The top free agent pitcher on the market finally signing could get those wheels turning.
The Cubs signed righthander Yu Darvish to a six-year, $126 million deal on Saturday, according to multiple reports. Incentives could help Darvish reach $150 million in total earnings.
The deal can not be announced until Darvish, 31, passes a physical examination. Lower back tightness put him on the disabled list last August.
The Cubs' rotation now appears to be set. The star right-hander, however, chose to sign with the Chicago Cubs instead. Other teams reportedly in the bidding for Darvish included the Yankees, Rangers (with whom Darvish spent most of his Major League Baseball career), Twins, and Astros (who likely bowed out after acquiring Gerrit Cole). Granted, with virtually every big-name starting pitcher still on the market, that was unlikely to come to fruition, but a Darvish signing immediately boosts the Cubs' chances of returning to the NLCS for a fourth-straight year.
We've already seen what Darvish could conceivably do as a member of the NL, with its pitcher spot in place of the designated hitter and a greater volume of pitchers' parks - nine of the 15 NL parks favored pitchers over hitters using five-year (2013-17) data in terms of run-scoring environments as well as inflating strikeout potential. Injury concerns and Darvish'ssurprisingly bad postseason performance surely made teams hesitant to commit.
Most rumblings had Epstein more interested in pursuing a younger, less expensive starter who was under team control for two or more seasons, like Tampa Bay's Chris Archer or Toronto's Marcus Stroman.
It's a move that wasn't necessarily on the Cubs' radar in early November. He joins a formidable rotation that includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood, who agreed to a $38 million, three-year contract in December. The other notable starting pitchers on the free agent market - Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn - all received qualifying offers from their original teams, and any other team that goes on to sign them will have to give up a draft pick. Spring training in Mesa, Ariz.is about to get a lot busier as the Japanese media and the national reporters will decamp to Sloan Park to take the temperature of the restocked 2016 World Series champions.