After three straight trips to the National League Championship Series, the Chicago Cubs have retooled their roster as they prepare for the 2018 season.
How He Got Here
After a long offseason that saw him linked to teams like the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, and Milwaukee Brewers, Yu Darvish ultimately was offered a six-year, $126 million deal by the Cubs and agreed to it, making him the highest-paid free agent of this year’s class.
What He Did in 2017
In his fourth big league season, Darvish struggled to find his form at times but still put up solid numbers, with a 10-12 record and a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Darvish also had some great starts in the postseason, picking up wins against the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Cubs before struggling big-time in two World Series losses to the Houston Astros.
What Does He Bring to the Table?
There really isn’t a way to understate the number of boxes that Darvish checks off for the Cubs as he comes to the North Side.
For starters, Darvish gives the Cubs one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks are both strong pitchers, and Jose Quintana has a great track record as a consistently good hurler as well, and adding yet another top-tier pitcher to that mix is a great move for the Cubs.
Darvish also helps with the Cubs’ big problem of a year ago, which was a rotation that struggled so badly in the first half of the season that it taxed the bullpen and burnt them out for the stretch run. In an ideal world, signing Darvish will prevent that from happening again, and it could pay dividends late in the season against an improved Milwaukee Brewers squad.
Finally, Darvish gives the Cubs the kind of strikeout pitcher that they would love to have in a rotation of guys that can pitch to contact and get away with it. The movement on Darvish’s pitches is simply staggering, and his release point is so similar on all of his pitches that he frequently keeps hitters off balance.
Our Prediction for 2018
Much has been made of Darvish tipping off his pitches in the World Series, and we’re guessing that with Jim Hickey by his side, Darvish will figure that out and have a strong year for the Cubs. One could easily see him going over 200 strikeouts next season, and his ERA could drop by a half run or so with Hickey’s help.