Winter heat in I-94 rivalry: Cubs reportedly in 'active talks' with Yu Darvish after report of Brewers' offer

Vinnie Duber
NBC Sports Chicago
<p>The Cubs are reportedly in "active talks" with free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish, news that came out hours after it was reported the division-rival Brewers made their own contract offer to Darvish.</p>

Winter heat in I-94 rivalry: Cubs reportedly in 'active talks' with Yu Darvish after report of Brewers' offer

The Cubs are reportedly in "active talks" with free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish, news that came out hours after it was reported the division-rival Brewers made their own contract offer to Darvish.

Yu Darvish might have more suitors than just the Cubs and the Milwaukee Brewers. But a frozen offseason might finally be thawing thanks to the I-94 rivalry.

Hours after it was reported that the Brewers made a contract offer to Darvish, one of the top free-agent starting pitchers on the market, a report from the Associated Press indicated that the Cubs are in "active talks" with the Japanese hurler.

The North Siders have been connected to Darvish - and most other available starting pitchers - throughout the offseason as they seek to plug the holes created by the free-agent departures of Jake Arrieta and John Lackey. So far, those efforts have yielded the signing of Tyler Chatwood and the insertion of Mike Montgomery, not exactly replacements that would be expected to fill an Arrieta-sized hole.

But Darvish would accomplish that goal. He's been stellar since coming over from Japan ahead of the 2012 season, making four American League All-Star teams with the Texas Rangers and last season helping the Los Angeles Dodgers reach the World Series after a midseason trade out of Arlington. Darvish made nine regular-season starts with the Dodgers, posting a 3.44 in those contests. He shut down the Cubs in the National League Championship Series, throwing 6.1 innings of one-run ball in Game 3 of that series. He fared much worse in the World Series, however, surrendering eight earned runs in two starts that lasted just 1.2 innings apiece against that incredibly potent Houston Astros lineup.

Despite faltering in the Fall Classic, Darvish figures to be a top-of-the-line addition to the team that eventually signs him. He has a career 3.42 ERA in five major league seasons and has eclipsed the 200-strikeout mark in three of those, including last year, when his 209 punch outs ranked 12th in baseball.

To add Darvish to a starting staff that already includes Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks, Jose Quintana and the aforementioned Chatwood would perhaps once more give the Cubs the best rotation in the NL. If it's the Brewers, it could go a long way in making them a serious challenger to the Cubs, something they almost accomplished in 2017 as their rebuilding efforts moved ahead of schedule.

Cubs president Theo Epstein said during the team's annual convention earlier this month that his front office planned on adding another starting pitcher, though he made sure to point out that the addition could fit a number of different descriptions. While fans and observers both have been waiting for the team to land one of the high-profile free agents - be that Darvish, Alex Cobb or even bringing back Arrieta - Epstein cautioned that a move could be made to simply add depth, something that doesn't really exist behind Montgomery, the guy currently figuring to be in that fifth spot in the rotation.

The Cubs also made a minor move that could have an impact on where Darvish decides to play, signing catcher Mike Gimenez to a minor league deal Monday. Gimenez and Darvish played together in Texas.

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