A free agent such as Yu Darvish usually doesn’t last until almost the middle of February, but that’s how slow the market has been in baseball. Darvish finally landed with a team as the Cubs signed the right-hander to a six-year, $126 million contract.
The move is a good one for Darvish’s fantasy value. The last time we saw Darvish, he imploded in the World Series with the Dodgers. After he was traded from the Rangers in the middle of the season, Darvish was impressive with Los Angeles, making some tweaks that helped. In 49 innings with the Dodgers over nine starts, he struck out 61 and walked 13 with a 3.44 ERA and 1.15 WHIP.
Darvish had Tommy John surgery in March of 2015 and made his return in the middle of 2016. In 100.1 innings that year, he had a 3.41 ERA, 1.12 WHIP, 11.84 K/9 and a 2.78 BB/9. Between the Rangers and Dodgers last season, Darvish made 31 starts and pitched 186.2 innings. He had a 3.86 ERA, 1.16 WHIP, 10.08 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9.
Last year was the first full season for Darvish after the surgery and his command was good considering that usually takes time to get back. Most will look at the move to the National League as a positive and while it is, the difference in the gap between the leagues has closed. The average NL ERA last season was 4.34 compared to 4.37 for the AL.
While Darvish is 17-17 with a 3.70 ERA since the Tommy John surgery, he has struck out 341 in 287 innings. Playing a full season in the National League could help him go deeper into games, increase his strikeouts a bit facing the pitcher and keep the WHIP low. The run support should be good, too.
Darvish gets the benefit of a good defense behind him, as well. As for park factors, Wrigley Field was middle of the pack last season for home runs, while Global Life Park in Arlington was ninth. In 2016, Global Life was 14th and Wrigley Field was 24th.
Darvish has only reached 200 innings once in his career, but he has pitched at least 186 innings three times. In each of those seasons, he has struck out at least 209. Only ten pitchers in baseball reached 200 innings and struck out 200 last season and Darvish came close. One could make a strong case for him to get there this season.
Darvish has an ADP of 52 on fantrax.com. I just took Darvish as the 12th starting pitcher off the board at the end of round three in a 15-team draft champions format.
The biggest loser for the Cubs is Mike Montgomery. He was penciled in as the No. 5 starter, but he will start the season in the bullpen and be called upon to start if injuries strike. Montgomery is someone to target late in draft champion formats. Darvish will lead a rotation of Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, and Tyler Chatwood.