Cubs

Yu Darvish is absolutely killing it on social media this offseason

Yu Darvish is absolutely killing it on social media this offseason

Welcome to the Winter of Yu.

Cubs pitcher Yu Darvish ended the season on a high note and he's carried that over to the winter as his social media game has been on fire lately.

Darvish began the week by poking fun at Anthony Rizzo, jokingly taking credit for some of Rizzo's defensive prowess as the Cubs first baseman won his third Gold Glove Award:

That continued when Darvish won his own award Tuesday...though his wasn't quite as prestigious.

Rob Friedman, aka @PitchingNinja, tabbed Darvish with the "Award for Deadliest Pitch" in 2019 when he hit the batter, umpire and catcher Willson Contreras with the same pitch (a 99 mph fastball!) April 15 in Miami. 

Darvish responded to Friedman, first with an apology and then with a pro tip:

Then came another poke at Rizzo Wednesday when Darvish posted an Instagram video mimicking Rizzo's stance and swing in a batting cage:

View this post on Instagram

Guess who?

A post shared by Yu Darvish (@darvishsefat11) on

It even elicited a response from Rizzo himself as well as Jason Heyward:

Darvish's most impactful offseason Tweet came two weeks ago when he waited 18 months to clap back at Justin Verlander for an unathletic-looking play in the World Series:

It's all just further proof that Darvish has really come into his own in his second year with the Cubs after a trying first season. His sense of humor and passion was apparent all year and the results followed with a 2.76 ERA, 0.81 WHIP and 118 strikeouts compared to only 7 walks in 13 second-half starts.

Darvish had a chance to opt out of his contract and elect free agency this winter, but chose to remain with the team that stood by him through his struggles and showed him unconditional support.

He enters 2020 at the top of the Cubs rotation and could even earn the nod on Opening Day (which was not something many people predicted just a few months ago). 

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Kyle Schwarber tops off big 2019 by marrying longtime girlfriend Paige Hartman

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USA TODAY

Kyle Schwarber tops off big 2019 by marrying longtime girlfriend Paige Hartman

2019 has been a momentous year for Kyle Schwarber.

On the diamond, Schwarber had a career season, posting career highs in home runs (38) and RBIs (92). Something clicked for him offensively post-All-Star break, as he slashed .280/.366/.631 while hitting 20 homers.

Schwarber topped that off in a big way Saturday, marrying longtime girlfriend and highschool sweetheart Paige Hartman. Take a look at some visuals from the event:

Here's to a lifetime of happiness for the couple!

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Cubs free agent focus: Hyun-Jin Ryu

Cubs free agent focus: Hyun-Jin Ryu

With Hot Stove season underway, NBC Sports Chicago is taking a look at some of MLB’s top free agents and how they’d fit with the Cubs.

As the Cubs look to fill out their starting rotation, it’s extremely unlikely Gerrit Cole will be joining the North Siders via free agency.

Or Stephen Strasburg.

Or Madison Bumgarner.

As the top starters available, Cole, Strasburg and Bumgarner are set to receive lucrative contracts out of the Cubs’ price range. But if Theo Epstein and Co. are looking to acquire a top-of-the-rotation arm, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu is a much more affordable option.

Ryu was one of the best starters in baseball last season, winning the National League ERA title (2.32) en route to being named a Cy Young Award finalist. He made 29 starts and tossed 182 2/3 innings, the second-best totals of his career.

The question with Ryu isn’t whether he’ll pitch well; he holds a career 2.98 ERA and 1.164 WHIP in 126 games (125 starts). The question each season is whether he’ll stay healthy.

Ryu missed all of 2015 after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. He returned in July 2016, making a single start before hitting the shelf with left elbow tendinitis. He underwent a debridement procedure — like Yu Darvish last offseason — in September 2016.

Granted, Ryu has largely remained healthy since 2017. He made 24 starts that season, missing a little time with contusions in his left hip and left foot. A right groin strain kept him out for two months in 2018, though he posted a dazzling 1.97 ERA in 15 starts.

Nonetheless, teams will be wary of what they offer Ryu this offseason. The last thing you want is to sign a pitcher in his mid-30s to a long-term deal, only for him to go down with a serious arm issue. Ryu hasn't had any serious arm issues since 2016, but any injury concern is valid for the soon-to-be 33-year-old.

All negatives aside, there’s a lot to like about Ryu. He excels at inducing soft contact and ranked in the top four percent in baseball last season in average exit velocity-against (85.3 mph). Ryu doesn’t walk many batters (3.3 percent walk rate in 2019; 5.4 percent career) and strikes out a solid number (22.5 percent rate in 2019; 22 percent career).

Signing Ryu would give the Cubs three lefty starters, but that’s been the case since mid-2018, when they acquired Cole Hamels (who recently signed with the Braves). The rotation would have more certainty moving forward, too, as Jose Quintana will hit free agency next offseason. Jon Lester could as well, though he has a vesting option for 2022 if he tosses 200 innings next season.

The Cubs hope young arms Adbert Alzolay and top prospect Brailyn Marquez will contribute in the rotation for years to come. Alzolay may be on an innings limit next season and Marquez is at least a season away from making his MLB debut.

The Cubs have a rotation opening now and need to bridge the gap to their young arms for the next few seasons. Every free agent comes with question marks, and Ryu is no exception, but he is a frontline starter when healthy. He’d be a solid addition to the Cubs staff, and it won't take as big of a deal to sign him as others.

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