CHICAGO >> Ace Yu Darvish and the Chicago Cubs have reached agreement on a $126 million, six-year contract, a person with direct knowledge of the deal told The Associated Press on Saturday, bolstering their bid for a second World Series crown in three seasons.
The person spoke on condition of anonymity because there was no official announcement. The deal was first reported by The Athletic.
Darvish’s deal came less than a week before the Cubs were set to begin spring training. The 31-year-old right-hander was among the top players available in a slow-moving free agent market this winter.
Darvish finished last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers, helping them knock out the defending champion Cubs in the playoffs to reach the World Series. The Japanese star is expected to take the rotation spot of Jake Arrieta, who became a free agent after finishing the year in Chicago.
The Cubs have reached the NL Championship Series in each of the last three years. In 2016, they won their first World Series crown since 1908.
Darvish is a four-time All-Star but has had injury problems, and he missed the 2015 season while recovering from Tommy John surgery. He began last year with Texas and was traded to the Dodgers in July, going a combined 10-12 with a 3.86 ERA.
Darvish went 4-3 with a 3.44 ERA in nine starts with the Dodgers down the stretch. He shut down the Cubs in Game 3 of the NLCS, striking out seven while pitching 6 1/3 innings of one-run ball in a 6-1 victory at Wrigley Field.
But Darvish was hit hard in the World Series against Houston, managing just five outs in each of his two starts — including a loss in Game 7 — and there was talk he was tipping his pitches.
The deal almost certainly signals the end of Arrieta’s time with the Cubs, a successful run in the Windy City that included a Cy Young award.
But Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana are back from last year’s club and Tyler Chatwood joined the rotation in December with a $38 million, three-year contract.
The deal with Darvish came after the Cubs agreed to a minor league contract with Chris Gimenez, who regularly caught Darvish while they were in Texas and developed a trusted working relationship with the pitcher.