Heading into the 2017-2018 offseason, it was evident that the Chicago Cubs would need to sign at least one starting pitcher. The Cubs eventually got it done by signing Yu Darvish. But did they make the wrong choice?
Most people assumed Lackey would retire. Arrieta’s tenure with the Cubs had been a great one. But the thought among many Cubs fans was that the price to resign Arrieta would be much too high to be worth the expense.
The Cubs made their first starting pitcher signing in December, signing Tyler Chatwood to a three-year, $38 million contract. Chatwood would serve as the team’s number five starter in place of Lackey. Still, the Cubs needed to sign one more starting pitcher to have an elite rotation.
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Down to one
Theo Epstein and Co. ultimately held out until February 13, when the Cubs signed Yu Darvish to a contract of six years and $126 million, with an average annual salary of $21 million.
The contract was a significant investment for Chicago, but maybe not quite as much as some would have expected for Darvish going into the season. Initially, the sentiment among many Cubs fans seemed to be positive, as Darvish has been elite at times in his career.
Arrieta on to Philly
However, when Arrieta ultimately signed with the Philadelphia Phillies on March 12, 2018, questions arose about whether the Cubs should have resigned him.
Arrieta signed a three-year, $75 million contract with Philadelphia, with an average annual salary of $25 million. Arrieta’s contract was not far off from what Darvish got—only $4 million more annually. At the time, some questioned whether the Cubs could have signed him for the same amount. But it was easy to assume that Epstein and Jed Hoyer must have seen something that led them to prefer Darvish over Arrieta.
Revisiting the decision
Now, just over a quarter of the way into the season, Darvish and Arrieta have produced vastly different results. In nine starts with Philadelphia, Arrieta has a record of 4-2 and a 2.45 ERA, with a 1.15 WHIP and just two home runs on the season.
Darvish, on the other hand, has scuffled so far this season. In eight starts, he has a record of 1-3 and an ERA of 4.95 with a 1.43 WHIP and has allowed seven home runs on the season. Moreover, Darvish is now headed to the DL with right tricep tendonitis. This stint will be his second on the DL after he spent time out with an influenza virus earlier in the season.
Found his place
Arrieta seems to have found his place as the Phillies ace, who has helped Philadelphia to early success. Darvish, on the other hand, is still surrounded by questions. His strong start against the Cincinnati Reds last weekend helped, but Darvish still has a lot to prove.
At least at this point, it appears that Arrieta might have been worth the extra expense. With a large payroll, the Cubs certainly could have afforded the investment, and so far Arrieta has been much more valuable that Darvish overall.
There is still a lot of time left in the season so that the situation could change entirely down the stretch. But if Arrieta’s success continues in Philly and Darvish continues to struggle, the Darvish signing could be seen as an unusual blunder by the Cubs front office.
Over the course of the rest of the season, Darvish will need to stay healthy and compete in order to prove his worth as a member of the Cubs rotation. Otherwise, Cubs fans will be left wondering whether Arrieta would have been a better signing.