San Diego Contract Extension Keeps Yu Darvish In Padres Livery For Six More Seasons

With less than a week to go before pitchers and catchers report, fans of the San Diego Padres can heave a big sigh of relief.

Yu Darvish, one of two front-line starters eligible for free agency this fall, has agreed to a five-year contract extension worth $108 million.

Along with Blake Snell, the team’s left-handed ace, Darvish could have deserted for greener pastures at the conclusion of the 2023 World Series. But he opted for San Diego’s offer to add $90 million to his current contract, which calls for $18 million this season.

There’s an obvious risk, however, since the pitcher will turn 42 before the pact ends. Darvish is also a survivor of Tommy John surgery, thoough he has pitched well since that March 2015 elbow ligament surgery.

A star of San Diego’s surprise surge to the National League Championship Series last summer, Darvish tied a career high in wins last year, when he went 16-8 with a 3.10 earned run mark while averaging just over a strikeout per inning.

Except for the virus-shortened 2020 season, he has made at least 30 starts in four of the last five uninterrupted seasons.

The 6’5″ native of Japan has a 95-75 career record and 3.50 ERA over 10 years, starting with the 2012 Texas Rangers. He has topped 200 strikeouts in four different seasons, missing only when sidelined by a triceps injury in 2018.

A five-time All-Star who twice finished as runner-up for a Cy Young Award, Darvish won two games for the Padres in the 2022 post-season before losing to the Philadelphia Phillies in his only NL Championship Series decision.

Before signing the extension, Darvish had been under contract for 2023 at $18 million.

A.J. Preller, who engineered the extension as San Diego’s president of baseball operations, was in the Texas front office when Darvish signed his first contract with a U.S. team after pitching in Japan.

In addition to keeping Darvish, Preller previously extended Joe Musgrove, another All-Star starter, for five years.

The Padres, who have taken two pennants but never won a World Series, have spent heavily this winter, adding former American Leaguer sluggers Xander Bogaerts, Nelson Cruz, and Matt Carpenter via free agency, along with pitcher Seth Lugo, a reliever projected to work as a starter.

In addition to keeping a valuable arm for their starting rotation, the Darvish extension allows the Padres to save $19.64 million in potential luxury tax penalties. The pitcher had a previous six-year, $126 million deal, signed with the Chicago Cubs, that carried a $21 million penalty because of its annual average value.

With the extension added to what’s left of that contract, the Darvish deal works out to $216 million over 11 seasons – keeping the Padres below the third luxury-tax tier.

Overall, San Diego ranks fourth in Spotrac’s 2003 payroll listings at $218,646,115.

The Padres are in no hurry to challenge the Mets or Yankees in salaries but hope to challenge the Dodgers in the standings. San Diego went 89-73 in 2022 but wound up 22 games behind Los Angeles.

The return of slugger Fernando Tatís, Jr., who missed all of last season with injuries and a PEDs suspension, plus the imported bats of Bogaerts and Cruz, are expected to narrow the gap. With Bogaerts aboard, Tatís is ticketed to move from shortstop to the outfield.

Much depends upon Darvish, who will miss unspecified time in spring training while pitching for Japan in the World Baseball Classic. Participants will return to their major-league clubs when their countries are eliminated in the 20-team tournament.