Listen: Bill and Wendy Bonus Hour

Powell: Signing Yu Darvish Makes Cubs the Favorite in the NL

LOS ANGELES, CA - NOVEMBER 01: Yu Darvish #21 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts in the first inning against the Houston Astros in game seven of the 2017 World Series at Dodger Stadium on November 1, 2017 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

By Kevin Powell

The Cubs were legitimate World Series contenders before they signed Yu Darvish, now they’re the clear-cut favorite out of the National League. The Dodgers and Nationals will once again be threats, but the Cubs can now lean on a strong rotation this season, and for years to come.

Over the course of seven months, Theo & Co. have been able to sure up a starting rotation that had serious question marks. Think of where they were heading into last season. The only sure bets to return to the rotation were Jon Lester and Kyle Hendricks, with little chance Jake Arrieta would be back. Same goes for John Lackey, who many believed would retire after the season. The team rounded out the rotation by taking a chance on Brett Anderson — an experiment that didn’t last long.

Rewind back to July 13, 2017.  That was the day the Cubs and White Sox pulled off the blockbuster deal that sent Jose Quintana and his ultra-team-friendly deal to the North Side, insuring the Cubs would have three of the starting five back for 2018. This offseason they added Tyler Chatwood on a three-year deal. And then the most impactful signing came this weekend with a reported six-year, $126 million contract for Darvish.

It’s been one of the dullest MLB offseason’s in recent memory. And with a standoff between front offices and player agents, Theo stepped in and pulled the trigger.

This time last year, there was talk about of what would become of the starting rotation. There weren’t any reinforcements from a drained farm system. Only two pitchers were locked up for the future. So how was the Cubs’ front office going to build a full rotation?

They did it with a bold trade, a couple shrewd free agent signings, and then one massive deal to put the exclamation point on the starting rotation rebuild. And don’t forget about the two-year contract for lefty Drew Smyly, who will likely be a starting pitching candidate in 2019.

Here’s the Cubs projected starting rotation in 2018:

-Jon Lester
-Yu Darvish
-Kyle Hendricks
-Jose Quintana
-Tyler Chatwood.

That’s solid, top to bottom. Expect Mike Montgomery back in the swingman role.

Lester is signed through 2020. Quintana has club options for 2019-20, both of which will be picked up by the Cubs. Chatwood just inked his three-year contract. Hendricks is under control through 2020. And Darvish just agreed on a six-year deal.

With a stacked group of positional players and now a potent starting rotation, the Cubs are the favorites this season and for many more years to come.

Kevin Powell covers Chicago baseball for WGN Radio and anchors sports on The Roe Conn Show with Anna Davlantes, M-F/3-7p. Follow on twitter @kpowell720