Yu Darvish on mound for Cubs

Padres send Cubs into deep rebuild with bargain Darvish trade

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Just 24 hours after making a trade to acquire Rays ace Blake Snell, the San Diego Padres made another massive move toward their increasingly evident goal of a World Series, trading for Yu Darvish of the Chicago Cubs, alongside his personal catcher Victor Caratini. In return, Chicago got RHP Zach Davies and four young prospects.

The Japanese right-hander has been fantastic in Chicago since he joined in 2018, and he came second in Cy Young voting for the National League this past season, his age-33 campaign. He finished the abbreviated season with an incredible statline through 76 innings with career lows in ERA at just 2.01 and WHIP at 0.961, alongside an impressive 93 strikeouts over just 14 walks.

Darvish was playing the best baseball of his career in 2020, tying AL Cy Young winner Shane Bieber for the MLB-high in wins, and placing fourth in the majors in ERA and seventh in strikeouts. Somebody would have a difficult time arguing with you if you said that Yu Darvish is a top 10 starting pitcher in baseball right now, and last year his production was top 5.

The trade paired Darvish with Victor Caratini, who caught for him exclusively in 2020, and also served as a backup first baseman. In 132 plate appearances last year he had a fairly uninspiring batting average of .241, but a respectable OBP of .333 and drove in 16 runs. The Padres likely brought Caratini in at the request of Darvish, and you should expect to see Caratini starting at catcher every fifth day for San Diego, at least. The Blake Snell trade sent two catchers to Tampa Bay, so bringing in the 27-year-old provides some more immediate depth and a battery with Darvish that already has chemistry baked in.

In return – aside from the fact that the Cubs shift off of Darvish’s contract which owed him $22 million in 2021, $19m in ’22 and then $18m in his age-36 season in ’23 – the Cubs received Zach Davies and four prospects; shortstop Reginald Preciado, outfielder Owen Caissie, outfielder Ismael Mena, and shortstop Yeison Santana.

Padres send Davies and four prospects

Zach Davies is a 27-year-old (will be 28 on opening day) right-hander who the Cubs are very familiar with, as before a one-year cameo with San Diego he resided in Milwaukee where he spent five seasons with the divisional rival Brewers. In 2020 he pitched 69 1/3 innings on his way to a 7-4 record with a 2.73 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP. His strikeout to walk ratio was 63 to 19.


He obviously isn’t Yu Darvish, but Davies is more than six years younger and can still be a valuable part of the Cubs rotation. Cubs fans can consider him a similar pitcher to Kyle Hendricks, rarely throwing above 90mph, and with his primary pitches being his changeup, sinker and cutter. The main issue with Davies is that his contract expires after 2021, so they will have to work quickly to extend him if they want to get the most out of the trade.

All four of the other players sent from the Padres are between the age of 17 and 20, with Chicago clearly looking to consolidate to the future, and rebuild as they did so successfully in the 2010’s.

Preciado is a switch-hitting shortstop from Panama who has massive upside, with legitimate five-tool potential, but he is only 17-years old and won’t be seeing the Wrigley diamond any time soon. He is, however, probably has the highest ceiling of the five pieces that are heading to the Cubs system.

Caissie and Mena are both 18-year-old outfielders with good power and who should grow into useful offensive options for the Cubs. Caissie was a second-round draft pick from Canada and he has a strong enough arm that he could potentially slot into Jason Heyward’s right field role in years to come. Mena is very athletic and his speed should translate both on the bases and in the outfield.

Finally, Santana, 20, is another shortstop and is solid both in the infield and at the plate. He has a decent arm and has hit well at the lower levels. In 2019 – before the minors were forced to take a year out – Santana put up good numbers in the Arizona League, hitting .346 with a .429 OBP and driving in 30 RBI’s in just 162 at bats. He only hit 3 home runs but he should increase his power over time, and his contact looks good. I would expect him to be the first to taste the majors, even if he isn’t the strongest of the prospects overall.


Cubs begin long rebuild

The Chicago Cubs won the World Series just four years ago, and now they evidently want to take a step back after a couple of disappointing years and start to rebuild for the future.

The San Diego Padres are doing the absolute opposite. While I definitely think the fans of one team will be much happier than the other, adding four prospects to the Cubs minor system as well as a useful rotation arm now does at least project to help the team with their long-term plans.

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