Just before the formal start to Spring Training, the San Diego Padres took care of locking up a key piece of the starting rotation. A few months after extending Joe Musgrove, the Padres have signed RHP Yu Darvish to a six-year, $108 million extension that will keep the 36-year-old in town until the end of 2028. Given that the Padres are in win-now mode for the foreseeable future, it makes sense for San Diego to keep the staff ace around for a bit longer. But how much risk is there with this move? It’s a bit of a mixed bag.
A Look at Darvish
2022 marked a resurgent season for Padres ace Yu Darvish, a key piece to San Diego’s playoff run last season. A year after he posted an ERA north of 4.00, Darvish went 16-8 with a 3.10 ERA for the Padres last season. Darvish may have posted the worst K/9 of his career (9.1), but the 36-year-old did average at least a strikeout per inning for the 10th year in a row. Not to mention, Darvish set a career-high for BB/9 (1.7) in a full 162-game season in 2022, a figure that placed the ace in the top-15 of the league.
In the 2022 MLB Playoffs, Darvish went 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA, and struck out 23 over 25 innings.
Last season marked the fourth season in which Darvish finished in the top ten of the Cy Young award vote. While Darvish didn’t miss as many bats as compared to prior years, the stuff was still elite. The right-hander still boasted a very good fastball, a mid-90s heater with plenty of movement and one that looks faster thanks to Darvish’s ability to extend on the mound. Not to mention, Darvish can also play off the heater with his ace in the hole — a cutter — and a slider.
A right-hander who owns a variety of different pitches, plus command, and one who is not afraid to pound the zone, Darvish was one of three big names from the Padres set to depart in free agency come next winter, alongside closer Josh Hader and NL MVP finalist Manny Machado, the latter of whom can opt of his massive 10-year deal that he signed in 2019. But now, Darvish is set to stay in San Diego through the end of the 2028 season.
What it Means
Before we get into the risk, let’s just quickly gloss over the fact that this deal is set to keep Darvish in San Diego for years to come, before the righty hit the open market. Darvish was set to be arguably the best starter in next year’s market, alongside Phillies ace Aaron Nola. This move leaves Nola as the de facto top starter in next year’s market, a class that’s also set to include the likes of Jack Flaherty, Jordan Montgomery, Martín Pérez, Lance Lynn, and Julio Urias.
Now as far as risk goes, there will always be a considerable amount when talking about pitchers entering their late-30s and early-40s. Per Spotrac, the deal is set to keep Darvish a Padre through the end of 2028 — the right-hander’s age 41 season.
Darvish has had some bumps in the road in recent seasons, highlighted by a down 2021 in which the 36-year-old recorded his worst ERA (4.22) in a whole season. But with Darvish’s eclectic arsenal, impressive command, and the recent successes of other aces — like Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander — late in their careers, it stands to reason that the Padres feel comfortable that the righty can maintain steady production on the mound throughout the duration of the contract.
Health, however, will be key. Darvish has dealt with a myriad of injuries throughout his career, most recently lower back tightness and a left hip impingement in 2021. The 36-year-old also missed most of 2018 due to right triceps tendinitis.