Now that the Chicago Cubs have signed Yu Darvish, it’s time to make them World Series favorites.
The Cubs and Yu Darvish have been linked to each other for what feels like months — because they have been. Baseball, in general, has had a cold winter, with very few free agents still yet to have signed.
However, with Darvish finally signing, the rest of the remaining top free agents are expected to follow suit – especially since the Cubs just became a whole lot better.
The addition of 32-year-old Darvish wasn’t the initial plan, as the Cubs had dreams of landing another Japanese superstar in Shohei Ohtani. And it could be argued that the Cubs, needing to add another starter, weren’t in desperate need of a pitcher the caliber of Darvish.
But, now that they have, the Cubs should be considered the class of the National League.
Simply the best
According to Fangraph’s Steamer projections, the Cubs had improved their top-10 rotation by 0.5 WAR prior to the Darvish signing. Adding the veteran righty increases their projected WAR from 12.3 to 15.8 in 2018, which would put them just outside the top 5 rotation rankings.
The Cubs projected win total was 94 for 2018, which had them tied with the Dodgers for the best record in the National League. They scored the fourth most runs in all of baseball last year, despite there being a national stigma that the Cubs offense took a step back from their Championship-winning squad.
The most glaring issue was their bullpen, a group that combined to allow 26 of 48 postseason runs last season. The team let Wade Davis walk and replaced him with two of the leagues best strike-throwers in Brandon Morrow and Steve Cishek. Those two plus a bounce-back campaign from Justin Wilson, and the more of the same from Pedro Strop, Brian Duensing, and C.J. Edwards – this Cubs team is looking dominant once again.
For the Cubs to get any better from last year, it would have taken someone like Yu Darvish to take them to the next level. Of course, this deal doesn’t come without risk, as Darvish is only two seasons removed from Tommy John surgery and was crushed in his two World Series appearances.
But for the Cubs to challenge teams like the Nationals and Dodgers once again in 2018, they had to improve their rotation. There was not another arm they could have added, without trading from their talented depth, that would have made them better besides Darvish.
Now the Cubs have a rotation featuring Darvish, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks, Jon Lester, and Tyler Chatwood. Along with a top-five offense that has potentially three MVP candidates with plenty of potential breakout stars. A retooled bullpen built to mow batters down.
The rest of the MLB should be scared of the Cubs, finally fresh and re-energized after an NLCS exit…where have I heard this before?