Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Cubs have a six-year, $126 million contract in place with free agent right-hander Yu Darvish. The deal tops out at $150 million with incentives and includes an opt-out after the second year. While the signing is pending a physical and still has yet to be confirmed by the team, it finally looks like the long months of speculation and rumors can be put to bed.
Darvish, 31, is set to join a rotation that already features several top-tier names, including Jose Quintana, Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Tyler Chatwood. The Cubs’ rotation ranked sixth among NL teams in 2017 with a combined 4.05 ERA and 11.8 fWAR and stands to benefit greatly from the addition of an ace pitcher who supported the Rangers and Dodgers with a cumulative 3.86 ERA, 2.8 BB/9, 10.1 SO/9 and 3.5 fWAR last season.
Not only does the Cubs’ acquisition represent a significant shift in what has been a very strange and tense offseason, but it should open the door to numerous other free agent signings, as many clubs were waiting on Darvish (among others) to find a landing spot before making their moves this winter. Additional reports from Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports indicate that the Twins, Dodgers and Brewers were in the mix for Darvish until the end and were thought to have five-year, $100+ million offers on the table. Now, it appears they could target the next-best free agent starter left on the market: right-hander Jake Arrieta.
Bryce Harper, who said he was tired after taking his cuts in the first round, certainly appeared gassed in the final round. So, too, did his dad, who was throwing to him. But Harper caught fire, going on a tear and tying Kyle Schwarber with 18 home runs before time expired in the final round of the 2018 Home Run Derby. Harper unlocked 30 seconds of bonus time by hitting two home runs at least 440 feet. With his second swing in bonus time, Harper homered to straightaway center field for No. 19. He tossed his bat in celebration, grabbed his trophy, then gave it to his dad before he was mobbed on the field by his All-Star teammates.
Harper hit 13 home runs in the first round, eliminating Freddie Freeman and advancing to the semifinals. In the semis, Harper topped Max Muncy 13-12 to advance to the finals. On Schwarber’s side of the bracket, he bested Alex Bregman 16-15, then defeated Rhys Hoskins 21-20.
Harper is the first member of the Nationals (or Expos) to win the Home Run Derby. Harper participated in the 2013 Derby but finished in second place behind Yoenis Céspedes. Harper is also the first left-handed hitter to win the Derby since Prince Fielder in 2012. The only players to win the Derby in their home park are Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990.
As a spectator, the 2018 Home Run Derby was tons of fun. The four-minute clock adds a lot of tension and intrigue even to the initial rounds. Seeing teammates cheer and get excited for their teammates in the Derby is really fun. Of course, watching dinger after dinger is cool, too. Can’t wait for next year.