Does the addition of Yu Darvish give the Cubs the best rotation in baseball?

Does the addition of Yu Darvish give the Cubs the best rotation in baseball?

The Cubs got their man, breaking the ice-cold thaw of the baseball offseason to bring Yu Darvish into Chicago for the next six seasons.

At the time of the signing, the Cubs held serve as the dealers of the top two starting pitching contracts this winter, committing $164 million to Darvish and Tyler Chatwood. Those two arms replace Jake Arrieta and John Lackey in the rotation.

That gives the Cubs a rotation (in some order) of:

Jon Lester

Yu Darvish

Kyle Hendricks

Jose Quintana

Tyler Chatwood

Assuming none of those guys are injured, that's the best Opening Day rotation the Cubs have featured in Theo Epstein's tenure in Chicago.

It also may well be the best rotation in baseball entering the 2018 campaign.

Each of the top four starters could be aces on plenty of teams (especially with so many rebuilding squads projected for 2018) while Chatwood could potentially be the best No. 5 starter in the league.

Lester had a disappointing 2017 season as he dealt with a muscle issue in his shoulder and failed to top 200 innings for the first time since 2011. He is 34 already, but he is coming off a fantastic three-year stretch (2014-16) where he went 46-28 with a 2.74 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and roughly a strikeout an inning while finishing in the Top 5 in Cy Young voting twice.

Darvish is one of the top strikeout pitchers in the game while Hendricks and Quintana may be the two most underrated arms in baseball.

If Lester can return to ace form and the Cubs continue their run of remarkable pitching health (admittedly, two big "ifs"), this will be a tough rotation to outperform.

The clear challenger here is the Houston Astros after trading for Gerrit Cole last month:

Justin Verlander

Dallas Keuchel

Gerrit Cole

Charlie Morton

Lance McCullers

Those guys are all studs, though there are some question marks associated with the group.

Morton has revitalized his career and while all signs point to the breakout as legit, there's no guarantee at age 34. Verlander is 35, Keuchel and McCullers have had some health issues and Cole has seen declining numbers of late.

But this is also the same staff that won the World Series last year and then went out and added a guy that went 19-8 with a 2.60 ERA and 202 strikeouts in 2015.

The Los Angeles Dodgers could also be contenders for the crown of MLB's top rotation, especially considering they have the game's best pitcher (Clayton Kershaw) when he's able to stay healthy.

The Dodgers are loaded with a bunch of very good starters but with all the injury question marks, it's hard to pen them higher than third in baseball.

The Nationals had maybe the best regular-season rotation in 2017 and figure to have the most dominant 1-2 punch in baseball with Max Scherzer and Stephen Strasburg. The depth is a bit shaky after that, however.

The Red Sox have potential to be near the top of baseball's rotation power rankings, but they need big rebounds from David Price and Rick Porcello.

The Indians are right there, too, if Danny Salazar stays in Cleveland and finally puts it all together.

The Yankees have a nice Top 3 of Masahiro Tanaka, Luis Severino and Sonny Gray but beyond that, there isn't a starter that strikes fear in an opponent.

If the Mets' young power arms are all healthy at once, watch out. But I'll believe that when I see it.

With pitchers and catchers reporting in just a few days, the Cubs look like the frontrunner in the starting rotation power rankings.

And with that young core of hitters, they're setting their sights on a second World Series in three seasons.

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen compared Sammy Sosa to Michael Jordan...and Michael Jackson

Ozzie Guillen is no stranger to saying outlandish things.

So it's not surprising that Guillen would agree with Sosa when the former Cubs outfielder said he made the city of Chicago what it is today.

Thirteen months ago, Sosa gave a candid interview to Chuck Wasserstrom and compared himself to Jesus before saying: "When nobody knew who Chicago was, I put Chicago on the map."

Guillen echoed that sentiment on the latest White Sox Talk Podcast.

Maybe from where they sit, that's exactly what has occurred. Sosa and Michael Jordan certainly helped make the Cubs, Bulls and Chicago sports in general on the map internationally.

"People know who the Cubs were because Sammy put them back on the map," Guillen said. "... For the city of Chicago, when Sammy was Sammy — that race with [Mark] McGwire, then people noticed what Chicago was."

Ozzie said — from his perspective — when people hear about Chicago, they ask, "Oh, you know Sammy?" or "You know Michael?" referencing Michael Jordan.

Guillen also weighed in on Sosa's ever-changing appearance that has sparked A LOT of attention lately.

"But the color, I'm tired. I think he uses the same product Michael Jackson did," Guillen said. "It's funny because I work with him — we talked to him a lot for ESPN Deportes. When you're lying, that's when people don't get it.

"Listen, if you want to change your color, why not? You got the money, you got the time if that's what you want to be. But if you say, 'Well, I got too much color because of the sun when I was playing.' OK...You live in Miami, you grew up in the Dominican. To me, I just laugh."

Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?


Scouting the Cubs' competition: Will the Nationals finally win it all before Bryce Harper leaves?

The expectations couldn't be any higher for the 2018 Chicago Cubs. 

It's 2016 all over again. The goal isn't just a trip to the playoffs or another NL pennant. It's World Series or bust for this group of North Siders.

With that, let's take a look at all of the teams that could stand in the way of the Cubs getting back to the Fall Classic:

Washington Nationals

2017 record: 97-65, 1st place in NL East

Offseason additions: Miguel Montero, Matt Adams, Joaquin Benoit, Matt Reynolds, Jeremy Hellickson, Tommy Milone

Offseason departures: Adam Lind, Stephen Drew, Jose Lobaton, Jayson Werth, Matt Albers, Oliver Perez, Joe Blanton

X-factor: The health of their stars

Health is an X-factor for any team, but it carries more weight in D.C. than anywhere else in baseball.

Bryce Harper, Trea Turner and Stephen Strasburg are three of the Nationals' best players and yet three guys that can't seem to stay healthy for a full season. Couple that group with leadoff hitter Adam Eaton and Daniel Murphy coming off knee injuries, the health questions are running rampant in Washington.

Those are the Nationals' projected Top 4 hitters and No. 2 starter. If they all stay healthy, they'll put up some whopping numbers. But if history repeats, it will make the road quite a bit tougher despite a weak NL East.

Projected lineup

1. Adam Eaton - LF
2. Trea Turner - SS
3. Bryce Harper - RF
4. Anthony Rendon - 3B
5. Ryan Zimmerman - 1B
6. Howie Kendrick - 2B
7. Matt Wieters - C
8. Michael Taylor - CF

Projected rotation

1. Max Scherzer
2. Stephen Strasburg
3. Gio Gonzalez
4. Tanner Roark
5. A.J. Cole


When healthy, this may be the most talented roster in the NL. Harper, Rendon, Murphy and Turner could all wind up as serious contenders in the 2018 MVP race while Scherzer and Strasburg figure to garner some Cy Young votes once again.

The Nationals also have the advantage of a pretty rough division, at least on paper. Three teams are rebuilding and the Mets haven't made the playoffs in a couple years now. Getting to play 18+ games against all four of those teams is a godsend.

Which is good news for a Nationals fanbase that is absolutely starving for some actual postseason success. Wade Davis and the Cubs knocked Washington out last fall and 2018 represents what figures to be the final chance to win it all (or even win A playoff series) with Harper before he gets a $400 million deal elsewhere (like Chicago??).

The 2018 Nationals have no holes. If any of their starters falter, they have Hellickson available. If any of their position players struggle, they have depth in the form of Kendrick (once Murphy is healthy), Montero, Adams, Wilmer Difo and Brian Goodwin.

And the bullpen is very, very good thanks to a bunch of moves before the 2017 Trade Deadline and also have Benoit and Koda Glover expected to start the season on the DL.

The Nationals will be playing in October this year. But what they do in the postseason is a question that won't be answered for 6 months. 

Prediction: 1st in NL East, playoffs