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Cubs sign Yu Darvish to 6-year deal

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The top free-agent starter on the market is finally off the board.

World Series - Houston Astros v Los Angeles Dodgers - Game Seven Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

The Cubs have reached agreement with Yu Darvish on a six-year, $126 million deal, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. The contract can max out at $150 million, though Rosenthal reports that the chances of him reaching that mark are slim:

Darvish’s deal includes an opt-out clause after the 2019 season and no-trade protection, according to ESPN’s Jerry Crasnick and Yahoo’s Jeff Passan. The opt-out is significant, as it will allow Darvish to re-enter the open market entering his age-33 season in two years.

Darvish will make an average annual value of $21 million, which is less than many thought he’d get entering a winter that has been much slower than anyone could’ve anticipated. In addition to the Cubs, Darvish drew interest from the Twins, Brewers, Astros, Dodgers, Yankees and others. He’ll slot into a Cubs rotation that is slated to include Jon Lester, Jose Quintana, Kyle Hendricks and fellow newcomer Tyler Chatwood, replacing free agents Jake Arrieta and John Lackey.

Darvish, 31, posted a 3.86 ERA in 31 starts for the Rangers and Dodgers last year, joining Los Angeles in a deadline blockbuster and reaching the World Series with the club. Although he struggled as the Dodgers fell to the Astros in the Fall Classic, Darvish was still considered the top free agent arm available this winter, ahead of Arrieta, Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb.

Darvish joins Chatwood, Brandon Morrow, Steve Cishek and Drew Smyly as free-agent additions to the Cubs pitching staff this winter, once again thrusting the team into being considered the favorite to win the NL Central. The upstart Brewers have also been extremely busy this winter, acquiring outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich in addition to some pitching additions.

Darvish, who made his major-league debut in 2012, owns a 3.42 ERA and four All-Star appearances in five major-league seasons. His deal with Chicago will take him through his age-36 season.

With Darvish off the board, other free agents could start signing in quick succession. In addition to Arrieta, Lynn and Cobb, closer Greg Holland and sluggers J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are still available. For a complete list, be sure to check out our free-agent tracker.