When the Cubs traded Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini (and cash) to the Padres, we were all a little shocked by the return. I’m guessing I didn’t have to remind you of that. The package of prospects coming to Chicago wasn’t necessary bad, in terms of raw talent or value, but it was extremely risky and extremely young (one player is 20 years old, and everyone else is still in their teens). President Jed Hoyer has since stated that the timeline of those prospects (3-4 years? More?) isn’t necessarily the timeline for the Cubs to come out of this reset, or whatever you want to call it, but, well, we’ll see. Sometimes you just get the best value you can get and work out the rest later. But, well, more near-term value would’ve been swell.
As trade rumors spiral for so many other Cubs, I think it’s too early to decide what sort of reset this will be. For example, if the Cubs trade their 29-year-old third baseman, Kris Bryant, one year before free agency, I don’t think that really tells you in which direction we’re heading in 2021-23. Then again, if the Cubs trade their 28-year-old star catcher with TWO remaining years of team control, well that’s a slightly different story, right? Well … it depends.
If the Cubs *really* believe in Miguel Amaya, who raked this winter, by the way, and see him as a starting option as soon as 2022, and if they plan to spend next winter, and if the return for Darvish really was just the best they can do in that particular situation (not a concerted effort to target particularly young/far away prospects), well, then, sure. I can see it. Especially if the return for Contreras is nothing like the return for Darvish.
However, the latest Contreras rumor – talks with the Marlins, according to Craig Mish – just got a material update and it’s not necessarily one you’re going to enjoy.
Here’s the important new part from Craig Mish on MLB Network earlier today (video embedded below):
Question: Alright, [trading for Willson] Contreras, do you think this is possible, or not?
Mish: I think there’s a chance. I wouldn’t say that it has serious traction at the moment. But the interesting part I can tell you from the Cubs perspective, Chris, it looks like they are trying to go really young. And I’m not talking about players that are playing in the big leagues right now. Cubs are very interested, just like in the Darvish trade, in acquiring draft picks from the 2019 and 2020 [draft]. I think there’s a strong chance that we’re looking at four or five years of players down the line, maybe two or three years. So that’s just something to keep an eye on. When the Cubs make these trades for the future, I don’t know about bringing players back that are going to play right now. I think it’s the players down the road – at least from some of the things that I’m hearing.
And in case you don’t intend to watch the video, let me just add that Mish hits the line like this: “… it looks like they are trying to go really young.” Now, before we take that at face value, let’s clear a few really important things up.
For one, Craig Mish, undoubtedly is tapped in to the Marlins, and his information is almost certainly coming from the Marlins’ side, where certain motivations to steer this conversation in one direction or another are not difficult to imagine. For another, even if Mish was not being fed that flavor of Marlins-leaning information, and was instead just speculating on his own, it wouldn’t be surprising to see him look at the Darvish trade and just ASSUME that’s what the Cubs want to target again – which very well COULD be true, but certainly isn’t DEFINITELY true. For still another thing, Mish mentions the Cubs not bringing back players who are gonna play right away … but is that really the opposite of “really young” prospects? To me, that feels like it’s missing a huge chunk of prospect-dom.
And lastly/relatedly, there is just so much wiggle room in the words he chose there.
For example, prospects that are “four or five years” down the line are very, VERY different than prospects than “Maybe two or three years” down the line. That, right there, is enough to side-eye this. And how about when he says players from the 2019 or 2020 draft? Just because a player was drafted recently doesn’t mean he is young.
For example, the Marlins first two picks from the 2019 Draft, outfielders JJ Bleday (4th overall) and Kameron Misner (35th overall) are both 23 years old. And their first pick in the 2020 Draft, righty Max Meyer (3rd overall), is 21 years old. And for what it’s worth, Bleday (2nd ranked prospect in Marlins system, 24th in all of MLB) and Meyer (3rd, 33rd) are top prospects in the league*. I have no idea if either guy has come up in conversations, but you can pretty quickly see how “2019 and 2020” draft picks, who may be 2-3 years … or 3-4 years away could technically apply to these guys, but also not really be a similar return as the Darvish trade.
In fact, focusing on guys in the most recent drafts may not be a wholly bad idea, given how little scouting has been available over the past year or so, the Cubs front office might be MUCH more familiar with everyone from the 2020 draft, at least, than they would former “top prospects” who haven’t seen the light of day or the eyes of scouts in over a year.
*Note: Those are really more like the No. 1 and No. 2 prospects in the Marlins system, because while Sixto Sanchez is still considered a prospect, he’ll very soon graduate off that list.
Ultimately, I guess I’m telling you not to read too much into this for now. The Marlins have as many as six top-100 prospects, and plenty of really intriguing young talent on their big league team. In terms of potential suitors who could actually come up with a reasonably impressive return for Willson Contreras, the Marlins are one of them. What the Cubs do with that situation, well, that’s another matter. We just know that Contreras has a ton of trade value, and the Cubs need not move him right now unless the return is overwhelming.
As a not completely unrelated point, Mish points out that the Marlins are also looking for a closer and an outfielder. Craig Kimbrel and Kris Bryant may be two of the most available guys on the Cubs and both could scratch that itch. I’d just keep that in mind, even as the Marlins say they have very little money to spend.