The Chicago Cubs have had a very active offseason on the pitching front, adding starting pitchers Tyler Chatwood and Drew Smyly and relievers Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek. The club isn’t done, however, as they continue targeting starting pitching and they have expressed interest in signing free agent Yu Darvish, according to Bruce Levine of CBS Chicago.
The general consensus on Darvish may be negative due to his recent World Series performance when he allowed eight earned runs in 3 1/3 innings of work. With that said, Darvish has an extremely long track record of performing as one of the better starting pitchers in baseball. Since his MLB debut in 2012, Darvish has the 18th best fWAR (19.0) among starting pitchers, the 26th best ERA (3.42) and boasts the third highest strikeout rate (29.7 percent).
Darvish does come with some injury history, as he underwent Tommy John Surgery in 2015 and has only reached the 200 inning mark once, back in 2013. Darvish has rebounded quite nicely from surgery though, as he has dropped his walk percentage around 7.5 percent the past two years, has maintained a strikeout percentage near 30% and he is still throwing hard (94.2 mph average fastball velocity in 2017).
Darvish is pretty clearly the best starting pitcher available on the free agent market and he is expected to receive at least five years and somewhere around $150 million on his deal. Since he was traded last summer, there was no qualifying offer extended to him and therefore he won’t cost a draft pick, making him attractive to some clubs like the Cubs.
The Cubs starting rotation regressed in a big way in 2017, as the collective group regressed after winning the World Series in 2016. Jake Arrieta and John Lackey, two of those pitchers who regressed, are free agents and aren’t likely to be brought back for 2018. If Darvish was added, he’d join a group consisting of Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood. Darvish’s addition would round out the rotation and would give the Cubs a frontline pitcher, negating the need to trade excess position players for a controllable starting pitcher.