Chicago Cubs sign top free agent Yu Darvish

Yu Darvish

What lasts in Los Angeles, however, are the two failed World Series starts, two losses that, coupled with a dismal Game 5 start from Kershaw, doomed the Dodgers.

In 31 combined starts last season, Darvish was 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA. He is 56-42 with a 3.42 ERA in five big-league seasons with the Texas Rangers and Los Angeles Dodgers. Granted, with virtually every big-name starting pitcher still on the market, that was unlikely to come to fruition, but a Darvish signing immediately boosts the Cubs' chances of returning to the NLCS for a fourth-straight year.

Whether the Cubs and team president Theo Epstein admit this or not, the team probably wasn't expecting to sign a free agent of Darvish's caliber - and price tag - going into the offseason.

The much-anticipated free agent pitcher made it known that he was looking for at least six years and over $100 million. First baseman Eric Hosmer, who has yet to sign, is believed to have received multiple seven-year, nine-figure contracts this winter. The other notable starting pitchers on the free agent market - Jake Arrieta, Alex Cobb, and Lance Lynn - all received qualifying offers from their original teams, and any other team that goes on to sign them will have to give up a draft pick.

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One big signing, of course, does not prove anything, and the industry will still be watching to see how the rest of this late-forming market unfolds.

Darvish joins a Chicago starting staff of Jon Lester (4.33 ERA in 2017), Kyle Hendricks (3.03), Jose Quintana (3.74) and Tyler Chatwood (4.69). The following season, he got his second All-Star Game nod and was second in voting for Cy Young behind Max Scherzer.

One of the biggest differences for that group might be the mindset this spring after experiencing post-championship fatigue, a slow start to the season and a second-round playoff elimination a year ago. At an outlay of $21 million per year for Darvish, the Cubs aren't hamstrung going forward. When it appeared the Rangers would not challenge for a playoff berth, they dealt Darvish at the trade deadline for three minor leaguers, including outfielder Willie Calhoun, one of the Dodgers' top prospects. The former two showed only tepid interest due to their commitment to staying under the fake salary cap, and the latter two are likely going to focus on the remaining free agent starters - Arrieta, Lance Lynn, and Alex Cobb. He missed the 2015 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery, but he has still pitched just as well since coming back from his injury.

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