Right-hander Yu Darvish underwent an arthroscopic debridement of his right elbow today, the team announced to reporters (Twitter link via Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times). The procedure came on the heels of a second opinion from Dr. James Andrews. The surgery doesn’t impact Darvish’s timeline to return to the Cubs, as he was already down for the season due to a stress reaction in his elbow, and he’s expected to be ready for Spring Training 2019.
The operation is the latest data point in a nightmarish first season of Darvish’s six-year, $126MM contract with the Cubs. The right-hander made just eight starts for the team in 2018, missing time on the disabled list due to an assortment of arm-related injuries before news of the stress reaction in his elbow definitively brought his season to a close. Though his timeline remains unchanged, the optics won’t win Darvish any more support among a Cubs fanbase that has spent much of the season lamenting the signing as he’s struggled through his various injuries.
Neither Darvish nor fellow free-agent signee Tyler Chatwood (three years, $38MM) has paid dividends for the Cubs, though Chicago nonetheless holds a two-game lead over the Brewers in the National League Central with 18 games left to play. Though their high-priced pair of offseason additions didn’t pan out (at least not yet), president of baseball ops Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer were proactive on the trade market in looking to bolster the club this summer, most notably adding lefty Cole Hamels and infielder Daniel Murphy in a pair of swaps. Hamels, in particular, has been a godsend for skipper Joe Maddon’s rotation, hurling 50 2/3 innings of 1.42 ERA ball through the same number of starts Darvish made (eight).
Chicago still owes the 32-year-old Darvish a hefty $101MM over the next five seasons as part of his front-loaded deal, so the organization has little choice but to hope that an extended period of rest will allow him to return to form, at least to some extent, in 2019 and beyond. Darvish did average 11 strikeouts per nine innings pitched in 2018, and his velocity was right in line with its previous levels, so there’s some cause for optimism. He’ll need to rein in his control (4.7 BB/9, 1.58 HR/9) moving forward if he’s to truly be an asset in the rotation, though.