Chicago Cubs: Things fell just right for Cubs, Yu Darvish
Back in December, I explained why the Chicago Cubs would not sign then-free agent Yu Darvish. Today, I eat my words and look at how the process played out.
So yeah, three months ago, I — we all did, right?– thought Alex Cobb would be cracking the Chicago Cubs rotation around this time.
At the onset of free agency, Cobb’s admiration for pitching coach Jim Hickey, who he knows well from his time with Tampa Bay, and of course, manager Joe Maddon, did not go unnoticed. It even appeared as though he might take less money to join such a contender.
The Cubs reportedly offered Cobb three years, $42 million, instead of the $20 million per year asking price he was said to be seeking.
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It took an odd offseason to work things out
Also around that time, when I wrote about how the Cubs would not sign Yu Darvish, I was not exactly wrong because of one pertinent detail. That they would not sign a starter for $160 million, which was what MLB Trade Rumors projected. I didn’t see the Cubs offering that figure for any pitcher.
And because of how the lag of the free agent market stalled on and on, the Cubs ultimately got Darvish cheaper than it was believed the price would be. At one time. For six years, $126 million and potential escalators that can take the money on up to the $150 million range.
The same, similar type of offer that was also said to be offered to Jake Arrieta right before the announcement was made that Darvish was trading Dodger blue for Cubbie blue. Arrieta, a Scott Boras client, is seeking as much as possible — you know Boras aims high — and it is interesting to watch how that story unfolds, as pitchers and catchers are reporting around MLB this week.
There is a free agent camp for unsigned players, but Boras’ clients will not be attending.
Similarly, this was at least one other factor that was important to Darvish, and he talked in his introductory press conference Tuesday about wanting to sign before Spring Training.
Cubs saw big picture
Another interesting tidbit, mentioned by Theo Epstein Tuesday, was how the 2017 World Series might have hindered other prospective buyers. Sure, the two losses and the claims of tipping his pitches dominated the Darvish saga throughout the offseason.
"“I felt bad for him in the World Series, but I also felt it might be an opportunity if other teams overreact to that. We know there’s more to Yu Darvish than what happened in the World Series.“First of all, there were a lot of reasons for what happened … from the possibility of tipping pitches, the difficulty with the baseballs and then the Astros were red-hot. They won the World Series for a reason, but I don’t think we would be doing our job if we evaluated based on a two-game sample. He’s been over here for six years. He’s proven himself as an elite pitcher.” — Jesse Rogers, ESPN"
And of course, there’s the injury history throughout his career.
But Cobb came with the same risk. Every free agent has a certain risk. What separates a team like the Cubs is their ability to absorb contracts. (Here is an interesting note from Evan Altman at Cubs Insider referencing what Ken Rosenthal had to say about that, going all the way back to last summer during many teams’ courting of Justin Verlander).
But yeah, maybe Darvish doesn’t pitch like an elite pitcher for the next six seasons.
Cubs can ‘afford’ absorb risks
The Cubs are banking on the likes of Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana continuing to evolve into top-of-the-rotation pitchers. Jon Lester is two seasons removed from garnering Cy Young votes. Tyler Chatwood is eager to prove himself. Chicago will only continue their process of drafting pitchers.
The point is, a lot can happen over six years. The Cubs are embracing their championship window. Most would point out Lester’s deal — three years plus an option year remaining — has already paid off under similar circumstances.
Next: Chicago Cubs: What happens if Mike Montgomery is unhappy with his role?
Also, as Epstein and others have alluded to, Darvish had success in the 2017 playoffs. From two-hitting the Diamondbacks over five innings in the NLDS, to limiting the Cubs to one run over 6 1/3 in the NLCS, and a 2.70 ERA in a 2012 Wild Card start.
The thing is, he is more than two bad World Series starts. The Cubs knew that.