I’ll have the normal Cubs Bullets later this morning, but I have so many bits to run through that are about the big trade that I figured I should put those in their own place.
If you missed the news, the Cubs are trading Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres for four very young prospects and Zach Davies. It is less shocking that the Cubs are trading Darvish at this point, but far more shocking that the focus of the return was so high-risk, long-term. I suppose an easy enough answer is that the Cubs decided they absolutely, unequivocally had to dump significant salary, and that was the best return they could get on Darvish (who had one of the most substantial salaries they could move). It’s not like the Padres HAD to give the Cubs nearer-term pieces. They could just keep saying no. Maybe they did.
The deal is still pending the review of medical information, which is a non-zero factor when you’re talking about so many players (also, don’t forget that it was A.J. Preller and the Padres who got in serious trouble for hiding medical information regarding trades (one major factor was a trade that sent Colin Rea to the Marlins and had to be rescinded (and now Rea is with the Cubs!))). It’s rare that medicals actually scuttle a deal like this, but it can sometimes lead to a little jockeying by the sides to get a little extra included.
Other thoughts and reactions and notes …
• The prospects are getting lumped together in discussions for pretty good reason – just about everywhere you look, they all rank in a pretty tight range in the Padres farm system. FanGraphs’ midseason ranking had the widest range (8 to 26), but MLB Pipeline had the foursome all from 11 to 16, and Baseball America was readying to put them in the same kind of tight range:
Reggie Preciado, Ismael Mena, Yeison Santana and Owen Caissie were the Padres No. 15, 17, 18 and 20 prospects, respectively, in the upcoming BA Prospect Handbook. They are headed with Zach Davies to the Cubs for Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini, per @sdutKevinAcee and @sdutSanders
— Kyle Glaser (@KyleAGlaser) December 29, 2020
• In the Cubs system, that’s probably going to land them in a similar range, because that’s where you find recent IFA signings like Ronnier Quintero and Kevin Made, as well as recent 2nd-ish-round-talent draft picks like Burl Carraway and Ethan Hearn. Bryan will have much more on the new Cubs prospects very soon.
• Luke makes a good point here about what may have been a SMALL factor in the return:
Speculation here – I wonder if the Cubs went for very young guys because they had semi-recent data on those guys. As opposed to that High A dude they haven’t seen play since last season maybe.
— Luke Blaize (@ltblaize) December 29, 2020
• More traditional prospects would leave you with virtually zero recent scouting information, meaning you’d be at a massive information disadvantage in a trade with the Padres (we’ve discussed this issue before, generally, when it comes to prospect trades this offseason). For the IFA and draft prospects, though, the information disadvantage would be much smaller, since the Cubs would have scouted the players at an initial level very close to the same time as the Padres. It’s fair to assume the Cubs know all four of these prospects relatively well, and maybe even wanted to draft Caissie and/or sign some of the IFAs.
• As an aside, if you figure one of the four prospects would be a fair return for Victor Caratini (I’m not actually sure it would be, but let’s say it is), then you’re talking about Davies and the other three for Darvish. Oof, right? Like, these are good prospects who may very well become studs. But teams are able to add this level of prospect organically every year in IFA and the draft. It’s basically like the Cubs traded Darvish and Caratini for a few extra top IFA signings and another second round draft pick. Great pieces to have, but you know the risk profile there is extreme.
• Bruce Levine was on 670 The Score just now as I was writing this up, and I took notes paraphrasing his comments: I don’t think it’s a rebuild, because some of the money saved all this offseason is not necessarily going to just be dumped. Some of that money could be used to add to 2021. But the focus of the trade was adding young talent. But I think they have money to spend, and they want to put together a team that can compete in an unimpressive division. It’s not like the Cubs are just going to pocket all that money. I just don’t believe it. One team wanted Darvish so badly, and it was the Padres. And that was the best deal the Cubs could get given the financial situation in the game and the contract.
• By contrast, Dave Kaplan points almost exclusively to the money as the reason for the trade:
However, if you choose to not believe they have serious financial troubles in that organization then you’re burying your head in the sand. They laid off 100 employees, their team president left 10 million on the table and they just traded the Cy Young runner up to move his $.
— David Kaplan (@thekapman) December 29, 2020
• Gordon Wittenmyer unloaded a bit, and sees the Cubs tanking the 2021 season:
It’s not what a financially healthy, big-market club does, even during a pandemic. It’s not what a team with a healthy farm system does. You wouldn’t think it’s what a franchise trying to get an expensive new TV network off the ground does.
— Cubs Talk (@NBCSCubs) December 29, 2020
• Wittenmyer even went so far as to include this section:
But by off-boarding most of the $60 million owed to Darvish over the next three years, the Cubs’ billionaire owners secured more breathing room to pay on those business loans they’ve taken out to buy up and redevelop Wrigleyville in recent years.
One source told NBC Sports Chicago’s David Kaplan that those loans add up to about $1 billion in debt for the Rickettses involving the franchise and related businesses, such as Hickory Street Capital, their real estate company.
Whether it’s structured and connected to the franchise in a way that technically violates MLB’s debt service rules, it certainly seems to violate the intent of those rules (which are collectively bargained with the players union).
• The implication there is that owners are prohibited by MLB from taking on too much debt, relative to revenues, so that it doesn’t impede their ability to compete/pay out adequate player compensation. I don’t know that we can yet know whether any of that has anything to do with this trade, but I do think it has the look of a deal that was sufficiently salary-dumpy that it’s justifiable to ask some question. No one with the Cubs will answer them, of course. But it’s worth asking. And then we’ll see if the team’s behavior in free agency the rest of this offseason provides any answers.
• This was my take in the moment on this element of the trade, as it relates to 2021:
I think maybe they *will* add some guys from the depressed market, though, to try and compete in 2021? The NL Central is just soooo bad. Yeah, maybe you get bounced quickly in the postseason, but whatever. Get yourself a roll of the dice.
— Bleacher Nation (@BleacherNation) December 29, 2020
• I think I stand by that 10 hours later. Gut says it’s more likely than not that the Cubs now try to turn, say, $10 million into a trio of one-year, low-dollar, big league signings. Maybe a utility man/second baseman, an outfielder, and a starting pitcher? None are gonna knock your socks off, but all are maybe bounce-back types that, if one or two hit, you cover SOME of what you lost in the Darvish trade (in terms of 2021 performance)? I could see it. I may not think the Cubs should have had to trade freaking Yu Darvish to precede those moves, but that doesn’t mean I can’t now accept reality and say, OK, I think that’s what they’ll probably do. The NL Central is just that bad, and the Cubs have a lot of other talented players that, realistically, they aren’t gonna trade now.
• Meanwhile, the Padres and Preller deserve all the praise they’re going to get for this trade and the Snell trade (and the Kim signing), because they’ve done it without fundamentally altering their absurdly good farm system:
Padres did a terrific job. And they still have most of their very top prospects: Gore, Abrams, Hassell, Morejon, Campusano, Weathers, Head, etc. https://t.co/RMzK2X4Z8e
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 29, 2020
Two biggest keys for the Padres: 1. They built a magnificent system through drafts and international signs 2. Preller is very aggressive and doesn’t sleep
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) December 29, 2020
• Bet it feels cool to be a Padres fan at the moment, eh?