to get his man.
Cubs News & Notes
Other than the Darvish meetings, nothing much. In addition to signing Chatwood this off-season, the Cubs have inked relievers Dario Alvarez, Brandon Morrow, and Steve Cishek, along with swingman Drew Smyly. The pitching conundrum that faced the team after their exit from the NLCS has been addressed. Adding Darvish to the mix would give the team six new pitchers, all of whom find the strike zone pretty consistently.
The additions of Chatwood, Smyly, Cishek and Morrow eat up about $31 million of the Cubs’ 2018 payroll, but they’ve still got space under the luxury tax threshold…for now. The bigger issue will be how the payroll is impacted as those young stars see bigger arb raises down the road. Montgomery only makes $515,000 and is not arbitration-eligible until next season, but he’s been adamant about wanting to start and could bring back something of value should a move be required.
Ben Zobrist carries a $14 million tax cap over the next two seasons, but has a full no-trade clause through this season. Jason Heyward has a $23 million AAV and, like Zobrist, has a full NTC through this coming season. That drops to a partial, after which the Cubs have two years before his 10-5 rights kick in and give him full veto power once again. Pedro Strop is owed just over $12M over the next two years which could be considered a bargain in today’s market.
The Pirates want a veritable haul for SP Gerrit Cole and the Yankees may have some tough decisions to make.
The Baltimore Sun looks at the potential trade returns based on the rumors surrounding SS Manny Machado.
Add the Giants to the list of teams that have inquired about Rays 3B Evan Longoria.
The Mets have discussed Jason Kipnis with the Indians, but the price keeps going up.
Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto has asked for a trade, but the team’s front office told him to pump his brakes. So many feel good stories coming out of South Florida. Who would have thought new Marlins’ owners would be worse than the previous ones?
Cole Hamels and his wife have donated their $9.75M home to Camp Barnabas, a group that “helps individuals with special needs and chronic illnesses,” in the largest donation in the history of the organization.
A.J. Pierzynski described the hilarious one-liner to an ump that got him ejected in a 2014 game for the Red Sox.
Everyone has made the same dumb joke now that Carlos Santana and Rob Thomson both play for the Phillies. Except it was Rob Thomas who sang the famous duet with Santana. I fear for the future of this country.
John Skipper unexpectedly resigned as president of ESPN, citing substance addiction.
Tuesday Walk Up Song
Searching by The Coasters. If you see something you want, you get it done.