Padres Give Up Prospects for Yu Darvish While Cubs Give Up

After trading for Blake Snell on Sunday, it was fair to wonder just how far away the Padres are from the World Series-winning Dodgers in the NL West. That gap has narrowed even more if not closed entirely after their latest blockbuster, with Yu Darvish going from Chicago to San Diego on Monday night in a seven-player deal. As for the Cubs, the self-inflicted wounds continue as they cut salary and get worse heading into the final years of team control for the core members of the 2016 championship team.

As reported by The Athletic’s Sahadev Sharma:

Padres Receive:

Cubs Receive:

Darvish is the clear headliner, though Caratini should be a decent backup. Davies has posted average peripherals and an above-average ERA the last few seasons. The four prospects are all 20 years old or younger, far away from the majors; Eric Longenhagen will have a separate piece coming out on the quartet heading to the lower levels of the Cubs’ organization, but you can find his preseason write-ups on them (aside from Caissie, a second-round pick in June) in his 2020 Padres list.

Now 34 years old, Darvish has three years left on his deal at a total of $59 million. His tenure with the Cubs got off to a rough start, as he threw just 40 innings in 2018 after dealing with arm issues and struggled in the first half of ’19, too. But since the All-Star break that year, he has been one of the best pitchers in baseball, and while Trevor Bauer won NL Cy Young honors last season, Darvish had an arguably better season facing more difficult opponents.

Best Pitchers Since 2019 All-Star Break
Name IP ERA FIP WAR
Jacob deGrom 162 1.83 2.18 6.5
Shane Bieber 179.1 2.46 2.75 5.9
Gerrit Cole 168.2 2.24 2.92 5.5
Yu Darvish 157.2 2.4 2.54 5.4
Jack Flaherty 139.2 2.06 2.76 4.7
Zack Greinke 153.2 3.57 3.08 4.4
Lance Lynn 177.1 3.35 3.72 4.4
Mike Clevinger 143.1 2.51 3.02 4.3
Luis Castillo 154.2 4.07 3.24 4.2
Zack Wheeler 147.1 2.87 3.21 4.0

Despite Darvish’s age, his projections look fantastic for next season, with his 4.2 WAR ranking fifth among all pitchers in SteamerZiPS sees a similar performance on a rate basis. Adding Caratini, meanwhile, solidifies San Diego’s catching at the major league level with a quality big-league backup after Preller dealt away Francisco Mejía as part of the Snell trade.

The Padres stood right around 40 wins on our depth charts after picking up Snell, about four behind Los Angeles, and while Darvish might not put them ahead of the defending world champions, it’s close enough to be a wash at this point. The Dodgers certainly aren’t done with their offseason, but it’s hard to say they are clearly better than the Padres on paper, and we’re talking about probably the best team in baseball.

The Darvish trade also takes San Diego, which has historically spent at a lower level than the rest of the league, to a new tier financially. With Snell and the $11.1 million owed to him in 2021 added to the roster, the Padres were looking at a payroll of roughly $141 million. Tacking on Darvish and his $22 million salary for next season would spike that to around $163 million. That figure will come down some with Davies’ salary — MLB Trade Rumors projects him to make somewhere between $6–11 million in ’21, his third arbitration year — heading to Chicago (and the Cubs eating a portion of what’s left on Darvish’s deal), though that subtraction will probably be canceled out by San Diego’s other big move of the day, signing KBO infielder Ha-seong Kim to as-of-yet-undisclosed financial terms.

Either way, anything north of $160 million would give the Padres the third-highest payroll in baseball. That might seem like a lot, but that figure is right around where they projected to be on Opening Day last year. Also, in letting Garrett Richards, Kirby Yates, and Jurickson Profar hit free agency (as well as finally reaching the end of Hector Olivera’s contract), the Padres are shedding about $30 million in payroll from last season — a figure more or less offset by Snell and Darvish.

Long-term, it looks like San Diego will need to run a payroll at or near similar levels in 2022: Tommy Pham is the only meaningful contract coming off the books at the end of this season, while Fernando Tatis Jr. and Chris Paddack will reach their first year of arbitration. But things will get less expensive after that. Another $30 million will fall off the payroll after 2022, when Wil Myers’s contract runs out and Eric Hosmer’s salary dips by $7 million, and after 2023, Snell, Darvish, and Drew Pomeranz will all hit free agency, representing a savings of $45 million. Despite the cost both in terms of money and prospects of these win-now moves, the Padres have set themselves up with a clear multi-year window to contend, bought their farm system time to recover from these trades (and kept No. 1 prospect MacKenzie Gore), and still left themselves with considerable financial flexibility as their young stars get more expensive. Neither Snell nor Darvish should prevent a potential mega-extension for Tatis Jr., if the Padres are so inclined.

The Cubs are heading in the opposite direction. Darvish was their best player last year and likely would have been again in 2021. With Jon Lester and Jose Quintana both free agents, the current rotation consists of Kyle Hendricks, Davies, Alec Mills, Adbert Alzolay, and Colin Rea, with only Hendricks and Davies projecting as above average. None of the rest of the players acquired figure to be of significant help to the Cubs in the next three years.

It is tough to understand the direction the Cubs are going. Coming off their 2016 title, they went all in for another, trading for Quintana and Cole Hamels, signing Darvish (and Tyler Chatwood), and holding on to their pending free agents as well as Kyle Schwarber, a popular name in trade rumors. That plan mostly worked in 2017 and ’18, when they won 92 and 95 games, respectively, though they failed to get back to the World Series. But while the Cubs had three years of team control remaining for Kris Bryant, Javier Báez, and Anthony Rizzo after that ’18 campaign, as well as two more of Hendricks, Lester and Quintana (with Darvish in tow for the long haul), they also had a payroll of over $200 million and a farm system low on impact and depth. Inaction at that point meant fewer wins in both the present and the future.

Instead, Chicago did nothing that offseason to supplement a win-now team (aside from extending Hendricks) or work toward building a sustainable winner in the future. A predictably disappointing 2019 followed, and despite a winter full of talk of change on the North Side, the Cubs’ only notable move was replacing Joe Maddon with David Ross at manager. They still won the division, thanks in part to a great performance by Darvish, who produced a whopping 44% of the team’s total pitching WAR, only to get knocked out of the playoffs by the Marlins in the first round. And while even a Darvish-less Chicago should still contend in a weak NL Central, there are only two players on the roster under team control beyond next season who project to be worth more than two wins: Hendricks, who turned 31 last week, and Ian Happ. The Cubs’ payroll for next season has now dropped below $140 million with no signs that ownership plans on increasing it; if there is another championship window on the horizon, it’s unclear when it will open.

The Cubs are a win-now team not trying to win now, potentially sacrificing a last title run for another potential one many years into the future. And after this year, they won’t be one future star or free agent away from winning: Consider that it took multiple top draft picks, two phenomenal trades, and several big hits in free agency just to make the 2016 championship happen. Sustainability means little when the level you are hoping to sustain is not all that close to reality. It’s possible the Cubs just received a future star in this deal — the Padres spent nearly $5 million in total signing bonuses on them — but that won’t be clear for another few years. That’s of no help to Rizzo, Bryant, Báez, Hendricks, or even Happ, who will be a free agent after the 2023 season.

With minimal investment, the Cubs could have made themselves clear NL Central favorites and stayed well below the competitive balance tax if they wanted to. They chose instead to cut costs under the guise of building a sustainable winner. San Diego’s payroll projects to exceed Chicago’s by quite a bit right now, and that says a lot more about what the Cubs are trying to do than the Padres.





Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.

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marchandman34
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marchandman34

Will be interesting to see Longenhagen’s take on the prospects, seems underwhelming in return for Darvish, franchise won’t do diddly for a half decade, sport is hurt further by a big market team waving the white flag. Hope the Brewers or someone steps up in the Central to try and compete.

Okra
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Okra

The Pirates, Reds, and Cubs are all actively trying to field worse teams in 2021 and the Brewers likely have no money. There has never been a better time for the Cardinals to spend and be a little aggressive in trades. They won’t catch LA or SD, but StL could dramatically increase their odds of winning the division if they push some chips in. Plus, none of other 4 teams in the NL Central have a great outlook for the 2022 season either.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

This is absolutely the Cardinals’ year if they want it. A couple of strong relievers, an outfielder or two, maybe even bringing Wong back if the price is right, and the NL Central is theirs. If they’re worried about money, they should call up the Giants and see if they’d like to buy a low-level prospect for taking Dexter Fowler.

techzero
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techzero

Maybe, but I honestly don’t think they will (I’m a fan). The Cardinals have decent odds to win the division, as-is, especially if the Cubs and Reds are offloading assets and the Brewers don’t have a ton of money to spend on their own offense. I’m sorry, but the Pirates aren’t a consideration, especially if the rumors of trading Musgrove are real.

The Cardinals modus operandi is perpetual contention, as mandated by ownership. They likely won’t spend a lot, as evidenced by the decline of Wong’s option. The only player I would have wanted this year was Ha-Seung Kim, and the Padres already took care of that. The Cards have $60m or so coming off the books after the 2021 season, with Fowler, Carpenter, Miller, Kwang-Hyun Kim, probably Carlos Martinez, and a couple of others leaving in free agency. If Wainwright comes back on a one-year deal, it’ll probably be his last; if Yadi comes back on a two-year deal, it’ll be for less money than he’s earning now.

Not spending this year does a few other things, too. First, it gives development time for some of our younger, upper-tier talent, like Liberatore, Thompson, Gorman, Montero, and Herrera. Added development time for more recent draftees (Wynn, Fletcher, etc.). We also get to see what we have in some players that either haven’t had as much opportunity to perform or have underperformed relative to expectations (Tyler O’Neill, Justin Williams, and, to a lesser extent, Lane Thomas). With $60m off the books, we’re in a better spot to bid on Seager or Story next off-season, who will either push DeJong to 3rd base or play 3rd themselves.

And by that point, we’ll know more about what’s going to happen with the CBA. Financial terms with players might change (QAs, etc.), DH might be mandated (ugh), playoffs might expand (ugh), and even other wilder things (salary floor?) might be discussed, all of which affect FA acquisitions and trades.

Simply put, if they have decent odds to compete for the division this year while standing pat, they’ll do so, because they’ll have more information, more financial advantage, and more development time to prepare for future contention.

So yeah…I’d love for them to push a little in for this year. But I really doubt they will.

spaghett1man
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spaghett1man

The four prospects are all FV45. Seems like a good haul and if you can flip Davies and a few others at the deadline, you look better sooner rather than later.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

IMO this is actually a pretty good return. The key issue to remember here is that Darvish is 34, he was awful in 2018, hasn’t posted a 4-win season since 2013, and he’s owed $60M or something. He’s had a few times where he’s been dominant in half-season bursts since then but you have to see the glass half-full on him to see this as contributing to a “multi-year window” of contention. I think the Cubs made out fine here.

All that said I do really like this deal for the Padres too. I see it as a win-win. There are just so few guys who can pitch in the #1 or #2 slot in the playoff rotation, so the price is justifiably high.

dl80
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dl80

True, but since he made a change in June 2019, he’s been phenomenal.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

Are you buying that this will hold for a guy who will be 34.5, 35.5, and 36.5 on opening day? That he’s going to stay healthy, that whatever he is doing is going to stick, and that he’s going to keep the same results when he doesn’t get to pitch to the Reds and Brewers and Pirates lineups repeatedly?

I’m deliberately emphasizing the glass-is-half-empty approach because people seem to think that Yu Darvish’s history began in June 2019 and ended in Fall 2020 and that no new history will ever be made, but we are not at the end of history. He’s a good pickup for the Padres and he’s more valuable than the contract (as the prospects going back suggest, and who are actually pretty good) so this narrative that the Cubs got ripped off or something is just not true. The Cubs got a fair return for him.

tbwhite67
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tbwhite67

Zack Greinke, like Darvish, throws roughly a gazillion different pitches and has aged incredibly well despite people constantly predicting his imminent decline due to reduced velocity, etc. Meanwhile Darvish, was throwing the hardest of his career last season.

SenorGato
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SenorGato

Zack Greinke also never had TJ surgery, an amazing feat for this era of ball

Travis L
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Travis L

I’m buying that pitchers are a risk, but his age doesn’t make him more of a risk than a 27 y.o. I’m also buying that he doesn’t necessarily have to perform at the same level as 2020 in order to be a solid pickup for the Padres. Also buying that 3/$60M is a pretty good contract to have for him, even if it does represent some risk. That said, with this offseason’s craziness, who knows if he would get 3/60. The Padres are clearly reading the tea leaves as “things will be more normal next year”.

belkiolle
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belkiolle

Both his age and his history of a TJ surgery make him a bigger risk for a second. There is certainly more risk with Darvish than a healthy 27 year old pitcher.

carter
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carter

While I agree with your point, you say he was “awful in 2018”, but he was hurt and threw 40 innings which would of prorated to 1.5 WAR…and he was hurt! So to me this looks like a guy whose worst season of his career was 2.6 WAR and has consistently been a good to great MLB pitcher. I feel like he is low risk at being a bum. If this was fantasy I’d say it is a bad move for his value, since throwing against the Dodgers and in Coors is a pretty significant downgrade from the central where every team is below average, but in terms of real life value I think he is fine. I don’t worry too much about pitchers age, as good pitchers tend to continue good until they fall off a cliff.

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

carter:

Yeah, the thing is, Yu Darvish is still a really good pitcher. He is probably a Top 10 pitcher in major league baseball. But the more you cut into this, the less clear it seems.

I’ll take both sides of this. If you come up with a list of guys who you’d definitely trust more than Darvish right now, I’d say that list is Gerrit Cole, Shane Bieber, and deGrom. And that’s it. Scherzer if you think his back holds out. Darvish is probably on the same level as Bauer, Castillo, Buehler, Giolito, and Nola–the guys who are “just shy” of league ace, and just ahead of guys like Lamet and Snell. Darvish is a really good pitcher!

But then comes the other weird part: Darvish has literally only been a top 10 pitcher in MLB twice–in 2012, when he first broke into the league, and in 2020 (which has all kinds of asterisks on it). How often are we comfortable saying a guy is probably a Top 10 pitcher when he’s 34 and has only done it twice, and one has a big asterisk on it? Nola has done it twice (3 if you’re generous to him in 2020) and he’s 27. You have to be very excited about Darvish’s last 150 innings to put him up there with Nola and Bauer. I am ready to do it. But it’s not quite as big a slam dunk as it seems at first glance.

The other parts of it this is (1) Darvish is getting paid pretty well for this and (2) the prospects coming back are pretty good. Add it all up and I think this is a fair deal; Darvish gives the Padres playoff-worthy upside in the rotation at a bit of a discount money-wise and the Cubs get some high-upside prospects to go with Davis, Amaya, and Howard. It’s a win-win.

dontcare
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dontcare

disingenuous to say darvish hasn’t had a 4-win season in 8 years when he just put up 3 in a 60 game campaign

HappyFunBall
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HappyFunBall

On the other hand, the sport is helped when a non-big market team decides to go for it!

carter
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carter

San Diego is the 8th biggest city in the country, bigger than every city with a baseball team except New York who has 2, LA who has 2, Chicago, Houston, and Phoenix.

Oneear
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Oneear

2 teams in Chi-town too

JamesNevans
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JamesNevans

It’s about the media market, and the Dodgers encroach too close to get the full impact, and that is without taking into account the Angels.

dukewinslow
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dukewinslow

The Los Angeles angels of Anaheim in California, buddy

sadtrombone
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sadtrombone

I believe the technical name is the “Los Angeles, California 92806 Angels of Anaheim.”

snood
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snood

Philly’s bigger than SD too.

pachoo5
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pachoo5

That’s not really true. When people talk about biggest cities, they mean biggest metropolitan area. San Diego is only the 17th biggest metro area in the us, behind many baseball cities like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Dallas, Houston, D.C., Miami, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Phoenix, Boston, San Francisco, Detroit, Seattle, and Minneapolis. The Padres are behind 18 other MLB teams in home metro area. They are 19th out of 30 teams in home city size.

Technical city sizes is meaningless. If we went by technical city populations, San Antonio is bigger than Dallas and San Diego and as big as Philadelphia. Based on technical city population, San Antonio is over three times the size of Atlanta when in reality Atlanta’s metro area is almost three times more populous than San Antonio’s.