The headlines, they write themselves! And wouldn’t you know it, the Chicago Cubs really are kicking the tires on Yu Darvish:
sources: cubs are indeed meeting with yu. they have cast a wide net on free-agent/trade markets for a top starting pitcher. cobb, lynn, arrieta, duffy, archer among other possibilities. https://t.co/enuahpAKTm
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 18, 2017
I think the venerable Jon Heyman is just throwing names out there, the same names that most people would want on their pitching wish list (well, maybe not Lance Lynn, but he doesn’t suck that bad). If I were a betting man, I think the Cubs long decided that they would let Jake Arrieta walk, and their previous bullpen moves suggest that Wade Davis is probably gone too. This makes sense because both (former?) Cubs carry draft pick compensation with them, and a contending team like the Cubs need all the picks and slot money they can get to at least keep their farm system somewhat respectable. It would take a really good deal for the Cubs to bring their guys back, so let’s just assume they’re gone and there are a couple draft picks coming back their way.
If the crowd-sourcing of Darvish’s contract is accurate, then we are looking at around $25MM per year, which would fit nicely within the projected budget space the Cubs have under the luxury tax threshold. Darvish also solves the problem of getting a fifth starter, and certainly makes the roster better in the near future. Detractors may say that the contract is too expensive, or that the injury history is scary (Tommy John surgery has a pretty good success rate nowadays, but you never know), or that he got lit up in the World Series because reasons. But when I look at the statistics, I see a guy who strikes out a lot of batters while not giving up too many free passes. The home runs he gave up recently are a bit concerning, but I’m willing to attribute that to bad luck and a juiced ball. Ultimately, the Cubs would be trying to buy an at least better-than-league average starting pitcher who should be able to give them a few good years of production before turning into an albatross. And that is the same no matter which upper-tier pitcher is being pursued; you pay for the front half of production and defray the costs over the life of the contract.
As for future pursuits? Well, you probably have seen the New York Yankees and Los Angeles Dodgers dump salary recently to get under the luxury tax threshold. They, along with the Cubs, will be going after certain big fish, and need to reset their penalties before doing so:
When one remembers the complexities of baseball, it starts to make a little more sense. The goal of getting under the luxury-tax threshold of $197 million this season is to immunize both teams from severe penalties when they exceed it in future years. Make no mistake, that excess is coming. The 2017-18 offseason is both teams recognizing their ability to weaponize financial advantages going forward. The 2018-19 offseason will be them emptying both barrels.
There will be a bidding war for sure, not just for a guy like Bryce Harper, but for some other very intriguing free agents who will put this year’s free agent class to shame. The goal of this winter is to hold steady and then write blank checks to those coveted free agents next winter. The Cubs’ roster right now is good enough to win the division, and they don’t necessarily need Yu Darvish, but if they did get him, it makes the team better without going over the luxury tax, losing a draft pick, and may allow them to keep their prospects since the need for a trade is no longer as desperate. This is a potential acquisition that makes too much sense not to pursue, which is why Theo and Jed are deep in the heart of Texas right now, apparently.
As usual, stay tuned. These things can either happen like a snap, or drag on for weeks.
UPDATE 10:00 PM: Looks like the meeting went well…
Darvish acknowledges he met with the Cubs. Wants to improve English, so made it a point to not use an interpreter during 3 1/2 hour meeting. https://t.co/FZjClaHbFl
— Dylan Hernandez (@dylanohernandez) December 19, 2017
I hope nothing was lost in translation,but talking for that long seems like a good thing.