Cubs

Why Yu Darvish makes more sense for Cubs than Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb

Why Yu Darvish makes more sense for Cubs than Jake Arrieta or Alex Cobb

Why would the Cubs spend a bunch of money on a free-agent pitcher this winter instead of just paying to retain Jake Arrieta?

It's the question many Cubs fans are asking, and it's a fair inquiry.

Arrieta has endeared himself to the North Side of Chicago for the rest of time after helping end the 108-year championship drought.

With the Cubs' interest in Yu Darvish making headlines this week — who is expected to be either 1A or 1B to Arrieta in terms of free-agent aces this winter — some fans might not understand why the Cubs would shell out an absurd amount of money for a pitcher not named Arrieta this winter.

Let's break it down:

The decline of Arrieta is real, if exaggerated

Arrieta's velocity is down, as anybody with a Twitter account who follows more than one baseball fan could tell you. But that doesn't mean he still can't be effective if he's living in the low 90s instead of throwing 95-plus every time he rears back.

He hasn't spent time on the disabled list since the beginning of 2014, and he's one of the most well-conditioned athletes on the planet.

But yes, Arrieta has experienced something of a decline the last few years.

On the one hand, there was no possible way for Arrieta to duplicate his historic 2015 when he won 22 games, posted a 1.77 ERA, an 0.865 WHIP and won the National League Cy Young Award. He topped that season with the best second half known to mankind, allowing only nine earned runs in 107.1 innings (15 starts).

That being said, Arrieta has seen his ERA, WHIP, H/9 and HR/9 rise each of the last two years, while his strikeouts have dipped from the 2014 and 2015 levels.

The Cubs were cautious with Arrieta — and all their pitchers — in 2017, allowing him to only throw 168.1 innings across 30 starts as they managed everybody's pitch counts carefully following back-to-back deep playoff runs.

Arrieta will turn 32 in March, and while he doesn't have an extensive injury history and boasts just 1,669 innings of professional baseball on his arm, the declining numbers cause at least a little concern for any team willing to shell out life-changing money.

The case for Darvish

Darvish is five months younger than Arrieta, though he has 458.2 more professional innings (including Japan) on his arm than the former Cub, despite missing all of 2015 to Tommy John surgery.

He got lit up in the World Series, but those around baseball believe he was tipping his pitches and see it as an easily correctable issue. 

Darvish's numbers also have been on a bit of a decline, but with homers up around baseball in 2017, the same can be said for almost every pitcher.

The Japanese native posted his lowest K/9 total of his MLB career (10.1), but saw a noticeable jump in that department after moving to the NL at the trade deadline (11.1 K/9 in 9 starts with the Dodgers).

He still managed 209 strikeouts and a solid 1.16 WHIP in his first full season back from Tommy John surgery.

Darvish also doesn't require any draft pick compensation given he was dealt midseason, so the Cubs would only have to pledge money to sign him. If Arrieta inks a deal with another team, the Cubs will get a second-round pick as compensation.

By comparison, the Cubs would have to forfeit an early round pick if they signed Alex Cobb in free agency.

It's all about the Benjamins

Arrieta has only earned about $31 million in his career to date, with more than half that coming in the last calendar year (he was paid $15.6 million in 2017). This will likely be his only chance to test the free-agent market as a top-line pitcher and set his family up for life.

Darvish, on the other hand, has already made almost double that total (just shy of $60 million) in the majors alone, not counting the money he made in Japan before making the trip to America.

Darvish doesn't have the same urgency to sign a megadeal. It's more likely he would agree to sign a shorter-term deal than Arrieta, who has been saying for a long time he wants six or seven years.

If Darvish is content with a three-to-four-year deal, he could still wind up hitting the market in his mid 30s and get paid once again. That's a much more appealing option for the Cubs than paying Arrieta through his age 37 or 38 season.

On that same note, if Cobb is asking for a three- or four-year deal and more money than the Cubs are willing to shell out for a pitcher of his caliber, why not just sign a pitcher who is undoubtedly better than Cobb, is only a year older and doesn't come with any draft-pick compensation?

At the very least, the Cubs epically called Cobb's bluff on the market by heading to Texas on Monday and spending three and a half hours with Darvish and making that meeting very, very public.

David Kaplan is right: Yu Darvish might very well be the best option for the Cubs to acquire a frontline starter this winter.

Albert Almora Jr. made a Gold Glove-type catch that would make Willie Mays proud

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USA TODAY

Albert Almora Jr. made a Gold Glove-type catch that would make Willie Mays proud

Albert Almora Jr. has been hot with the bat as of late, but he reminded us on Saturday what makes him so valuable to the Cubs.

With the Cubs leading 2-0 in the bottom of the third, DJ LeMahieu smoked a shot to center field that would've cut the lead in half and extended the inning had it gotten to the wall.

Instead, Almora showed off his defensive abilities by making an extremely difficult over-the-shoulder grab look so easy, and somewhere Willie Mays tipped his cap.

That's a Gold Glove-type catch, and one to bookmark when reviewing the highlight reel as a whole at the end of the season.

Almora also recorded two of the team's six hits and scored a run, but it wasn't enough in a 5-2 loss to the Colorado Rockies.

Colorado native David Bote gets chance to make MLB debut in home state after Cubs place Ben Zobrist on DL

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USA TODAY

Colorado native David Bote gets chance to make MLB debut in home state after Cubs place Ben Zobrist on DL

Ahead of Saturday's game in Colorado, the Cubs placed Ben Zobrist on the 10-day disabled list with back tightness and called up David Bote, who is set to make his MLB debut in his native Colorado.

Zobrist missed the last three games and weather postponements mean he hasn't played since April 14. The 36-year-old is hitting .326 with a homer and seven RBIs. He was placed on the DL retroactive to April 18.

Zobrist's injury created an opening for a cool story for Bote. The 25-year-old was drafted by the Cubs in 2012 and hasn't exactly lit up the minors, but worked his way onto the 40-man roster after the 2017 season ended.

Bote is from Colorado and is in the lineup for Saturday's game at the Rockies. That means he will get to make his big league debut in his home state.

Bote was hitting .234 in Triple-A Iowa with a .511 slugging percentage.