The Chicago Cubs are making a good habit out of signing exactly who they want. You may not agree with the front office on who their top targets are in free agency, but more often than not we’ve seen the Cubs identify their No. 1 guy and get him.
Yu Darvish is the latest example, as he signed a six-year deal worth $126 million with the Cubs. The process was unique to say the least, considering last summer the four-time all-star had the Cubs on his limited no-trade list. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer didn’t even meet with Darvish until the middle of December, but the wait was worth it, as the Cubs now have one of the best starting rotations in baseball.
But how did Darvish go from having the Cubs on his no-trade list, to choosing them over other teams that also offered him a $100 million contract?
How has Nick Saban made the University of Alabama the powerhouse of college football? Recruiting. Dance with your entire family? Done. Now, Epstein didn’t have to do that for Darvish, but his and the Cubs method worked and Darvish’s agent Joel Wolfe could only compare the style of recruiting to the most dominating college football program of our generation.
Here’s a short blurb from Patrick Mooney’s in-depth story on how the Cubs got the deal done with Darvish in The Athletic.
“The Cubs — they know how to recruit a player,” Wolfe said. “It’s like the University of Alabama. They go the extra mile.”
“It was very much like a high school football player trying to choose and he’s going to have the signing day,” Wolfe said. “Here’s what we have to offer you and your family as a place to live. This is what our organization is like. Here’s what we’re going to do with you. We think you’re a great pitcher, but here’s how we’re going to make you better. Here’s what we’ve done with other guys. This is exactly how we’re going to do it. Incredible detail.”
Mooney discusses the importance of the face-to-face meeting the Cubs had with Darvish and interestingly enough the Milwaukee Brewers didn’t bother to set up a meeting of their own with the free-agent pitcher.
The story in The Athletic also mentions how the Cubs sent Darvish a video, highlighting the city of Chicago, which caught the eye of the pitcher’s wife. Darvish brought up the fact that his wife loved the city of Chicago during his press conference.
Darvish said his wife likes Cubs, city of Chicago
— Mark Gonzales (@MDGonzales) February 13, 2018
However, the thing that won over Darvish the most was the honesty from the Cubs. He also brought that up on Tuesday.
Darvish, through his translator, said he chose the Cubs because everyone at the meeting with him was sincere and he fell in love with the people, especially Mr. Epstein. @WGNNews
— Josh Frydman (@Josh_Frydman) February 13, 2018
More from Darvish’s agent in The Athletic.
“It wasn’t just telling him what he wanted to hear. It was legitimate. He showed up, he asked a lot of questions. They asked him a lot of direct, blunt questions. He’s a very honest guy. When he starts speaking in English with you, you’ll see. He really felt it.”
Darvish was the primary target all along and although no one wanted the process to drag on through the middle of February the Cubs are glad they got their guy.
— Larry Hawley (@HawleySports) February 13, 2018
Maybe it was simply meant to be for Darvish to end up with the Cubs.
Darvish showed the playful side of his personality by sending team president Theo Epstein a photo of him as a young boy in a Cubs shirt. As the negotiations dragged out and Epstein half-jokingly accused Darvish of only waiting on the Dodgers, Yu texted back the same picture.
Still, Saban probably offers more money to his players than Epstein does.