When Yu Darvish met with Theo Epstein and other Chicago Cubs' officials last December in the Dallas area, the Japanese pitcher liked what he heard.
"The Cubs really stood out, and everyone was sincere at the meeting," Darvish said Tuesday through a translator after finalizing a $126-million, six-year contract.
The agreement is by far the largest deal in a slow-moving free agent market, topping outfielder Lorenzo Cain's $80-million, five-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. In addition, the Los Angeles Angels gave outfielder Justin Upton a $106-million, five-year contract in November before he could become a free agent.
Darvish gets $25-million this year, $20-million in 2019, $22-million in each of the following two seasons, $19-million in 2022 and $18-million in 2023. He can opt out of the deal after the 2019 season and become a free agent again.
His approval is needed for any trade through 2019. After that, he can list 12 teams he cannot be dealt to without his consent.
Darvish joins a rotation that includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood, who agreed to a $38-million, three-year contract in December.
"Yu was our primary target," said Epstein, the Cubs' president of baseball operations. "It's a great day for the Cubs organization to welcome a pitcher of this calibre. He is probably the pre-eminent strikeout pitcher of our generation. We are getting him at a wonderful point in his career where he has matured and is ready to go out and do some special things, with the World Series being his top priority."
A four-time All-Star, Darvish finished last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, helping them knock out the defending champion Cubs in the playoffs to reach the World Series. The 31-year-old Japanese right-hander is expected to take the rotation spot of Jake Arrieta, who became a free agent.
Darvish went 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine starts with the Dodgers down the stretch. He shut down the Cubs in Game 3 of the NLCS, striking out seven while pitching 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field.
But Darvish was hit hard in the World Series against Houston, managing just five outs in each of his two starts – including a Game 7 loss.
"I am honoured to be part of such a wonderful organization like the Chicago Cubs," Darvish said. "I want to get along with the team as soon as possible and met everyone's expectations."
Notes: The Cubs have finalized a minor league contract with outfielder Peter Bourjos, who will report to big league spring training. Bourjos, who turns 31 on March 31, hit .223 with five homers and 15 RBIs in 203 plate appearances last season with Tampa Bay.