With spring training opening in Florida and Arizona next week, the camp of unsigned free agents has lost its ace. Yu Darvish, perhaps the most prominent pitcher left on the frigid open market, has agreed to a six-year, $126 million deal to join the Chicago Cubs.
The agreement, first reported by Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, was confirmed by a baseball official who was granted anonymity because Darvish must pass a physical for the deal to be official. It is the richest contract given to any free agent this off-season, both in years and dollars, surpassing outfielder Lorenzo Cain’s five-year, $80 million deal with the Milwaukee Brewers.
Darvish, 31, is a four-time All-Star who beat the Cubs in the National League Championship Series last fall as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He is 56-42 with a 3.42 earned run average in five seasons, mostly with the Texas Rangers, and his 11.04 strikeouts per nine innings lead all active pitchers with at least 100 starts.
Including the postseason, Darvish won six of his first 11 starts after the Dodgers acquired him from Texas in a trade last July 31. But he was the goat of the World Series, allowing nine runs and collecting only 10 outs while losing Games 3 and 7 to the Houston Astros.
Darvish was relieved in Game 7 by Brandon Morrow, who worked in every game of the World Series and is now the Cubs’ closer. The Cubs signed Morrow to a two-year, $21 million deal in December to replace Wade Davis, who went on to sign with the Colorado Rockies.
Besides Darvish and Morrow, the Cubs have also signed Tyler Chatwood, the former Colorado right-hander who thrived outside of Coors Field last season, to a three-year, $38 million contract in early December. Darvish and Chatwood join Jon Lester, Jose Quintana and Kyle Hendricks in a rotation that should be imposing.