The Rundown: From Yu Day to V-Day, Camp Officially Opens, Epstein Praises Arrieta

Happy Valentine’s Day, Cubs fans! I’ll let Matthew & Gunner share their love and affection while we get into it here.

Yu Darvish is spreading some love back to his former teammates, which is a nice way to start spring training.

Gauntlet thrown. Clayton Kershaw immediately responded.

Usually that type of bulletin board fodder is reserved for the opening regular season contest between the two teams or a playoff game, but what the heck, I like the confidence from both players. The Dodgers and Cubs met in the NLCS in each of the last two seasons. A third consecutive battle is a very distinct possibility. Game on.

I’m sure Evan will come up with a catchy phrase for an exclusive Cubs Insider t-shirt using the Darvish quote. Or maybe he’ll just go with “I HEART YU.” The “Yu” puns are fortuitously endless.

Darvish seems intent on backing up his bold statement. He was on the field working out right after yesterday’s introductory press conference.

Of course, the Cubs couldn’t be happier to add the right-handed strikeout machine to their rotation. Team president Theo Epstein said adding Darvish was the team’s top priority this winter, which serves as both an endorsement of Darvish and a possible non-endorsement of Jake Arrieta. It’s also entirely possible that Arrieta wasn’t keen on returning to the Cubs, either. Looking back, it seems that the former Cubs pitcher was intent on leaving all along.

And though we’ll all miss Jake, deep down you’d rather have Yu, right? I would. Epstein felt the same way, calling Darvish the “preeminent strikeout pitcher of our generation,” though he may have forgotten about Chris Sale, or perhaps it was just a subtle dig at his old team.

Darvish was equally impressed. “Everyone was so sincere at the meeting. I fell in love with how great each person with the Cubs is, especially Mr. Epstein.”

Can you feel the love?

And hey, baseball is back! Yes the 2018 season is officially here as of today. The Cubs kick off their Cactus League schedule in nine days against the Brewers and on March 6 the Dodgers come to Sloan Park. Hopefully Darvish gets to pitch that day. Opening Day is just 43 days off. That’s enough baseball love to thaw any winter.

Cubs News & Notes

The Darvish signing makes the Cubs legitimate World Series contenders. Once a team’s projected win total reaches the mid-90’s — and 50.1 WAR translates to about 98 wins over a full season — each additional win is worth nearly 1 extra percentage point of World Series probability.

No one was more appreciative of Arrieta’s tenure with the Cubs than Theo Epstein.

“I’ll have a lot of great things to say about Jake once he signs with another team,” Epstein said. “But I’m happy to say it again today too: None of us have rings without Jake Arrieta.”

Noted Cubs fan Eddie Vedder and bandmate Mike McCready joined Brandi Carlile, Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Stefan Lessard of the Dave Matthews Band and comedian Will Ferrell (also a Cubs fan) for a cover of Depeche Mode’s 1990 track “Personal Jesus” last night in Seattle. The event raised more than $300,000 for Cancer For College, a nonprofit that provides scholarships to students who battled cancer.

Together, the band covered the Rolling Stones’ “Sway,” Jimi Hendrix’s “Fire,” Led Zeppelin’s “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You,” and more for the charity show.

Sammy Sosa was trending on Twitter for awhile yesterday. No, he wasn’t weighing in on the Darvish signing.

Tuesday Stove

A potentially explosive civil complaint, filed in Brooklyn Supreme Court Monday, alleges that Seth and Sam Levinson, owners of the powerful Brooklyn-based sports Agency ACES, instructed former employee Juan Carlos Nunez to make “under-the-table payments” to players to keep them contracted. They also directed Nunez to help ACES clients procure and use performance-enhancing drugs and had Nunez “engaging in an elaborate coverup to hide the misconduct from (Major League Baseball) and its Players’ Union.”

During a segment on MLB Network’s “High Heat” Tuesday, Christopher Russo was talking about the Yankees just hours after Aaron Boone held his first news conference of the spring. Russo stated “There’s no way you can’t think that the Yankees are the team to beat in the American League.” Justin Verlander disagrees.

The Red Sox offer to J.D. Martinez was closer to $100 million, according to Alex Speier of The Boston Globe. Last week it was reported that Martinez turned down a 5/$125M offer from the team.

The Orioles avoided an arbitration hearing with starting pitcher Kevin Gausman, agreeing to a one-year, $5.6 million contract.

Dodgers OF Matt Kemp is in the best shape of his life. No, really. In other Dodgers news, the team signed infielder Chase Utley to a two-year deal and named their starting pitcher for Opening Day. No surprise there.

Angels rookie and two-way player Shohei Ohtani will concentrate mostly on pitching this spring, according to team sources.

Red Sox pitcher David Price is hoping to move on from a disastrous 2017 season.

The Giants, Phillies, and Red Sox are showing interest in free agent reliever Tony Watson.

Padres pitcher Juan Torres was placed on the restricted list and won’t report for spring training with pitchers and catchers on Wednesday. The team said in a statement that they are aware of domestic abuse allegations against Torres and are cooperating with an investigation being conducted by Commissioner Rob Manfred’s office.

Wednesday Walk Up Song

Love Is All Around by R.E.M. This is the first Valentine’s Day for me without the love of my life, who left this earth on Mother’s Day 2017. This was one of Sue’s favorite songs. Happy Valentine’s Day to you all.

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