(670 The Score) Yu Darvish had a chance to lead his Dodgers to a World Series title last October and failed on the game’s biggest stage.
As he considered all his options in free agency this winter, that was a main factor in his decision: Where can he go to get that chance again?
In the end, he settled on the Cubs over the Dodgers he last pitched for and other suitors.
“My priority in selecting a team was a team that had a great chance of winning the World Series,” Darvish said through a translator. “The Cubs obviously have a more than great chance of winning. So I’m really honored to be here.”
Darvish was officially introduced as a Cub in Mesa, Arizona on Tuesday, three days after agreeing to a six-year, $126-million deal with the club. After the free-agent market stagnated, he officially signed just a day before the first workout for Cubs pitchers and catchers.
Darvish, 31, seemed at peace Tuesday. He explained through a translator that he “fell in love” with Cubs officials during his December face-to-face meeting and follow-up conversations. Asked about friend and catcher Chris Gimenez, whom the Cubs signed in a precursor to the Darvish addition, Darvish responded that he likes Willson Contreras better. He shared the story of how he quickly called Dodgers manager Dave Roberts over the weekend and told him his new primary goal was to beat Los Angeles.
Cubs president of baseball operations Epstein confirmed that Darvish was the Cubs’ “primary target” for the past several months, though the team wasn’t initially sure if adding him would be realistic. The Cubs first needed to address other needs, such as the bullpen.
“We think this is a great day for the Cubs organization, to welcome a pitcher of his caliber,” Epstein said. “He’s probably the pre-eminent strikeout pitcher of our generation — incredible physical abilities. We’re getting him at a wonderful point in his career, where he’s really matured and is ready to go out and do some special things — winning a World Series being his top priority. That’s also our top priority as an organization, and we think this is going to be a tremendous fit.”
Epstein and the Cubs were brushed off concerns about Darvish’s performance in the World Series, when he took losses and was chased early in each of his starts, including the disastrous Game 7 for the Dodgers. Across those two starts, Darvish went 3 1/3 innings and allowed nine runs, eight earned.
“There were a lot of reasons for what happened in the World Series,” Epstein said. “As has been discussed, the possibility of tipping pitches, the difficulties with the baseballs and then the Astros were red hot. They won the World Series for a reason. They were swinging the bat great against everybody.”
Darvish was 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA and 1.16 WHIP for the Rangers and Dodgers in 2017, when he was dealt to Los Angeles at the deadline. He had a 10.1 strikeout-per-nine-innings rate and a 2.8 walks-per-nine-innings rate. Darvish has a career 3.42 ERA.
“I don’t think we’d be doing our job if we evaluated based on a two-game sample,” Epstein said. “He’s been over here for six years. He’s proven himself as an elite pitcher.”
Watch Darvish’s full press conference below.