The deal is happening, and the names are in. The Chicago Cubs are trading Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres for a large prospect package, and pitcher Zach Davies.
It is not the package you were thinking about when these rumors started this morning:
Sources confirm to @dennistlin, @PJ_Mooney and me that the full deal is Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini going to the Padres and the Cubs receiving Zach Davies and prospects Reginald Preciado, Owen Caissie, Yeison Santana, Ismael Mena
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) December 29, 2020
Davies’ inclusion is more about salary and wanting to shift a pitcher from one team to the other, so while I’m not ignoring him, he doesn’t get much focus in terms of what the trade was “for.”
Make no mistake about the nature of the trade: it is a pure “sell” trade. It’s moving a player with a substantial contract in a deal to get as much very young prospect value as possible (while offloading that contract). In that regard, I just didn’t see it coming for the Cubs in advance of an otherwise winnable year in 2021, and when you could also try to reset your roster for 2022 and beyond. That doesn’t mean the Cubs won’t aim to do it in other ways – I don’t think they’re tanking for years, folks – but I really thought any return in a Darvish trade would be pretty clearly impactful in 2022. Absent other trades involving these prospects, that definitely won’t happen. These are very, very long-term pieces.
You can see the rolling updates here as the day played out. Weird, un-fun ride. Small bits on the prospects in there as a starting point. Short version is that Preciado is 17-year-old shortstop and a top 2019 IFA signing, Caissie is an 18-year-old outfielder who was the Padres’ 2nd rounder this year, Santana is a 19-year-old shortstop prospect who is well-regarded (they all are), and Mena is a 17-year-old center fielder who was a big-ish IFA signing in 2019.
#Cubs get #Padres’ Nos. 11, 13, 15 & 16 prospects — SS Reginald Preciado, OF Owen Caissie, OF Ismael Mena and SS Yeison Santana — along with Zach Davies in exchange for Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini: https://t.co/dZL6KIQulV pic.twitter.com/TdhiqX22u5
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) December 29, 2020
These are good on-paper prospects, and we’ll dig in on them soon. But all are teenagers, and we’re coming off of a year with almost no meaningful scouting. It’s surprising to me that the Cubs sought this return. I mean, they may not have had a choice if they were dead set on trading Darvish (sigh), but these are high-risk, high-upside types. All four of them. Considerable risk here when you’re moving a player as valuable as Darvish, to say nothing of including Caratini.
Let me set aside the loss of Darvish and Caratini for a moment and unpack on the fly a bit.
Long-term, the move sets up the Cubs to have a loaded farm system by this time next year. If there’s internal progress like we would hope (based on investments in development), there’s the coming IFA class with Cristian Hernandez, another draft, and if there isn’t attrition elsewhere, yeah, this system could be stacked by next offseason. That’s good for a whole lot of reasons, as you’ll remember well.
There is also theoretically now more dollars available to spend for acquisitions, both for the 2021 season, the coming 2022 class, and also internal extensions. The Cubs already needed to add another starter or two, and even as Davies takes Darvish’s spot on the roster, that need remains. At catcher, the Cubs could add a veteran back-up to pair with Contreras, could let P.J. Higgins or Taylor Gushue take the gig, or maybe even think Miguel Amaya could get a shot late in the year?
That said, unless these dollars are deployed this offseason to bring in some really impactful short-term pieces in a depressed market, then the Cubs are massively downgraded for 2021 (and 2022-23, actually!). There’s no way around that. The rotation, right now, is terrifying. And Caratini is really good. One of the better “back-ups” in the game.
There will be so much more to say, specifically, about the departure of Darvish. About how he was injured in his first year with the Cubs, suffered through absurd pain trying to figure out what the issue was, remade himself (again) throughout the course of 2019, and became one of the most dominant pitchers in baseball (again) from mid-2019 through this past season. He was not only a tremendous performer for the Cubs, but he was also a great teammate, a good guy, a fun Twitter follow, and fun as hell to watch. Losing that package, in that player, is gonna sting.
More later on the full scope of the trade. I’m still spinning a bit. (UPDATE: OK, much more here.)