MESA, Ariz. (AP) — When Yu Darvish met with Theo Epstein and other Chicago Cubs’ officials last December in the Dallas area, the Japanese pitcher liked what he heard.
“The Cubs really stood out, and everyone was sincere at the meeting,” Darvish said Tuesday through a translator after finalizing a $126 million, six-year contract.
The agreement is by far the largest deal in a slow-moving free agent market, topping outfielder Lorenzo Cain’s $80 million, five-year deal with the Milwaukee Brewers. In addition, the Los Angeles Angels gave outfielder Justin Upton a $106 million, five-year contract in November before he could become a free agent.
Darvish gets $25 million this year, $20 million in 2019, $22 million in each of the following two seasons, $19 million in 2022 and $18 million in 2023.
He can opt out of the deal after the 2019 season and become a free agent again.
His approval is needed for any trade through 2019. After that, he can list 12 teams he cannot be dealt to without his consent.
Darvish joins a rotation that includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and Tyler Chatwood, who agreed to a $38 million, three-year contract in December.
A four-time All-Star, 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 31-year-old Japanese right-hander is expected to take the rotation spot of Jake Arrieta.
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 Game 7 loss.