The Chicago Cubs are paying free agent pitcher and former Los Angeles Dodger Yu Darvish $126 million to help them win another World Series title. It was something he couldn’t deliver for his former team, who lost to the Houston Astros last season in seven games.
The right-handed Japanese hurler inked the six-year deal on Saturday, which could be worth up to $150 million with performance incentives. He was one of the most coveted free agents available, with Chicago, Milwaukee, Texas, Minnesota, and Houston all courting him.
The Cubs opened at 10/1 to win the 2018 World Series and have not moved since the acquisition. The Dodgers were the 5/1 favorite in November when the line was released. They have since dropped to 6/1 with the Astros and behind the new top pick, the 5/1 New York Yankees.
World Series 2.0
Los Angeles executives had the same idea as the Cubs when they traded for Darvish just before the non-wavier trade deadline of July 31. It was a move to give them the push they thought they needed to capture their first World Series since 1988.
Darvish became the second man on the mound, after left-handed ace Clayton Kershaw. The team was seen as having a potent 1-2 punch as they entered the playoffs.
It worked for the first two rounds. The Dodgers swept the Arizona Diamondbacks in the National League Divisional Series and then defeated the Cubs in the National League Championship Series in five games.
Darvish played a role in both. He pitched one game in each series and allowed just one run in both, notching victories.
When Los Angeles faced Houston in the Fall Classic, however, the 31 year old struggled. He was shelled in the two games he started, not making it out of the second inning in each. The four runs he gave up in Game 7 allowed the Astros to clinch the championship.
It was widely thought that the Dodgers would not seriously pursue Darvish when his contract expired.
There were plenty of teams that would, though. Chicago did not retain former ace Jake Arrieta and added Darvish to a staff that already includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood.
Players Seeking Teams
The Hot Stove League, which runs from November to mid-February, has been almost stagnant. Usually there is a plethora of free agent signings, but with two days before pitchers and catchers report for Spring Training, several high-profile players remain without a team.
That has led agents Scott Boros and Brodie Van Wagenen to suggest that there may be some form of collusion between the 30 owners. Van Wagenen even hinted that players might boycott the first week of Spring Training, but that idea never seriously materialized.
He did say that some form of action was appropriate giving the climate. The representative for Ryan Zimmerman, Jacob deGrom, Yoenis Cespedes and others went on Twitter to voice his frustrations.
“Bottom line, the players are upset,” he tweeted last week. “No, they are outraged. Players in the midst of long-term contracts are as frustrated as those still seeking employment. Their voices are getting louder and they are uniting in a way not seen since 1994.”