First, the hit from Jon Morosi, and then we’ll unpack the significance.
Morosi was on MLB Network discussing, among other things, the trade market for Yu Darvish, and he got specific:
— MLB Network (@MLBNetwork) December 23, 2020
Before we get into the Padres aspect of this, let me note what Morosi said up front: he believes Darvish is “fairly priced to market.” That’s a really eye-opening statement, because it implies not only that Darvish is out there on the trade market (as has previously been reported and surmised), but also that the Cubs are actually willing to talk about trade returns that are considered “fair.” Now, I could (and would!) argue that the “fair” return on three well-priced years of Darvish in this market is really significant. But when a national reporter says that the pricing is “fair,” it makes me wonder just how interested the Cubs are in trading Darvish (who, by the way, has a 12-team no trade list, the contents of which are currently unknown).
OK. So, putting a pin in that part. Let’s talk about Morosi’s suggestion of the Padres.
You have to kinda have things both ways in a situation like this: it is absolutely true that pundits are using this slow time of the offseason to talk about interesting things, even as they know the nature of transactions is that big, fat, interesting things rarely actually happen. But it is also true that when a tapped-in reporter like Jon Morosi decides to pair a specific player with a specific team – even if he frames it as just his idea – you always wonder if that’s informed speculation, rather than just wild guessing. Sometimes these folks hear things that they can’t quite report, but that make their “guesses” a little more than if your buddy on at the Zoom happy hour made some guesses.
The Padres, Morosi indicates, make a lot of sense because (1) GM AJ Preller knows Darvish well from his Texas days, (2) the Padres are looking for impact starting pitching (after the Clevinger injury, they’re really soft in the rotation), and (3) the Padres still have a substantial prospect base from which to trade. If the Cubs are looking to deal Darvish, Morosi sees this as the “strongest option out there.”
Morosi mentions the upper-level pitching prospects as what the Cubs would target, and while that is of course true in a general sense, my take on the system is that it would no longer be a disproportionate focus over positional guys. The farm system is actually the weakest in upper-level positional prospects.
Oh, and I’d also add that the Cubs would probably be at least as interested in big-league-ready pitching as pitching prospects, but hey, who wouldn’t be? The window has passed to be able to acquire Dinelson Lamet now that he’s broken out, and I don’t see the Padres dealing Chris Paddack. Maybe Adrian Morejon would be available?
On the prospect side, I know where you’ll go immediately, and that’s big lefty MacKenzie Gore, who is considered among the top few prospects in baseball. You can probably discard him from your thoughts, though. As much as I think Darvish has significant trade value, Gore is probably one of those prospects who just flat-out doesn’t get traded in any deal, at any time. Too much potential value there to an organization like the Padres. The Cubs would ask, but it won’t happen.
Beyond Gore, though, the Padres still have another four consensus top 100 prospects (shortstop CJ Abrams, righty Luis Patino, catcher Luis Campusano, and recently-drafted outfielder Robert Hassell). From there, you see a ton of prospects who are fringe top 100 types – it’s still a pretty loaded system even after graduations and trades.
The point is, even if you are taking Lamet, Paddack, and Gore off the table, the Padres almost certainly can still put together a sufficiently compelling package that the Cubs would be justified in trading Darvish at this moment, much as that might pain us. But if you go with a prospect package for Darvish, man, you better get it right, Jed Hoyer.
More on this if it gains additional specific traction between the Cubs and Padres …