Sports | August 25, 2020 7:15 am

Yu Darvish Is Back and Mookie Betts Is Balling: Buying or Selling MLB’s Top Week 5 Storylines

Plus: Was a collector dropping $4 million on a Mike Trout rookie card a good investment?

Yu Darvish Is Back and Mookie Betts Is Balling
Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs throws a pitch during the fifth inning. (Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty)
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Looking at the standings in Major League Baseball entering play on Monday, most teams were at or within a game or two of reaching the halfway point of their truncated MLB season. In addition to the usual dose of coronavirus news, the baseball week that was featured an impressive power surge from the Padres and an ugly on-air incident involving Reds announced Thom Brennaman

While we won’t be re-hashing those stories, you’ll find some of the other top storylines to emerge around the league as MLB pushed through its fifth full week of play below, and whether we’re buying or selling ’em.

Buy: Yu Darvish Is Finally Earning His Money

An All-Star in four out of his first five seasons in Major League Baseball, Yu Darvish has generally failed to live up to expectations since signing a six-year contract worth roughly $126 million with the Chicago Cubs prior to the 2018 season.

In that year and the following, Darvish went just 7-11 in 39 starts for the Cubs while watching his ERA ratchet up to 4.16. It wasn’t a complete disaster and health was certainly a factor, but it’s fair to say the 34-year-old was a disappointment over his first two seasons in Chicago.

Things didn’t look to be getting much better during Darvish’s first start of this season, when he gave up three runs in four innings and departed with a 6.75 ERA and a loss against the Brewers.

Since then, the Japanese right-hander has been nothing short of spectacular, going 5-0 with a 1.09 ERA to bounce back from his opening-day struggles. His latest victory came on Sunday over a Chicago White Sox team that had won seven games in a row.

Darvish (5-1) allowed one run and six hits in seven innings, with the lone mistake being a pitch that slugger José Abreu was able to mash into the seats at Wrigley Field (more on him later).

Given the abbreviated nature of this season, Darvish will probably only start six more games, if that, for the Cubs before the playoffs. If he can equal what he was able to do during his first six, he will squarely belong in the discussion for the NL Cy Young Award.

“I feel weird,” Darvish said via The Athletic. “Most people, when you get old, you (lose) velo or stuff. Me, I feel really good, more than when I was 25, 26. I feel weird.”

And the Cubs have to be feeling like he’s finally worth the money.

Sell: Mike Trout’s Rookie Card Was a Good Investment

Over the weekend, a rare Mike Trout autographed rookie card was able to catch $3.94 million at auction, setting a new record for the sale of a trading card by topping the $3.12 million that was paid in 2016 for a 1909 Honus Wagner tobacco card.

The undisputed best player of his generation, 29-year-old Trout has already won the MVP three times and has never finished lower than fourth in AL MVP voting.

But, could you pick him out of a lineup?

For most Americans, the answer to that question would be no, a reality that, at some point, would seem to mean Trout’s card will not substantially appreciate in value.

While Goldin Auctions founder Ken Goldin noted to Forbes that the card and memorabilia industry has “increased exponentially since the lockdown because a lot of wealthy people don’t have anything to spend their money on,” that is likely only a temporary development.

Once the world gets back to normal, those with the ability and incentive to invest will go back to sinking their money in the stock market and real estate, not baseball cards of players they don’t even know.

“This event was somewhat of a perfect storm as we had a remarkable collection of historic memorabilia supported by incredible marketing and publicity during a great market for sports collectibles,” Goldin said.

Sell that card before the perfect storm is over.

Buy: Mookie Betts Is Settling In for LA

In Sunday’s 11-3 win over the Rockies, Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts went 3-for-5 with two homers, three RBI, three runs scored and two stolen bases.

While we usually talk about filling up the stat sheet in relation to basketball players, the 27-year-old did the baseball equivalent for his team to close out the weekend. He also became the first player in Los Angeles Dodgers history to hit two home runs and steal two bases in the same game.

Thanks to the offensive outburst, the star outfielder is up to 11 homers, 24 RBI and five stolen bases with a .300 batting average and 1.032 OPS this season.

Along with rising stars like Fernando Tatis Jr. of the San Diego Padres and Mike Yastrzemski of the San Francisco Giants, Betts is challenging for the league lead — including both batters and pitchers — in total WAR (wins above replacement) value this season.

That has translated to actual wins for the Dodgers in 2020, as Los Angeles has the best record in the league (22-8) at the halfway point of their season. If Betts plays the final 30 games of the year the way he did in the first 30, he may have a pretty good shot at taking home his second MVP award and becoming the only player in baseball history besides Frank Robinson to win the award in both the American and National League.

Sell: Jose Abreu Will Lead the AL in Home Runs

On Sunday, in his first at-bat against the Cubs, Chicago White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu tied a Major League record when he smacked a 449-foot home run off the aforementioned Darvish in the second inning, marking the 33-year-old’s fourth straight plate appearance with a home run. His home run streak ended with a groundout in the fourth.

Abreu also became the first player in White Sox history to hit five home runs in two games when he blasted two on Friday before a career-high three on Saturday. Thanks to Abreu’s six-home-run tirade, he now leads the AL in homers with 11 after entering the series with the Cubs tied for 20th.

“I’m never satisfied with what I do,” Abreu said after Sunday’s 2-1 loss to the Cubs. “I can do better. I can do more. That’s why I work so hard. But it definitely feels good to do something like that. I’d rather have the win today.”

Abreu, who hit 33 dingers in 159 games last season, is certainly ahead of the home-run pace he set during his previous seven seasons in MLB, and has a good chance of hitting more round-trippers this season, percentage-wise, than he has in the past.

But given that Abreu had to hit six home runs in three days to get to where he is, it seems unlikely he’ll lead the AL in homers after the White Sox play the 31 games that remain on their schedule.

(Note: All stats and streaks current as of the afternoon of August 24.)