Blue Jays trade targets: There’s nobody better than Yu

CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 25: Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Chicago White Sox on September 25, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images)
CHICAGO - SEPTEMBER 25: Yu Darvish #11 of the Chicago Cubs pitches against the Chicago White Sox on September 25, 2020 at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Ron Vesely/Getty Images) /

If I could choose one major trade target for the Blue Jays this offseason, it would be Yu Darvish off the Cubs. Lo and behold, he might just be available.

Another few days, another handful of rumours that loosely connect the Blue Jays with interest in an available player. At this point, it feels like there haven’t been many stones unturned by Ross Atkins and his staff.

They’ve mostly focused their efforts on position players from the reports we’ve been hearing, and that’s due in part to the quality of that available group vs. the rotation options on the free market right now. That said, this is anything but a typical offseason, and it’s possible that as the winter goes on, that the available pool of players available via trade could expand. In fact, that seems to be already happening.

After we’ve heard names like Zack Wheeler, Sonny Gray, and others that could be available, there’s a pair of Cubs’ starting pitchers that might end up getting shopped around a bit this offseason. If that ends up happening, the Blue Jays should be at the front of the line, especially if it means they have a chance to acquire Yu Darvish.

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Of all the pitchers that could be available this winter, I think there’s a solid argument that Darvish should be at the top of the Blue Jays’ wish list. The 34-year-old was fantastic in 2020 for the Cubs, posting a 8-3 record with a 2.01 ERA and a 0.961 WHIP over 12 starts and 76 innings. His effort was good for 2.7 bWAR, an impressive performance that saw him finish 2nd in NL Cy Young voting, even receiving some down ballot MVP votes to finish 14th there as well.

The eight-year MLB veteran looked like he might be regressing a couple of years ago, and also battled to stay healthy in his first season as a Cub in 2018. However, he made some adjustments mid-way through last season, and he’s been one of baseball’s best starters ever since. After the All-Star break in 2019, Darvish had a dramatic turnaround by posting a 2.76 ERA and a 0.808 WHIP after having a 5.01 ERA and a 1.340 WHIP in the first half. The biggest change might have been his SO/W ration, which jumped from 2.27 to 16.86 after the break. Those adjustments appear to have stuck as well after his performance in 2020, and there’s a lot to like going forward.

Speaking of that, one of the biggest reasons I think the Blue Jays should be interested is the fact that Darvish comes with three years of control contract. His current deal runs through 2023 for a total of 60 million, which is a more than reasonable fee for a pitcher of his calibre, at least by today’s standards. You’d be hoping to get the tail end of his peak, especially given his recent performance, and he’d pair very well with Hyun Jin Ryu at the top of the rotation.

Of course, it remains to be seen if the Cubs actually decide to make him available, but after Theo Epstein’s departure there are legitimate murmurs about a full-scale rebuild in Chicago, which is why quality pitchers like Darvish and Kyle Hendricks are being mentioned lately. A pitcher of his calibre won’t come cheaply, but the Blue Jays have the minor league assets to get it done if they choose, and who knows, maybe they could even build a trade package and try to snag Kris Bryant too? 

Next. Blue Jays finalize minor league affiliates. dark

As long as we keep hearing rumours instead of seeing concrete actions, all kinds of options are on the table for the Blue Jays. In my mind, the ideal scenario would be finally bringing Darvish north of the border, just as they tried to do eight years ago when he first joined the league.