MLB Trade Rumors: Yu Darvish, Chicago Cubs starting pitcher and former Texas Rangers ace, “seems out there in trade talks,” according to Jon Heyman on Twitter. Heyman cautions that the ask for Darvish would likely be high, and this may just be “an example of a willingness to consider anything,” but you know we can’t quit Yu, so any sort of rumor like that is going to cause ears to prick up.
Darvish signed a 6 year, $126 million deal with the Cubs after hitting the free agent market after the 2017 season. The Rangers signed Darvish out of Japan in the 2011-12 offseason, and Darvish accumulated a 3.42 ERA in 122 starts over 782.2 IP for the Rangers, with a 3.30 FIP and an 18.5 bWAR. Darvish was dealt to the Los Angeles Dodgers at the trade deadline in 2017 for Willie Calhoun, A.J. Alexy and Brendon Davis. He put up a 3.44 ERA in 9 starts over 49.2 IP for the Dodgers down the stretch, and pitched extremely well in wins against the Diamondbacks in the NLDS and the Cubs in the NLCS, but allowed 9 runs in just 3.1 IP over 2 World Series starts against the Houston Astros, including five runs in 1.2 IP in the decision Game 7.
The Cubs signing of Yu looked bad initially, as he had just 8 disappointing starts in 2018, and and started 2019 poorly, taking a 5.01 ERA into the All Star Break. Yu was great in the second half of 2019, though, putting up a 2.76 ERA in 13 starts. 2020 saw Yu finish second in the N.L. Cy Young balloting and 14th in the N.L. MVP voting with a 2.01 ERA in 76 IP over 12 starts, with an N.L.-best 2.23 FIP.
Darvish’s contract was front-loaded (in part because of an opt-out after Year 2), and he is owed $59 million over the final three years of the deal. He’s a fascinating case for one trying to figure out what he’s worth in a trade — he logged a ton of innings in Japan in his late teens and early 20s, and has Tommy John surgery in his past. When he was struggling in 2019, it appeared he was going down the Felix Hernandez career path, fading quickly in his early 30s due to overuse at an early age.
But Yu has rebounded and looked to be as good as ever in 2020, so the Cubs would, no doubt, be seeking a return commiserate with an ace at the top of his game on a reasonable contract. On the other hand, this will be Yu’s age 34-36 seasons you would be acquiring if you dealt for him, and the incredible 2020 season was in the equivalent of only about one-third of a normal season, due to the pandemic.
Yu has a 12 team no-trade clause through the end of his deal, and I haven’t seen anything indicating who might be on the no-trade list. Given his well-reported fondness for Texas, I doubt the Rangers are on the no-trade list, though they could be — and even if they aren’t, it seems unlikely the rebuilding Rangers would give up a big prospect package for Yu, despite the team’s admiration for their former ace. If young Rangers players make big strides in 2021, and the team is successful in landing a free agent star after 2021, and Yu is on the market a year from now, well...then it would seem to be a possibility. Probably not now, though.
Heyman mentions the San Diego Padres as a “great fit” for Darvish, should he actually be on the market. There’s the A.J. Preller connection, of course, and the Padres are in win-now mode with a strong farm system to deal from and a hole at the front of their rotation due to the loss of Mike Clevinger to Tommy John surgery.
I’d really rather not watch Darvish pitch for San Diego.