Yu Darvish is headed to Chicago.
BREAKING: Yu Darvish to #Cubs, six year-deal in $150M range, sources tell The Athletic. Pending physical.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 10, 2018
Again: Darvish to #Cubs, six years, $126M, pending physical, sources tell The Athletic. Chance to get to $150M range through incentives.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 10, 2018
Darvish was considered to be the #1 free agent available on this year’s market and the Milwaukee Brewers had been heavily linked to him throughout the winter, one of a handful of suitors in serious pursuit of the 31 year old right-hander. The Brewers were reportedly willing to make a five-year commitment to Darvish that would have paid him more than $100 mil, but their feelings apparently weren’t reciprocated. The prevailing belief was that Yu preferred to return to either the Dodgers or Rangers, or sign with Chicago. In the end, the Cubs’ willingness to give Darvish a sixth year on the deal and include an opt-out may have been what pushed it over the top.
Former #Brewers GM Doug Melvin had this very astute take on free agency: The players know where they want to play.— Tom (@Haudricourt) February 10, 2018
All in all, however, the six-year pact looks on its face like it should be a good deal for Chicago. The way his incentives are said to be structured will make it very difficult for Darvish to earn the maximum $150 mil over the life of the contract, and the guaranteed money will pay him an average annual value of $21 mil per season. That would barely put him in the league’s top-30 highest paid players for 2018. He was pegged for a six-year, $160 mil deal (with the Cubs) by MLB Trade Rumors at the beginning of the offseason, but ultimately will fall a fair sight shy of that projection.
Projected rotation for #Cubs: Lester, Darvish, Hendricks, Quintana, Chatwood.— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) February 10, 2018
With Darvish in the fold, that should push Chicago’s PECOTA win projection to the 91-92 range for 2018. They were already considered to be the class of the NL Central but will now be seen as the overwhelming favorites, with Milwaukee and St. Louis a step behind in the middle-tier of the National League. As pointed out by Adam McCalvy, this is now the second time in less than a year that the Cubbies have stolen a pitcher away from the Brewers:
The rival Cubs have thwarted the Brewers' bid for a top starter twice in the past six and a half months. First Quintana at the Trade Deadline, now Darvish.— Adam McCalvy (@AdamMcCalvy) February 10, 2018
Now that Darvish is off the table, the rest of the free agent market may finally be set in motion. Jake Arrieta is the next best starter available, and while he’s also searching for a nine-figure commitment it doesn’t seem likely he’ll match either the years or guaranteed dollars that Yu secured. The Brewers have been connected to Arrieta at various points throughout the winter, as well as the two pitchers available in that “next tier” - Alex Cobb and Lance Lynn. Milwaukee is currently projected for less than $90 mil in total payroll for the upcoming season and their owner recently assured fans that another major free agent contract could be fit into the budget.
Milwaukee may have already been bracing for Darvish to spurn their offer, as it was reported a couple of days ago that the team had started to turn more of their focus to the various trade talks that they are involved in. The Brewers are still believed to be trying to pry Chris Archer away from the Rays and are reportedly looking at his Tampa Bay teammate Jake Odorizzi, as well. They’ve also been linked to Cleveland - specifically in regards to Danny Salazar - as well as Arizona’s Patrick Corbin.
with the darvish move, cubs rotation looks much better on paper than brewers rotation. milwaukee needs to add at least 1 and probably 2 of: arrieta, cobb, lynn, archer, odorizzi, etc.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 10, 2018
The Milwaukee Brewers already turned the page from rebuilding this winter and shelled out an abundance of both payroll and prospects to bring in Christian Yelich and Lorenzo Cain. With plenty of available money left over and plenty of ammo remaining in the farm system, there’s not really much of a reason for the club to stop now. As things stand now, Chase Anderson, Zach Davies, and Jhoulys Chacin would front Milwaukee’s starting rotation with some combination of Junior Guerra, Yovani Gallardo, Brent Suter, Brandon Woodruff, and Aaron Wilkerson filling in the fourth and fifth slots until Jimmy Nelson returns at some point mid-season. Pitchers and catchers report to Maryvale next week on Valentine’s Day, and hopefully Slingin’ David Stearns and his front office will have crafted a response to Chicago’s big move by then.