It was on this date two years ago that one of the most expensive signings in Cubs history became official. The club added former Rangers and Dodgers right-hander Yu Darvish on a six-year, $126MM guarantee. The deal gave Darvish the right to opt out after last season, which would’ve meant walking away from $81MM in favor of a free-agency mystery box, but he chose to stay in Chicago, citing a comfort with the city and the organization.
For the Cubs, the Darvish pickup came after they bowed out in the National League Championship Series against the Dodgers in the prior fall. Darvish was an instrumental part of the Dodgers’ victory, as he fired 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in their Game 3 win. The hope for the Cubs was that Darvish would upgrade a rotation that was good, not great, in 2017. As a bonus, they took Darvish away from a rival, with which he was terrific after it acquired him from Texas at that summer’s trade deadline.
Darvish joined the Cubs as a 32-year-old who was eminently successful after coming over from Japan. From 2012-17, a 131-start, 832 1/3-inning run, he posted a 3.42 ERA/3.30 with a jaw-dropping 11.04 K/9 against 3.32 BB/9. There were injuries along the way, though. Darvish underwent Tommy John surgery before the 2016 campaign and missed that entire season. That was sandwiched between two years in which he combined to amass just 244 2/3 frames.
To his credit, Darvish rebounded to throw 186 2/3 effective innings in his season divided between the Rangers and Dodgers. As a result, there was quite a bit of buzz surrounding him as he headed into free agency. MLBTR ranked him as the No. 1 free agent available and predicted a six-year, $160MM payday. But that offseason moved at a more glacial pace than anticipated, and there was less money thrown around than expected. Even Darvish wasn’t immune to it. Several teams (the Rangers, Dodgers, Twins, Brewers and Yankees among them) showed interest in Darvish, but he ultimately chose to go to the Windy City.
Unfortunately for Chicago and Darvish, the first year of their union was an utter letdown. Darvish was on the injured list multiple times – including for triceps and elbow problems – totaled a mere 40 innings and didn’t pitch past May 20. To make matters worse, when Darvish was able to take the mound, he mustered a career-low 4.95 ERA/4.86 FIP with a personal-high 4.73 BB/9. While Darvish did fan a little over 11 hitters per nine, that couldn’t have been much of consolation to the Cubs, who signed him with the belief he’d deliver more than just strikeouts.
On the heels of a rough first season with the Cubs, there probably wasn’t much optimistic with regards to Darvish entering last year. And several weeks through 2019, it looked as if the downward spiral was continuing. Darvish owned a 5.01 ERA as late as July 3, but the light bulb went back on in a big way after that. He finished the season on a rampage from that point, collecting an incredible 124 strikeouts against seven walks in 88 1/3 combined innings in July, August and September. He ended the year with a respectable 3.98 ERA/4.18 FIP with 11.54 K/9 against 2.82 over a healthy amount of starts (31) and innings (178 2/3).
As great as Darvish was in the second half of 2019, his overall performance as a Cub still probably hasn’t been what the team had in mind. Indeed, when assessing president of baseball operations Theo Epstein’s highest-profile signings earlier this week, MLBTR’s Tim Dierkes gave the Darvish deal a mediocre ’C’ grade. But if his recent dominance is any indication, the 33-year-old Darvish may be able to help the Cubs rebound from their postseason-less 2019 this year. If he keeps it going (not a sure thing at his age), that grade should go up.
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
Who was the worse signing: Heyward or Darvish?
Darvish could still conceivably salvage things. Heyward is the reason Ricketts took away Theo’s credit card in October.
i hate my father
Heyward contract is bad and unmovable, still a useful player at least but man that contract is bad.
If YU stays healthy and pitches like he did in the 2nd half, then all the sudden that contract looks really good.
If Darvish can come through and pitch well the contract over the next 4 years won’t look so bad. But it’s a big if and doubtful in my opinion. Too bad for the Cubs that Hayward is making just over 20 million per year. If his yearly earnings were say 12 million his contract would to tolerable. That’s all he’s worth.
Darvish may end up being useful is Chicago. As bad as Barry Zito’s contract looked in SF, he ended up pitching a couple of the biggest games during their run. Capped off by 7 2/3 scoreless innings in an elimination game on the road in Stl.
Giants probably don’t win the WS that year w/o him. So to any real Giants fan, was a WS worth the dreadful contract? Definitely.
I never got the hate for the Heyward deal. He’s been better every year.
I think the hate comes from his salary vs his offensive production. Most people just expect a bit more for 20mil a year
In my opinion, the verdict is still out with Yu Darish. His 1st season was a disaster, but last season (2019) he showed he can still be dominant. The 2020 season will be the true test to see which version the Cubs got when they signed him.
As far as Jason Heyward, I don’t think signing him was a mistake. However, the contract the Cubs front office offered him was the mistake.
Yu Darvish will finish among the top five for the Cy Young in 2020. Just wait for it.
That’s a bold prediction. Here’s another one, Jason Heyward makes the All a Star team this year.
Don’t bet on it
Heyward had a couple solid months last season where it looked like he might turn it around
stan lee the manly
That’s been the story of his entire career.
Theo would have been fired a couple of years ago if it wasn’t for that game 7 in the world series.
Rangers made a great move trading Yu to the Dodgers for Willie Calhoun, Calhoun is now a fan favorite and I love it.
The word great has never been used in reference to Calhoun before.
Honestly as a Dodgers fan who watches all of our games I can tell you that we really didn’t have a place for him in the majors. I think moving him was the right choice. It just so happened the Astros knew every pitch Darvish was going to throw in the 2017 ws (can’t imagine why lol). I’d do that trade over again though.
$21,000,000 for 6 wins last year. LMAO
Yes, because wins and losses are totally a good way to judge how productive a pitcher is.
So 6 wins is good? At $21-mil Vin wants a guy to win and go deep in games help his team win. Wins isn’t the first stat to look at but unless his numbers rival DeGrom or 2011 Felix Hernandez, 6 wins on a competitive team is brutal.
When they start using WAR to determine the World Series winner, I’ll start ignoring wins.
As metslvt17 mentioned below me, Jacob deGrom was 10-9 in 2018. That’s 4 more wins than Darvish had in 2019. So deGrom must have sucked in 2018 right?
You know what they do use to determine the World Series winner? The number of runs the offense scores behind you. Which is something the pitcher has no control over.
And don’t try it with “pitching to the score” or whatever it is.
Jacob deGrom is making $23m in 2020. If he replicated his 2018 season, would you be happy paying him that much for a 10-9 record?
Considering he had a 1.70 ERA, 269 K’s, 10 HR allowed in 217 innings, and a WHIP of 0.91, I’d say yes. He was flawless. I’ll get him a better offensive unit.
Oh Vin you are making such a fool of yourself
Yu Darvish has been a bust for Chicago since the day they signed him
Read the article. 124:7 k to bb ratio in final 88 1/3 innings. If you consider that a bust, go pretend to be a football fan or something because you clearly don’t understand baseball.
Jordan Zimmerman’s first 60-70 innings in a Tigers uniform in 2016 made his deal look like a bargain. Darvish needs more than 88 1/3 innings to salvage this. To say the Yu signing is a bust as of Feb 2020 isn’t far-fetched Devans.
Yup. Because every 5 year deal can be graded 2 years in. He had an injury riddled season. He had a good season. Clearly a bust.
stan lee the manly
If that’s all the elite innings you get out of him, it doesn’t matter how good those 88 innings were, it’s a massive bust. He needs to pitch 200 high quality innings a year for the remainder of his contract for them to get the value they paid out of it
Looking at market value, that is quite the statement. He needs to have a few good years and lead the Cubs back into the NLCS/ world series hunt. Which is not far fetched considering they know how to get their with this group of players.
Paying Darvish 21 million a year is not a bad number.
Oh George so sorry you know nothing about baseball if you think Darvish has been a bust
This article really could have used a copy editor.
This is connor you’re talking about. This article could have used a rewrite by an eight year old.
Would you rather have Garrett Cole or Yu Darvish contract right now?
I’d rather Darvish’s because Cole’s is just too big for my liking. Paying a power pitcher that much for that long usually doesn’t work out, and I think Cole’s era and whip will go up a little from last year just by playing in N.Y half the time. Darvish on the other hand will always be a reliable arm despite still paying 21,000,000 for him, and he has good years and okay years normally not bad years. I think it is just too big of a risk to have Cole for that much money.
That is what I am saying. People bag on Theo for contracts and signings, but Heyward has about 4 and 98 million left and Darvish has 4 and 84 million left. Bad contracts? how is getting a ring bad with Heyward on the team and getting the pitching needed to compete with Darvish a bad thing? Darvish being hurt was a bad thing for sure. I think the Astros scandal helps his confidence and he gets that back this year. He just needs to be healthy for a solid season.
MLB Trade Rumors should permit only a 21 yr and older on this site……so many 2 yr olds and White Sox fans that dropped out from school who know nothing about baseball are writing nonsense comments.
Darvish was one of the top three Pitchers in the majors last year in the second half…….
Everyone thought Lester was a bad signing after his first year……
those people who laugh how much Heyward is getting, you are paying for it one way or another……..
I am just waiting for another repeat Kris Bryant article to come up again today…….enough of it……..it is like a beating a dead horse…….
Did you hear about the one that was a three team trade….?????……not happening…..
Bryant will be a Cub for the entire season.
White Sox fans who dropped out of school … Too funny. I am still laughing
To be fair, if you o ly had managed to pass into the sixth grade by age 21, you would probably drop out of school, too.
Guaranteed Seat field sees a lot of knuckles dragging on the ground, and very few shirts that have sleeves.
Second worst signing of Theo’s career. The worst being Kimberly! Yuck!!