Random Fun(?): Cubs May Have Had a Preferred Prospect Snaked by the Rays During the Snell-Darvish Talks

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Random Fun(?): Cubs May Have Had a Preferred Prospect Snaked by the Rays During the Snell-Darvish Talks

Chicago Cubs

We move ourselves so quickly into new realities that it’s easy to forget just how jarring a sports moment was as it happened. Back when the Cubs-Padres trade rumors were reaching a fever pitch on Yu Darvish, the Blake Snell trade happened so suddenly out of nowhere that, for about 12 hours, it felt like (1) the Darvish stuff was over, and (2) the Padres had simply been gaming their way into a better deal with the Rays for the pitcher they preferred. It was a seriously whoa 12 hours, which got even crazier the next morning when it broke that, no, the Padres are planning to still get Darvish, too.

We weren’t entirely wrong about the relationship between the two trades, though. Yeah, the Padres wanted both pitchers, but they were definitely using the negotiations with the Rays and Cubs to get the best deals they could on each starting pitcher. In hindsight, it was clear that Snell’s age and much smaller contract made him more valuable, but that doesn’t mean the trades didn’t impact each other, as Padres President of Baseball Operations A.J. Preller confirmed on Jon Heyman’s and Tony Gwynn, Jr.’s podcast.

Although he didn’t get into super detail about the nature of the trade talks, Preller did suggest that there was overlap in players wanted by both the Rays and the Cubs at the time those negotiations were happening, and that at some point he had to tell the team(s) that a player couldn’t be in this deal, because he was already going to be in that deal. Again, Preller was being coy, but based on the timing of the deals – Snell completed just before Darvish – it’s fair to interpret the situation as one where the Cubs had wanted at least one of the prospects that went to the Rays, but then had to reconfigure because the Snell deal was completed first.

The Snell package was pretty robust: RHP Luis Patiño, RHP Cole Wilcox, C Francisco Mejía, C Blake Hunt. And I think I know which of the four prospects would’ve been the overlap with the Cubs’ talks.

Patiño was the only top 100 type, and we know that the Cubs affirmatively wanted a large pool of prospects in the return, rather than a consolidation into one top prospect. Pretty good bet the overlap was not Patiño. Mejia, a post-hype catcher, wouldn’t have made sense, so cross him off, too. Hunt, a 22-year-old rising catching prospect who’d been drafted back in 2017, could have made some sense on the general thinking that you get his bat in the system and then figure out what to do with ANOTHER top catching prospect later on. There were rumors of the Cubs being interested in Luis Campusano, an even better 22-year-old catching prospect (and remember those Mets rumors about Kris Bryant? The named prospect there was yet another similarly-aged catching prospect, so maybe the Cubs really did want another possible Willson Contreras replacement in a couple years, in addition to Miguel Amaya?). Still, it seems odd that they’d specifically be targeting Hunt, a true catching prospect who was due for 40-man placement after this season.

Instead, of the four in the deal, I’ve gotta say that Wilcox would’ve been the one that made the most sense. Consider that the 21-year-old pitching prospect had just been drafted there in 2020, signed massively over slot in the third round, and would’ve been scouted very closely by the Cubs that year (the Padres’ second rounder, Owen Caissie, wound up in the Darvish trade). The Cubs’ ultimate package for Darvish focused heavily on newer prospects, whom the Cubs would’ve scouted recently, and who hadn’t yet flown up the prospect lists. That’s Wilcox.

So basically, we can conclude that the Cubs probably wanted Wilcox in the Darvish deal, but the Rays also wanted him, and the Padres preferred to ensure they could get Snell done before finalizing the Darvish trade. Never a bad sign when your scouting is turning you onto the same names as the Rays, but now we’ll watch Wilcox’s career and wonder what might’ve been if he turns into a stud.

As for how the Cubs’ deal wound up, there was no big, young, hard-throwing pitching prospect swapped in, so we’ll definitely be left to guess who/how Wilcox was replaced. In the end, I still very much like the prospects the Cubs got in the Darvish deal, I just find it tough to get over the hump of not having been able to target more established, higher-floor (but still high-upside) prospects like the Rays did for Snell.



Author: Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor and Lead Cubs Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation and @Brett_A_Taylor.