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Darvish was Cubs' primary offseason target

Right-hander fell in love with club during recruitment pitch
MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs found not only another ace for their rotation but a very motivated one in Yu Darvish, who was formally introduced on Tuesday after signing a six-year, $126 million contract.

"Yu was our primary target," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We think this is a great day for the Cubs organization to welcome a pitcher of this caliber. He's probably the preeminent strikeout pitcher of our generation.

MESA, Ariz. -- The Cubs found not only another ace for their rotation but a very motivated one in Yu Darvish, who was formally introduced on Tuesday after signing a six-year, $126 million contract.

"Yu was our primary target," Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We think this is a great day for the Cubs organization to welcome a pitcher of this caliber. He's probably the preeminent strikeout pitcher of our generation.

"We're getting him at a wonderful point in his career where he's matured and is ready to go out and do some special things, with winning a World Series being his top priority," Epstein said. "We think this will be a tremendous fit."

Video: Epstein discusses Darvish's fit with Cubs

Darvish, 31, reached the World Series for the first time in his career last season with the Dodgers, and did so at the expense of the Cubs. Los Angeles won the National League Championship Series in five games, with Darvish picking up the win in Game 3 at Wrigley Field.

Darvish didn't do as well in the World Series, losing both starts to the Astros, including Game 7. That didn't influence the Cubs' decision.

"The Astros were red hot and they won the World Series for a reason," Epstein said. "I don't think we would be doing our job if we evaluated based on a two-game sample. He's been over here [in MLB] for six years. He's proven himself as an elite pitcher, a top-of-the-rotation guy who can make adjustments, too.

"If anything, I think getting close to a championship and not getting all the way there has only increased his motivation and his focus on winning a World Series. That's what we're here to do as well," Epstein said. "We know there's more to Yu Darvish than what happened in the World Series."

Video: Epstein on Darvish's World Series struggles

The Cubs headed into the offseason knowing they needed to add pitching to fill vacancies created by the departures of Jake Arrieta, John Lackey and closer Wade Davis to free agency. Early in December, they acquired starter Tyler Chatwood and new closer Brandon Morrow and also signed Steve Cishek for the bullpen.

After the Winter Meetings, Epstein led a Cubs contingent to Dallas to meet with Darvish. The pitcher chose to conduct the interview in English without an interpreter.

"He'd put a lot of thought into things that had gone right in his career, things that he wanted to continue to improve on and what his goals were for the rest of his career," Epstein said of their conversation. "We were able to have a pretty in-depth baseball conversation on ways he could maximize his deep arsenal of pitches and fit in with our approach to try to get guys out. Without that meeting, we probably don't end up here with Yu joining the Cubs."

Asked why he didn't use an interpreter, Darvish said he wanted to challenge himself.

"I used this as an opportunity, not to be disrespectful to Theo, but improve my English and I think it went real well," Darvish said.

Darvish relied on an interpreter on Tuesday to deal with the packed media room at the Cubs' complex.

Other teams courted the right-hander this offseason. Why the Cubs?

"Every team is great," Darvish said. "The Cubs really stood out. Everyone was sincere at the meeting. I fell in love with how great each person with the Cubs was."

Video: Darvish aiming to be more consistent in 2018

Darvish did not want to arrive after Spring Training camps started and be a distraction to his new teammates.

"I don't think it was anyone's choice to wait so long," Epstein said. "I think it was just the nature of this particular offseason and the free-agent market dynamic."

There was talk that the Cubs had an edge when they signed catcher Chris Gimenez to a Minor League contract. Gimenez caught Darvish when they both played for the Rangers and had been in contact with the pitcher this offseason. Did that sway Darvish in his decision?

Video: Darvish playfully explains relationship with Gimenez

"I like [Willson] Contreras better," Darvish said, prompting a response from Contreras on Twitter:

Tweet from @WContreras40: Thanks YU @faridyu I���m really excited to start working with you 💪 we gonna have fun 🙌

The pitcher also wanted to meet Kyle Schwarber, who hit a home run off Darvish in the NLCS.

"That's the guy I'm very interested in," Darvish said.

Cubs manager Joe Maddon dressed appropriately for the day, wearing a T-shirt that said, "The process is fearless" in Japanese. It's one of the manager's favorite themes.

"He's an interesting guy," Darvish said of Maddon. "I've read that he wears various kinds of clothes and takes animals in [the clubhouse]. I'm looking forward to playing under him."

"He's a different cat," Maddon said of Darvish. "Not many guys that big, that tall, that delivery, that command -- not many people combine all those elements."

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

Chicago Cubs, Yu Darvish