Before the Cubs’ 7-2 victory Sunday against the Cardinals, team president Theo Epstein shared his thoughts about Yu Darvish and the trade deadline.
It appears that the Cubs aren’t banking on Darvish, which further magnifies the decision to sign him to a six-year deal and bid farewell to Jake Arrieta.
“[Darvish is] factored in,” Epstein said, “but I think if you put yourself in a position where you’re overly reliant on something that hasn’t been dependable up to this point and then it doesn’t come through, that’s probably more on you than on the fates.”
When the Cubs spent $126 million on Darvish, there weren’t many questions about the move. He was supposed to be a better short- and long-term bet than Arrieta and a key addition to one of the best rotations in baseball.
But as the deadline approaches, the Darvish conundrum has become a pressing concern. Should the Cubs count on him to provide something down the stretch and in the postseason or should they plan for life without him and bolster a rotation that has been without Darvish since May 23?
On Sunday, Darvish threw off flat ground from around 135 feet. Epstein said it was “his best day in a long time. He threw really well. Felt really good.”
The next step should be throwing off a mound soon. But what happens after that is anybody’s guess, and it’s incumbent upon Epstein to figure out how to proceed with the deadline looming and with a rotation that doesn’t look ready for October.
“Just [trying to make] an educated guess, and you can’t be overly reliant on somebody who hasn’t been able to be healthy and perform this year,” Epstein said. “At the same time, you track the rehab closely because you have to try to anticipate what he might be able to give you.”
Left-hander Jose Quintana allowed two runs on 121 pitches in seven innings against St. Louis. More starts like that would ease the pain of not having Darvish, though Quintana said his absence doesn’t add pressure for the rest of the rotation.
“I think all our starters have the ability to have [Darvish’s] back and go out every fifth day and get the job done,” Quintana said.
Perhaps, but Darvish’s issues have triggered a chain reaction.
Without Darvish, the starters have struggled to throw deep into games. Moving Mike Montgomery into the rotation has had an adverse effect on the depth of the bullpen, which has been heavily taxed. Closer Brandon Morrow is in the middle of another disabled-list stint, and the team has had to rely on unproven relievers.
Unsurprisingly, the Cubs likely aren’t done searching for help after adding reliever Jesse Chavez. Drew Smyly threw a simulated game Sunday and could be nearing a rehab assignment, and Epstein said the Cubs are “pretty focused” on adding pitching more so than a position player.
That next addition, however, could be more on the Chavez level rather than previous trades for Aroldis Chapman or Quintana.
Epstein said the Cubs are in a “more difficult position” to land a bigger name, though he didn’t rule it out.
“We’re openly pursuing a lot of different things, but I think in terms of what’s realistic for us, we have to be a little bit more targeted and more selective and a little more opportunistic,” Epstein said. “That’s fine.”
Getting Darvish back would help, but the Cubs probably shouldn’t rely on that.