The Chicago Cubs off-season has been relatively quiet. Partially because president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer like to keep their operations close to the vest. No one truly knows how serious the Cubs are interested in free agent first baseman Prince Fielder nor does anyone know whether or not starting pitcher Matt Garza is on the trade block. One thing that is known about Epstein’s and Hoyer‘s plan for the Cubs this off-season is they are targeting the top international free agents. Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes has yet to be declared a free agent, but when he is the Cubs figure to be among the team’s bidding for his services.
One international free agent who may have a higher ceiling than Cespedes, is Japanese phenom starting pitcher Yu Darvish. For anyone that has followed baseball since 2008, you would be familiar with Darvish‘s name. He has long been coveted by major league teams and the opportunity finally came to fruition last week when the Nippon Ham Fighters posted Darvish. Major League teams had four days to submit their bid just for the right to negotiate a contract with Darvish, and the period came to a close on Wednesday. The Cubs, Texas Rangers, Toronto Blue Jays, and New York Yankees are all the known teams to have placed a bid for Darvish. However, in the Yankees’ case, their bid was more so of due diligence and there is not any indication that it was high enough to win.
The Fighters have four days to accept one of the bids submitted by the Major League teams, if they don’t, Darvish will remain with the team in Japan. Though, every indication points to the Fighters accepting the highest bid and reports suggested that bid was “sky high”. The Fighters and Major League Baseball could be set to make an announcement today announcing the team that has won the bidding for Darvish.
The Cubs are very interested in Darvish, and according to Bleacher Nation, one Cubs’ source told Brett Taylor that the team’s bid was “sufficiently high” and that the source said he would not be surprised if the Cubs won the bidding. While any information is good information, under these circumstances, the insight from the Cubs’ source does not bring much clarity to the situation. Reason being that none of the teams involved in the Darvish bidding know what the other teams’ bids were. Of course, every team is going to believe that they have a high enough bid submitted to win the bidding for Darvish.
Having said that, there are signs to point that the Cubs might be the favorites to land Darvish based on their strategy. Originally the plan for the Cubs’ front office was to improve the minor league system, and through that process, the major league team by spending heavily on the amateur side of the game. However, the new collective bargaining agreement between Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association severely limits the amount of money a team can spend on amateur drafting. While neither Epstein nor Hoyer directly confirmed this idea, the belief is the pair of executives were frustrated with the new CBA as that forced the duo to alter their strategy with the Cubs. To the point where the team would essentially have more money to spend on Darvish‘s posting fee and contract than initially thought. Recent suggestions have Darvish‘s winning posting fee being around the $60 million mark, followed by a contract that could be worth $60 million.
There have been a lot of comparisons of Darvish to Red Sox starting pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. Those comparisons do Darvish no justice. Considering the recent string of ineffectiveness from Matsuzaka while with the Red Sox, some fans may be worried that Darvish may be facing a similar outcome. That is not going to be the case. Darvish is far more polished and has a much higher ceiling than Matsuzaka when the Red Sox pitcher made the transition from Japan to Major League Baseball in 2007. While at first, a total cost of $110+ million (posting fee and contract) may seem like an enormous risk to make, Darvish is worth the price and should be a good #2 starter once he becomes accustomed with Major League Baseball.