Yu Darvish will join the Chicago Cubs.
After nearly an entire winter of speculation and reports connected Darvish with the Twins and several other clubs, the best available free agent starter chose to take his talents to the North side of Chicago.
Ken Rosenthal reported that the deal is for 6 years and $126 million, with the possibility that incentives drive the total value of the contract to $150 million.
Minnesota reportedly offered Darvish a contract, although the value is unknown at this point.
The Twins likely will sign or trade for at least one more starting pitcher before the end of spring training. Some believe that Darvish signing will free up the logjam of other free agents — but that’s no certainty, since there really are only a handful of free agents that approach his value.
For all the negative things that will be said about him this winter as teams try to carefully assess the risk in signing Darvish, it also should be said that he’s an ace. Since 2012, only one pitcher has throwns 800 innings with a better strikeout rate than Darvish’s 29.7%, and his name is Max Scherzer. The next few names on that list are Clayton Kershaw, Chris Sale, Stephen Strasburg, Corey Kluber, Chris Archer and Madison Bumgarner. (There’s more to pitching than striking out hitters — and Darvish’s walk rate is worse than each of those pitchers in that time – but the point is just that this is some pretty elite company.)
Darvish is also a top-20 MLB pitcher in that time in ERA (3.42) and Fielding-Independent Pitching metrics. He’s an ace with swing-and-miss stuff. The Cubs are paying for that kind of production, according to the reported details of the contract.
On the flip side, there’s plenty to worry about if you cheers for the Cubbies. For one things, Darvish was famously terrible in the World Series last year, and his two bad performances — whether they were because of a slider-proof baseball or because he was tipping his offspeed pitches — probably cost the Dodgers a World Series title. A team like the Cubs will be gunning to win it all this year, and they’ll count on Darvish to help win some big games. Secondly, Darvish has a Tommy John surgery on his ledger and also a significant workload in the pro ranks dating back to his age 18 season in Japan.
And 2017 was his second-worst season since joining the Major Leagues in 2012, as measured by ERA+, an ERA-based stat that also adjusts for ballpark and opponents.