Jake or Darvish? Yu tell me.

It has been widely assumed that Jake Arrieta's days with the Chicago Cubs were done. With agent Scott Boras at the helm asking for at least 200 million dollars to sign the TCU product, any chance of a needed hometown discount seemed a mere pipe dream. Meanwhile the attentions of Cubs management seemed to be directed at another free agent starting pitcher, Yu Darvish. In fact, Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein flew to Dallas last month to meet the Japanese hurler in person.

The lack of free agent activity this year appears to have driven down Arrieta's asking price. Bob Nightengale (whose rumors require a prodigious grain of salt) reports the Cubs have offered a 4 year deal to Jake in the range 110 million dollars. The more reliable Bruce Levine of CBS sports also reports the Cubs renewed interest in the 2015 Cy Young winner. Suddenly a reunion in the Windy City doesn't seem impossible.

Naturally these rumors have triggered a raging debate among Cubs fans over which of the free agent starters they should sign. I'm here to argue the right choice is in fact Yu Darvish. Full disclosure: I have been pushing for Darvish to the Cubs since 2011 when he came over from Japan. I can't take credit for being the driver of this bandwagon however, as our own Mike Banghart has been on board since 2010.

Both pitchers are 31 years old, with Arrieta a few months older. Both are quite large, over 6'4'' and 220 pounds, Darvish being an inch taller and Jake 5 pounds heavier. Yu has better stuff, averaging 94.2 miles an hour on his fastball in 2017 compared to 92.1 mph for his counterpart. But while Darvish has the measurable edge there are other areas he doesn't have an advantage.

Perhaps the biggest issue for Darvish is health. He had Tommy John surgery in 2015 and his return in 2016 was interrupted by a strained neck. Seemingly this would be an advantage in favor of the strong as an ox Jake Arrieta, but it's not as big a difference as you would think. Arrieta has only thrown 200 innings once in his career, over 170 only twice, Darvish has pitched over 170 three of the five seasons he appeared in the majors. Last season, Jake missed the final month of the regular season with a hamstring injury.

A common knock against the Japanese/Iranian ace this off-season was his lousy World Series performance against the Astros. 8 runs in 3.1 innings certainly is grizzly, but small sample size should always be taken into account, and that it has since been made known that he was tipping his pitches. In the NLDS and NLCS, Darvish allowed two runs in 11.2 innings of outstanding work. Jake Arrieta was awesome in the 2015 Wild Card and the 2016 World Series, but don't forget his struggles the rest of the 2015 playoffs and the 2016 NLCS. Every great pitcher is going to have bad playoff games and outstanding ones, that should not be the biggest factor in deciding whether to sign one.

The main reason I prefer Darvish over Arrieta can be best expressed in one word, consistency. Every one of his 5 seasons in the majors his FIP has sat between 2.80 and 3.80, while playing his home games at a very hitter friendly Globe Life Park. Arrieta, however, has swung wildly throughout his career. Early on in Baltimore his FIP never fell below 4.00. Then in his first two full years in Chicago it was sub 2.50 as he went on a dominant two and a half year run. The last two seasons? He has posted a FIP of 3.52 and 4.16 respectively, as he swung back towards his early career form.

Arrieta has also seen fluctuations in his strike out to walk ratio as he intermittently struggles with control. Darvish meanwhile has consistently had a ratio above 3 his whole career. With Jake the fear has always been he can fall apart as quickly as he came together, his complicated mechanics and delivery feel like a fine mechanism that can easily get out of whack. Despite the Tommy John surgery, Yu feels like the much more smooth and stable pitcher, other than perhaps the pitch tipping issue against Houston which should be fixable.

If the Cubs are going to invest several years and a sizeable chunk of money in a starting pitcher, I feel much better about Darvish than Arrieta. I know there is a sentimental attachment to Jake and everyone from the magical 2016 team, I have it too. Baseball is a cold logical business however, and without a doubt (at least in the mind of this humble correspondent) Yu Darvish is the right baseball move for Chicago.

Filed under: Cubs, Uncategorized

Tags: Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish


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  • Darvich no draft pick and international slot money is involved

  • I'd rather they trade for Archer, Cole or some other cost controlled starter over spending big money on Arrieta or Darvish

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I'm in agreement. I've made the switch for spending this year on a MOR/TOR type in the last two weeks. The problem is I don't believe the Cubs will give up a 4 for 1 for Archer and the Pirates would ask for at least that and profit sharing with the Ricketts Family Trust to make an inter-divisional trade to the Cubs.

    If a trade is not available, I say stay put. Look for a May or June or deadline deal if a TOR guy in needed.

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    There is Salazar and other options available. I still think a trade happens this off season

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    I advocated for Salazar two weeks ago. Great stuff, but is looking like a 160 inning/year guy. Nice to have in a post-season short series, but not a horse at the top.

    He would cost Schwarber for sure and.......I don't like our OF without Schwarber in it. There was little O last year and the possibility without him could be scary (in a bad way).

    What other deals do you see out there?

  • In reply to rbrucato:

    He would not cost Schwarber Rumor is or Happ

  • In reply to WaitUntilNextYear:

    IMO a trade does not happen this off season. Cubs might spend money for Arrieta/Darvish/Cobb if they agree to the Cub price or we could go with what we have until trade deadline.

  • Frankly, If Boreus thinks Jake is getting 6/200 hes on drugs. Jake isnt 2015 Jake anymore, his throwing across his body is leading to a velo decline , his WHIP and FIP have juimped each of the last 2 yrs. Frankly, I dont think jake is worth the 4/110 the Cubs are rumored to be willing to pay him. Maybe Shark-type $ might be the top for him. Id rather have Darvish if we absolutely needed one, Id rather have Cole than any of them. Take a lookl at Coles career njumbers in Wriglet, he pitched better at Wrigley than he did against us in Pittsburgh.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Eh, I'm not sure how serious Boras was about that money but it was worth a shot. He's gotten some guys some pretty incredible deals above value before. If I had a son who was a top prospect Boras would be the first guy I'd tell him to talk to, I frankly have never understood the disdain for him. He promises his clients generational wealth and often achieves it. I think Jake's "worth" is probably in the 5/$120 range but if I'm the Cubs I just don't give that extra year. I'd much rather give Darvish the 5 years for a little bit more money.

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    Yu. Jake's been great but has been declining. He still can be very good at times but he also throws across his body and with his velocity going down at this point I think Yu has a brighter future. Even with his TJ surgery, to me that means that he has new life in his arm and will sustain him for the next few years.

  • 68-31.... .687 winning percentage over 5 years when the team was only good half of that time....

    and the last Cub pitcher to do that?

    That’s worth the chance for me....

  • Innings don't tell the whole story with Jake. His pitch counts were numbering in the 90s by the 5th or 6th inning in many games this past season. I suspect that had something to do with his intermittent losing the strike zone, as we saw regularly, even in some of his better performances of 2017.

    That and the number of years he wants (3, 4 max is what I'd support - he's on his way down, the only relevant questions are how far and how fast) make me think Darvish would be the better investment of the two.

  • In reply to MN Exile:

    also a spike in HR and HBP shows the losing command and control

  • I'm with Yu.

    If Jake would go 3 years at $20mmAAV I'd change my tune. (He won't).

  • Levine has published a rumor that the Pirates and Cubs are talking about Cole.

    Watching Moneyball again it always comes to me solving roster problems in the aggregate. If the Cubs signed Lorenzo Cain (CF and lead off gaining 4 WAR and solving the OF issues) and trade for two years of arb eligible SP who already has 13 WAR over his four years, and projected 3.8 next year.

    Cubs could trade Almora and Happ and allow the Pirates to trade McCutchen, the kind of trade that benefits both clubs. That would be financially and WAR sound.

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    here is the source: https://www.christianpost.com/news/chicago-cubs-mlb-trade-rumors-team-interested-in-pirates-ace-gerrit-cole-212440/

    "Pittsburgh Pirates ace Gerrit Cole has mostly been linked to the New York Yankees this offseason, but another legitimate title contender seems to have him on their radar as well.

    According to CBS Chicago's Bruce Levine, the Chicago Cubs have also expressed interest in acquiring the right-hander from the Pirates.

    Well, previous reports have indicated that the Cubs have been eyeing the Tampa Bay Rays' Chris Archer, so it would make sense for them to explore the possibility of acquiring Cole as well since he's one of the top pitchers on the trade market."

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    I vote Bobby Hill for Gerrit Cole, Aramis Ramirez, Kenny Lofton and the sausage beater guy.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    We can throw in Bobby Brownlie too. :-)

  • In reply to rnemanich:

    I really don't want any part of Lorenzo Cain and while I like Gerrit Cole he's yet another of the 2/3 types that we already have in Hendricks and Quintana. Plus I never believe a word Levine says.

  • With Scott Boras as his agent, I don't see Arrieta returning to the Cubs for any type of discount $$$ / years. Jake has sold his house here in Chicago, so he was never planning to come back.

    Three cheers for YU!!

  • In reply to PANAMALIMITED:

    The house thing was a false story. He and his wife rented the house and the owner put it on the market. Still, I find it difficult to imagine that he'll come back at 4/$110 and I don't see the Cubs going higher. I still think the Phillies make the most sense as they could easily overpay and it gives them some legitimacy. Atlanta would be a similar scenario particularly if they get Yelich and/or Realmuto. In fact they could actually compete with those three additions.

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    I would wait it out until the agents come to their senses. Lance Lynn for three years. JMO

  • Boras has been attributing Arrieta’s declining numbers to his postseason workload. I’m not sure I buy that - seems like it’s just Boras being Boras. But does anyone else believe it?

  • In reply to October:

    If you pay an SP $200M you expect postseason starts. But the postseason starts are causing his decline... what?! Boras said that?

  • Another advantage of not signing Arieta is that Cubs pick up an extra valued draft pick. Not the biggest issue but has some value nonetheless.

  • Contracts being equal, I want Arrieta. Yu's K numbers are better, and BB are slightly better, but Jake is better everywhere else. The last 2 years: better ERA, fewer HR/9, lower AVG against, higher GB rate, lower Hard contact rate (their soft contact rate is virtually identical).
    Arrieta keeps himself in better shape than anyone, and Darvish has been somewhat injury prone as well.

  • I have a somewhat related Question. Was there a new baseball design last year. I read an article on Quintana that said his bad first half numbers were related to a new ball. If there was a new ball, did it have an effect on Jake and other pitchers last year? Did it effect a certain type of hurler over others?

  • In reply to Fuzzy59:

    Wish I knew......does seem something is up with the balls....

    Scooter friggen Jennett?

    How many other guys whacked 30? Just seems unnnnnn likely....

  • In reply to Wickdipper:

    Sure only the ball - players are clean now

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    How about Addison Reed 3 years @ $9 mil
    Brain Dunsing 2 years @ $4 mil
    Koji - 1 year @ 1 mil.
    then lower end 5th spot guys:

    bring Lackey back 1 year @ $4 mil
    Chris Tillman 1 year @ 4 mil
    Travis wood @ MLB min.

    total spend for 2018 would be $22 mil
    play the hot hand - use the 10 day dl etc.

  • Just got my morning laugh in from MLBTR with a silly trade proposal and then hilarious Padres fans comments. Javy to the Padres for Perdomo and Hand. Padres fans commented “what else would the Cubs have to include” to make that deal. Gotta love the Hot Stove.

  • An interesting article this morning from Mike Petriello of mlb.com (https://www.mlb.com/news/mlb-starters-who-maintain-production-late/c-264262296)...The article uses an interesting method to define the "most consistent" pitchers through the first three times through the order.

    Two Cubs (Quintana and Hendricks) make the top ten in consistency for 2016+2017, and it is of note that in "3rd time wOBA", Hendricks ranks first at .288 and Quintana fourth at .311.

    Pretty impressive!

  • In reply to wthomson:

    Interesting indeed. One of the knocks on Hendricks a couple of years ago was that he wasn't nearly as 'good' after a couple of times through the opponent's lineup. That's apparently not the case any longer.

  • IF the Cubs could get Jake at 4 years / $110-120 MM - then I would like to see them take it. Maybe put an Option year / buyout for year 5 in with some benchmarks to be hit during year 4?

    Similarly - if they could get a comparable deal done with Darvish - then I would like to see them take it.

    I'm just leery of giving either of these 31-32 year old pitchers more than 4 years on a contract straight up.

  • Assuming they are being offered the same deal, which I believe they are, I prefer Darvish.

  • In reply to Ronnie’sHairpiece:

    I would think you'd have to go higher than that for Darvish.

  • Why do people want Darvish over Arrieta? Is it the drop in Jake's velocity? Because the rest of his numbers are better than Darvish's and he's less of a health concern. I feel like people are comparing Arrieta now to Arrieta in 2015 and they feel like he just fell off a cliff. In reality, he's been better than the guy everyone is pining for over the last 2 seasons.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I posted about it yesterday but the short answer for me is that I think Arrieta is the greater injury risk. His crossbody delivery requires a lot of core strength to be effective and I think maintaining that will become harder and harder as he ages. A trainer friend of mine thinks that's already happening and why the velo has dropped. Because that delivery makes him the pitcher he is it isn't going to be like a Verlander who gets over the hump after the drop in velocity. Darvish over the last two years has posted a better FIP, better BB/9 and better K/9 numbers. The only number that Jake is demonstrably better at is the GB rate and obviously the playoff performance, but I don't put a whole lot of stock in the latter.. I also think that if Hickey can channel Darvish into throwing his 4 best pitches as opposed to the 6 or 7 he likes to throw he'll be a better pitcher and while I don't think either is a true #1 I think Darvish is closer and still hasn't had his best season, even if on a 5 year deal he might have a clunker or two.

  • In reply to TC154:

    I'm definitely not an expert on mechanics or health of athletes, so if you believe Arrieta really is an injury risk I get it... but Darvish has already had major injuries. Maybe Arrieta is a risk for injury, but he's pitched very effectively despite a sizeable velocity decline. He's thrown fewer innings than a typical 32 year old SP, and he's probably in better shape than literally every other MLB athlete. He's still among the very hardest SP in baseball to hit. He gave up fewer HR than Darvish, his hard contact rate was a lot lower than Darvish's, and as you said, his GB rate was better. It was a lot better, in fact. Arrieta, as he is now, is a contact manager. If he still had his great stuff he'd be the best pitcher in baseball. If he gets a smidgen of his 2014-2015 command back, he's easily the better pitcher.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    That's completely fair. Is there a right answer? Probably not. Darvish and Arrieta have posted identical WAR over the lasts two seasons but Darvish seems to be more consistent game to game where Jake has a couple of amazing games countered by a game where he gets rocked. Except when Jake was giving us his best Gibson impression I would say that I've always like Darvish better even though he does have more innings on his arm. For me when I look at the Cubs rotation I easily slot Darvish in at 1 whereas I don't do that with Jake. As in my discussion earlier with rbrucato I consider Lester a 4 now, with Hendricks and Quintana as 2/3 types. I tend to think of Arrieta a 2/3 and Darvish as a 1/2. Am I right? Who knows, just a call.

  • In reply to TC154:

    Yeah I agree. I'm not sure there's a huge difference. The consistency vs game-to-game thing is probably accurate. I think adding either of them makes the Cubs the best team in the NL.
    I wouldn't slot either of them at 1 on the Cubs, but I've said before how much I love Hendricks.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I like the comp pick we would get by Jake leaving. That is important as well. They are pretty similar when you break it down.

    For me, Darvish has better velocity and assortment of breaking balls. Jake is declining in velocity and his curve is ok. He lost his cutter which was his bread and butter arguably a top 2 or 3 pitch in all of baseball in 2015. Jake has almost zero changeup and another tick in velocity decline will spell trouble for a 89-91 sinkerballer with middling command. His spike in HBP and HR is a watch out for me. I would be more comfortable with Darvish for 4+ years versus Jake. Year 1 and possibly Year 2, they would probably both produce similar results.

    I still sit this one out as I have stated before. I've changed my mind on signing big dollars to a FA pitcher above age 30.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I also take Jake if it's a 4 year deal.

  • I vote neither.

  • In reply to hoopscubs:

    Ha, Cobb is still in the picture.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    He is. But do you really think he would be a wise signing at 4 years and $72M? I'm just making those numbers up based on aggregating all the different rumors/stories about him over the last few weeks.

  • Sign Cashner to a 1 year deal and/or trade for a guy like Jake Odirizzi, who won't cost as much as what a Cole or Archer may require. Save the "Yu/Jake" money to sign Harper or Machado next offseason!

  • In reply to hoopscubs:

    I'd rather Tseng be their #5 than Cashner. SP typically strike out 6 or 7 batters/9 IP on accident. Somehow Cashner managed to K fewer than 5 last year.
    The Cubs aren't signing Darvish or Jake at the expense of Harper of Machado next year.

  • In reply to Kramerica20:

    I understand your point on Cashner. Maybe we are saying the same thing or not. My sense is that signing Yu or Jake this offseason will take them out of the running for a big free agent contract next offseason.

  • In reply to hoopscubs:

    No need for a big free agent contract next offseason

  • In reply to hoopscubs:

    But the Cubs will still need pitching, won't they? They went further into the 2017 playoffs than the teams that had Harper and Machado.

  • In reply to hoopscubs:

    If you save the "Yu/Jake" money, you don't have any where close enough to sign Harper or Machado. The signing Harper/Machado is not going to happen.

  • Jon heyman reported cobb is willing to take 4 years 70 million. I have a feeling cubs will sign him in that range(4 years 62-68 mil)

    I personally would prefer darvish but if you can get a solid starter for 4 years and less money they can sign a bullpen pitcher(reed) I don't want jake back I think a steep decline is coming for jake same for wade davis which is why I'm glad colorado did gods work for the cubs,

  • In reply to bolla:

    Just read that Cobb turned down 3 year 42 million offer from the Cubs. Doesn't look like Cubs are offering what Cobb wants. Maybe some other team will go that high.

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