Chicago Cubs: What happens if Yu Darvish elects to opt out of his contract?

Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images)
Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs (Photo by Denis Poroy/Getty Images) /
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Chicago Cubs would need an impact arm to pair with Hendricks

So, for argument’s sake, let’s take Darvish out of the picture. Assume he opts out and decides to test the water. I know, it seems pretty unlikely, despite his lights-out performance down the stretch, but it’s not totally impossible.

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Kyle Hendricks immediately moves up to the top spot on the staff – no questions asked. Last season, the soft-tossing righty pitched like a Cy Young candidate at the Friendly Confines and like a journeyman fifth starter on the road, so there are concerns there.

After that, it’s two pretty underwhelming left-handers in Jon Lester and Jose Quintana. The former pitched like Father Time started to have his hands around his neck and the latter was horrendously inconsistent – especially when it mattered most (11.09 ERA in five September starts).

That’s it. Cole Hamels is a free agent and, without Darvish, Theo Epstein would need not only two arms to add to this mix – but they’d need to be top-tier options, as well. On paper, the Cubs don’t match up with the other premier NL clubs when it comes to their rotation. Stopgap options like throwing Tyler Chatwood in there and expecting quality isn’t going to cut it.

Granted, you’d have money off the books if Darvish walked. But given what he did for the team in the second half, losing him would make me feel a whole lot more uneasy heading into 2020. Without him, you almost have to go all-in on a Gerrit Cole or Stephen Strasburg-type arm and given the team’s other shortcomings, I don’t know how likely that would be regardless.

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Hopefully, we’re just kicking around ideas for no reason at all. Like I said, I think at the end of the day, Darvish stays and looks to build on his 2019 successes. If not, what already should be a high-stakes offseason would only be that much more intense for Chicago Cubs fans and the front office.

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