Cubs Remain Patient, Darvish Not Expected to Decide Friday

So, uh, the offseason kinda got interesting Thursday night. The Brewers executed twin coups by trading for Christian Yelich and signing Lorenzo Cain, and they probably aren’t done adding pieces. We’ll get into that more in another piece, for now let’s get to whether and how the Cubs react to the improvements being made in Milwaukee.

There was a lot of talk in the wake of the big moves that the Brewers had pulled much closer to the Cubs and that Theo Epstein needed to answer the bell with a corresponding deal. While I’m not going to Judge Aquilina those assertions, I think it’s important to put the Cubs’ motivation and current position in proper context.

Even before everything went down in Milwaukee, Epstein and Jed Hoyer had made it very clear that they were planning to add at least one more pitcher to the roster. And while they’ve been in talks with several different starters throughout the offseason, it’s evident at this point that they’ve targeted Yu Darvish above the others. If that doesn’t work out, they can still fall back to one of the other numerous options.

The Cubs know that moves made in haste often lead to waste, which is why they’re maintaining a steady pace even as the Brewers give chase. Or, you know, that same thing with less rhyming. Jed Hoyer spoke to that when he joined Spiegel and Parkins on 670 The Score Friday to talk about how the Cubs view the market following their rival’s moves.

Had the Cubs gone on a knee-jerk spending spree and upped the ante for Darvish, we’d have heard about it by now. Instead, Darren Wolfson of KSTP Eyewitness News and 1500 ESPN in Minneapolis is reporting that the pitcher isn’t expected to sign Friday. Well, not with the Twins, anyway.

Things could obviously change on a dime — or perhaps $10 million would be more accurate — but this seems to be a clear indication that the Cubs aren’t deviating from the course they set earlier in the offseason. Rather than being dug in, though, that means continuing to explore and talk. Hoyer explained that they are engaged “consistent dialogue” with some free agents and that they’re negotiating “on middle ground,” not fighting trench warfare.

Some of that is a matter of patience and confidence in the understanding of the supply remaining in the market. More of it comes from knowing that the Brewers’ moves, while splashy, don’t necessarily move the needle in a major way when it comes to their competitiveness. Even with Yelich and Cain factored in, FanGraphs has Milwaukee projected to finish with 75 wins, two fewer than the hapless Pirates.

While that seems pretty light, you have to consider that the additions mean pushing out the production from other players. Ryan Braun, for instance, may be losing a lot of at-bats in the outfield and could even be shifted to first base from time to time. Then you look at Eric Thames, who had a career year but faded in the second half and struggled mightily against lefties last season.

Maybe these moves allow the Brewers to continue outpacing the regression monster. Maybe Cain ages really well and gives them the best outfield in the division. And maybe the Cubs will repeat their frustrating offensive inconsistency. Then again, maybe none of that is true. What we know for sure is that the Cubs still have at least as good a lineup and a better rotation.

As currently constructed, the Cubs are the favorites in the NL Central and they’re World Series contenders. Take that in, let it wash over you. And that outlook will only improve once they add another starter.

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