The Chicago Cubs weren’t believed to be in the conversation to sign top free agent pitcher Yu Darvish at the start of the offseason, but that has changed. Not only are they interested in signing the four-time All-Star, the Cubs front office took their pursuit to the next level on Monday, traveling to Dallas, where they met with Darvish and his agent. 

The meeting between Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer with Darvish was first reported by Bruce Levine and then by Jon Heyman. Late on Monday night, Darvish himself confirmed the meeting that lasted 3.5 hours.

If, for whatever reason you haven’t brushed up on your Japanese, here’s what Darvish said in that tweet.

All right, cool, Darvish trying to work on his English, 3.5 hour meeting with Theo and Jed and it went extremely well. However, nothing more has come from the meeting. No reports of a contract offer, but on Tuesday morning ESPN’s Jesse Rogers tossed out something intriguing.

Rogers went on The Kap and Co. Show on ESPN 1000 and because of what Alex Cobb is asking for, reported as $20 million per year (although Rogers said it isn’t $20 million) the Cubs now prefer Darvish if Cobb’s asking price doesn’t come down. Rogers says the biggest factor for the front office in any possible contract for a pitcher is the amount of years on the deal. If Cobb doesn’t budge and wants four years, the Cubs will most likely prefer to spend more on Darvish.

The thing is, we’ve always assumed that Darvish would be getting at least a five-year contract and maybe even six years. The biggest surprise in Rogers’ conversation was that Darvish might only end up with a four-year contract.

Again though, this is only speculation, but it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility either. The big market teams, Los Angeles Dodgers and New York Yankees, aren’t going to be making any big signings, as they prepare for next year’s free agent class. So, that could be bringing Darvish’s market down. However, that doesn’t mean Darvish is being overlooked, as the reigning World Series champions are also interested in the 31-year-old pitcher.

All you need is one other team to get leverage in negotiations, but let’s not get it twisted, signing Yu Darvish to a four-year deal would be a bargain for the Cubs. I don’t care if you think Jake Arrieta is better, getting the top free agent pitcher to agree to a four-year deal that would align with the Cubs young core heading into free agency after 2021 would be awesome.

At the start of free agency, Darvish was projected to receive a six-year deal worth between $160 million and $168 million. Bring that down to four years and $100 million to $112 million and that’s an amazing job by Theo and Jed. Jon Lester, Yu Darvish, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood? Let’s go!

By the way, I proposed the following the contract for Darvish on Monday and let me say this was a nice result.

Even a four-year deal with a fifth year option would be awesome for the Cubs. We’ll see though, as Alex Cobb could end up lowering his demands, but right now it looks like the Cubs back up plan is the top option in free agency.