A Cubs, Yu Darvish reunion not in the cards after Padres go all-in with extension

San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs
San Diego Padres v Chicago Cubs / Nuccio DiNuzzo/GettyImages

The Yu Darvish experience in Chicago was, let's just call it tumultuous. After an injury cut short his disastrous first season with the Cubs, the veteran right-hander rebounded in 2019 before putting together an NL Cy Young runner-up performance in the shortened 2020 season.

That offseason, staring down the barrel of a less-than-savory contract situation with the team's core players, new president of baseball operations tipped the first domino, a trade that sent Darvish to the San Diego Padres in exchange for prospects Owen Caissie, Reginald Preciado, Yeison Santana, Ismael Mena and big league right-hander Zach Davies.

We knew right then it would take years before anyone could fairly evaluate that trade given how young the talent coming back was. That's still the case. But given the subsequent moves made by Hoyer, recouping what value you could get for a pitcher heading into his mid-30s makes all the sense in the world looking back.

On the heels of a very active offseason, Hoyer and the Cubs still lack a bona fide ace. There's a possibility they could address that need next winter via a free agent class that could feature Aaron Nola, Shohei Ohtani, Julio Urias, Lucas Giolito and more. One familiar face that was slated to be in that group, Darvish, is no longer an option, after signing a six-year, $108 million extension to stay in San Diego until just shy of his 42nd birthday.

The Padres, who are the walking embodiment of 'all'in', were facing the prospect of losing Darvish and Blake Snell next winter - but now, know they can pair the former with Joe Musgrove for the forseeable future. I'm all for ownership groups and front offices pushing their chips in when a window is wide open, but given the sheer number of options available on the market next winter, I can't say I completely understand the length of this deal with Darvish.

Don't get me wrong. He was as effective as ever in 2022, tossing 194 2/3 innings of 3.31 FIP/0.950 WHIP ball for the Friars. Even at what's going to be a wildly palatable sum annually (the deal works out to an $18M AAV), I, personally, have trouble paying pitchers into their 40s, especially one who's already battled his fair share of injuries in his career.

Rather than look at recent deals for Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander as the new norm, I'd say the future Hall of Famers are in a league of their own. The Darvish deal won't cripple San Diego financially, especially given how front-loaded it is), and, in the short-term, will actually lessen their CBT burden. And, hey, if that added financial flexibility in the short-term allow AJ Preller and the Padres to add that missing piece and bring a championship to San Diego - will anybody really care at the back end of this deal?

Next. 3 Cubs who will improve in 2023 and 2 more who won't. dark

As for the Cubs, like I said: there's no shortage of potential options available next offseason. For the time being, Chicago will roll with Marcus Stroman, Justin Steele, Jameson Taillon, Drew Smyly and a crew of young arms in 2023 - and keep in mind that Stroman can opt out after this year, potentially opening up an even greater opening atop the rotation heading into 2024.