There were rumors earlier in the day that San Diego was not kidding around about putting together an elite team to combat the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NL West after already acquiring starting pitcher Blake Snell from the Tampa Bay Rays. And whether for good or bad, that left them knocking on the Cubs door for more.
The whispers became tweets and the tweets became facts as the Cubs traded away starting pitcher and CY Young finalist Yu Darvish and backup catcher Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres in return for pitcher Zach Davies, and prospects Reginald Preciado, Owen Caissie, Ismael Mean, and Yeison Santana.
San Diego’s Haul:
Darvish was just coming into his own as a Cub but alas, we will never know what could have been. Darvish posted a 2.01 ERA in 2020 and finished second in Cy Young voting. Darvish had a rough start to his Cubs career when he signed a six year, $126 million dollar contract in February 2018. He was sidelined by the flu, right triceps tendinitis, and a stress reaction on his right elbow and a triceps strain that would effectively end his 2018 season. He finished the year 1-3 with a 4.95 ERA. The 2019 was much to be desired as well, but his second half statistics proved the Cubs may have actually known what they were doing. Following the All-Star break, Darvish had a 2.76 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 13 starts compared to a 5.01 ERA with 111 strikeouts in 18 starts. Now it appears the Padres will reap the benefits. Here is hoping we miss Darvish every time we play San Diego (if at all) and also Snell for that matter as well.
It is hard to argue WHY the Cubs would make the trade, but is still hurts on the surface. San Diego takes some of Darvish’s salary and the Cubs move forward with the handful of players they got in return in hopes of competing in the NL Central (which should not be too difficult). The Cubs sell high on a promising and reliable pitcher and they can hopefully spend time and money locking up Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo to long term deals. I have to assume everyone BUT those two are still expendable. Packaging Caratin with Darvish is also a win for both the Cubs and Padres.
Not only is Caratini a switch hitter who can also play first base, but he is also San Diego’s best bet to get the most out of Darvish. Caratini has caught 31 games for Darvish and the duo has produced 248 strikeouts and an opponent batting average of .210. Darvish also has a 8.27 K/BB ratio when paired with Caratini. Although Caratini may never be an elite catcher on the other side of the ball, he is usually good for a couple of home runs and a .250 batting average. Caratini had 15 home runs in 246 games for the Cubs and 11 of which were in 2019 where he played the most games with 95 and most PA’s with 279. He also added a career high 34 RBI’s in 2019. It is not hard to believe the Cubs would include Caratini in the deal for many reasons but one key reason is they have catching prospect Miguel Amaya waiting in the minor league. If the Cubs are indeed in a place where they want to start seeing what they have in their system, trading Caratini frees up the time and AB’S to test Amaya at the major league level.
Davies was 7-4 last season with a 2.73 ERA for the Padres adding 63 strikeouts and allowing nine home runs in 12 games. He spent most of his career at Wrigley North playing for the Milwaukee Brewers where he was 43-32 with a 3.91 ERA. To me, Davies is simply a spot filler for the Cubs losing Darvish. He will eat the innings he needs to and only posted one losing season in his career back in 2018 when he went 2-7. He will never outright replace Darvish’s speed or strikeout rate, but he will be for all intents and purposes, be Darvish’s “replacement.”
Preciado was San Diego’s 11th best prospect according to MLB.com. His primary position is SS and his estimated MLB arrival time is 2024. Good news for the Cubs is he is a switch hitting shortstop who reportedly was the best prospect out of Panama in 2019. It is hard to imagine the Cubs utilizing him at SS with Baez on the team, but it is always nice to have a young switch hitter who is open to other positions.
Caissie is San Diego’s 13th best prospect and would be a good left handed hitting outfielder to be ready for the Cubs also in 2024. The Cubs need outfield help almost immediately so Caissie is not going to help them in 2021, but he will definitely be someone the Cubs could benefit from in 2025. Caissie currently plays right field, but according to MLB.com, he is open to any outfield position and could provide speed on the base paths. He was also one of the youngest players in the 2020 draft just turning 18 in July.
Like Preciado and Caissie, Mean does not break the top 10 for San Diego. Coming in at 15th, Mena is also an outfielder and left handed, but with more pop. The 6’3, 185 pound 18 year old will not be ready until close to 2024 as well, but he earned a $2.2 million signing bonus from the Padres during the 2019-2020 international signing period so San Diego thought fairly high of his ability to drive the ball and develop as a OF.
The final prospect the Cubs got was Yeison Santana, 16th off the Padres list and another shortstop. This right handed rookie earned himself a Dominican Summer League All-Star honor in 2019 at the ripe age of 18 by slashing .346/.429/.494. He is projected to be ready in the not so distant future of 2023. According to baseballsavant.mlb.com, Santana has the potential to be a real star if he keeps working the way that he is. The only issue is again, his position is SS which is hopefully going to be occupied for years to come by Baez.
It is hard to gauge what kind of trade this will be in an hour, a day, a year, etc but right now this looks like one of those moves the Cubs wish they pushed more for. Darvish had obvious value and the Cubs did not get any of San Diego’s top prospects in trade that are to be ready for the next two or three years. The Cubs also reportedly are going to eat some of Darvish’s salary in the trade. Maybe the Cubs are as cash strapped as they say they are or maybe they just do not know what they are doing. The Cubs need an outfielder NOW, yet they trade for two future OFs. They need starting pitching NOW yet they trade one of their best for a rental pitcher in Davies. They HAVE a shortstop they should extend NOW yet they trade for two future shortstops. The Cubs could have attempted to get a player like Mackenzie Gore, the Padres #1 prospect or Luis Patino, the Padres #2 prospect. Patino played in 11 games for San Diego last year posting a 1-0 record with a 5.19 ERA and 14 walks and 21 strikeouts in 17.1 innings. Both are pitching prospects the Cubs desperately needed and to be clear, we do not know if the Cubs DID pursue those options. But I think we all know the answer to that.
If you want to convince yourself this was long term planning on the Cubs part, then let us go with that. Because on the surface, the Cubs just threw away the last year of most of their core players to save money. At the end of the day, this was a salary dump. I hope I am as wrong as my fiancé says I am but I fear this time I might be right. Hooray for me.
Just gonna leave that right there.
Featured Photo: Jennifer Stewart / Getty Images
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