By Kevin Powell
MESA, Ariz. – The media room at the Cubs’ spring training complex was packed wall-to-wall with reporters waiting to fire questions at the newest addition to the clubs roster.
“We’re going to kickoff spring training by announcing the signing of Yu Darvish,” Cubs President Theo Epstein said Tuesday morning.
And so it begins. The international superstar is officially a member of the Cubs on a six-year, $126 million dollar deal. By far the largest contract of a stale MLB offseason.
“Yu was our primary target,” Epstein added. “This is a great day for the Cubs organization, to welcome a pitcher of this caliber. He’s probably the preeminent strikeout pitcher of our generation.”
And he’s right about that. According to Cubs’ media relations, Darvish’s average of 11.04 strikeouts per nine innings not only leads all major leaguers since he made his debut in 2012, but is also the highest average in major league history among pitchers that have made at least 100 career starts.
To win the four-time All Star over, the Cubs’ front office remained in contact with Darvish’s agent Joel Wolfe since the initial meeting between the two parties in December.
“Theo was in touch with Joel all the time,” Darvish said through an interpreter. “And then from the meeting until the end, I felt like they really wanted me.”
Theo knows how to reel in the big fish.
“I think the one thing coming out of the meeting in Dallas,” Epstein said, “We were one of the places Yu would feel comfortable playing. We worked hard at it, and in the end we felt it was very important that he be able to come in and be with the rest of his teammates at the start of camp.”
And finally, someone jolts a little life into the free-agent market.
This time last year, there were really only two guarantees in the Cubs rotation to return for the 2018 season. Now they have a potent starting five to go along with a stacked lineup.
“Our goal was to add starting pitching and depth in the rotation,” general manager Jed Hoyer said.
They have depth now. A full five and a swingman , whether he likes it or not, in Mike Montgomery.
It’s been a mostly dull offseason, but all eyes will be on the Cubs’ camp this spring.
“I got to meet (Darvish) earlier,” manager Joe Maddon said. “A really ingratiating young man, speaks English very well. And, of course, we’re very excited to have him be a part of our team and our staff. It’s really an exciting moment for us.”
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