Right-hander Yu Darvish came close to winning his first Cy Young award last season, finishing second in the voting to Trevor Bauer, but that wasn’t enough to keep him in a Cubs uniform. The Cubs decided last Sunday to trade Darvish to the Padres in a deal that was officially completed earlier this week. Chicago received five players in return for Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini, though whether the team made the right call is certainly up for debate.
In moving Darvish, the cost-cutting Cubs saved almost all of the $62MM remaining ($59MM, to be exact) on the six-year, $126MM contract they gave the former Ranger and Dodger before 2018. Caratini, meanwhile, is only due a little over $1MM next season via arbitration, and he won’t be eligible for free agency until after 2023. So, in the end, the Cubs let go of a front-line starter and a solid, inexpensive catcher in this deal. The Padres, who are clearly pushing for a World Series, should benefit in at least the near term. After all, they upgraded their roster – one that went 37-23 in 2020 – without surrendering any of their absolute best prospects.
For parting with Darvish and Caratini, the Cubs received a bit of immediate help in righty Zach Davies, who was outstanding in his lone season with the Padres last year. But the 27-year-old Davies is only controllable through next season, meaning he may not be a long-term piece for the Cubs, and the ex-Brewer has been more of a solid starter than a top-of-the-line hurler for most of his career. In other words, the Cubs can’t realistically expect the 2021 version of Davies to turn in production similar to the output Darvish gave them last season.
Along with Davies, the Cubs secured some good prospects in a pair of shortstops – Reginald Preciado and Yeison Santana – as well as two outfielders in Owen Caissie and Ismael Mena. All four ranked among the top 20 farmhands in a very good Padres system at the time of the trade. MLB.com now places Preciado 10th, Caissie 11th, Santana 17th and Mena 18th among Cubs prospects. The Cubs are dreaming on those four eventually turning into legitimate major leaguers, but even if that does happen, it’s going to take some time. Aside from Santana, who turned 20 last month, every member of the group is a teenager.