Open your window, Cardinals fans, and take a listen. You may hear panic on the streets as Mardi Gras rages on this Saturday afternoon. That's the sound of the hot stove finally heating up.
The Chicago Cubs, according to Ken Rosenthal at the Athletic, have reportedly agreed to a six-year contract with Yu Darvish for $121 million dollars. The contract has the chance to stretch to $150 million if incentives are met, but unless Darvish turns into Nolan Ryan in his 30's, it's doubtful he reaches that extra cash.
Let me be straight and honest: this isn't a wise deal by Theo Epstein and the Cubs. Some will say that it's great because it shows the Cubs putting action behind their words, but at what cost? Six years for a pitcher turning 32 years old this summer is heinous and far from wise. The $21 million per year annual average value isn't as bad as the term.
Darvish will be nearing 38 years of age as he concludes the contract. Epstein will regret it when the man is the fifth starter hurling 145 innings of batting practice in the hitter-friendly confines of Wrigley Field, or whatever sandbox they build next in Chicago.
Cardinals fans should look no further than Adam Wainwright's current contract, which runs to the end of this year and will cost the team $19.5 million. Wainwright and the Cardinals agreed to that when he was 31 years old (same as Darvish is today), and at the time it looked like a bargain. After the past two down years, management may be thinking twice and counting the days until the agreement expires.
Also, Wainwright has been a Cardinal for the entirety of his Major League existence, which carries sentimental value to a team. Darvish is joining his third team in his career, which started late in 2012 at the age of 25.
The truth is Darvish peaked in 2013, when he struck out 277 batters, pitched 209 innings, and posted a 3.9 WAR. He has only one season of 200 innings pitched or more. If you are going to be paid like an ace, you must produce like one, and Darvish hasn't over the majority of his career. Do you think a pitcher will suddenly turn into something greater in a hitter's division as he turns 32 and 33? No.
I'd like the Cardinals to sign a starting pitcher or bullpen hand. The more pitching, the merrier. If they took a chance on Alex Cobb or Lance Lynn for the right cash or were able to trade for Chris Archer, that would be a wise investment. I don't want the Cardinals to hand six years to a 32 year old pitcher. Save that money for next year when Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, and Josh Donaldson go on the market. Save that cash for a stud. On this free agent platter, few studs exist.
If I were Jake Arrieta, I'd ask for the moon right now. He's arguably a better pitcher than Darvish, and at a similar age. There's also the fact that Arrieta has fared better in the World Series than Darvish.
Look at Lynn, who has two seasons of 3.0 WAR or higher and one more season of 200 innings pitched than Darvish, while being a year younger. The former Cardinal could lay out his resume for teams and make the argument.
Teams need to sign players for what they can do in the future, and not simply what they did in the past. You aren't handing out a medal for past service; Owners are paying large sums of money for hopeful performance. It's a gambler's game, and the Cardinals need to stay away from these deals.
They handed Chris Carpenter a six-year deal that evaporated in their face. Granted, Carpenter produced at a high level for bargain level pay, but they gave a pitcher climbing over the wall of 30 a big contract, and it backfired.
If you are going to hand a long-term deal to a player over 30, give it to a position player instead of a pitcher whose arm has taken a beating. It's a better, if not completely wise, investment.
People call the Cardinals cheap, but I don't see it. They handed big money deals to Dexter Fowler and Brett Cecil, who were among the top players in their respective markets. They offered Giancarlo Stanton the Arch, and he said no thanks. They were in on David Price until the very end. Heck, they even offered Jason Heyward more money than the Cubs.
It's not about spending more than other teams; the goal is to put the money in a good place, like a stock with room to grow.
The Milwaukee Brewers have made a pair of great moves. The Cubs have now made a move, even one as outlandish as a six-year pitcher deal. Now, what will the Cardinals do? As much as John Mozeliak hates to be reactionary, the Cardinals could use some help in the rotation. This will be interesting to watch. Do the Cardinals hold serve until July, or act now?
Hopefully, the Cards don't hand out a crazy six-year deal to a soon to be 32-year-old pitcher. That never works.