The Yu Darvish Trade is a Sign of the Times for the Cubs By Ryan Kanne

Image Credit: via mlb daily 

On Monday evening, the Chicago Cubs traded NL Cy- Young runner up Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres for Zach Davies and four teenage prospects. The trade solidifies an already rock-solid starting rotation for the Padres as they look to compete for the NL West title. The Cubs on the other hand, seem to have made this move with clearing salary in mind without any plans to big in free agency. 


Darvish is due $59 million over the last three years of his deal, which the Cubs will reportedly still pay some of. Dumping the 34-year-old’s almost $20 million annual salary gives the Cubs more flexibility when it comes to later deals involving possibly Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, or Wilson Contreras. While this isn’t news Cubs fans want to hear, the truth is that the Cubs look to be rebuilding. So, how did the Cubs win the World Series with a young core in 2016, and then look to rebuild before any of the core members got a contract extension? 



How the Cubs Got Here


For the most part the Cubs spent money in all the wrong places. The organizations signings of Jason Heyward ($184 million over eight years), Tyler Chatwood ($38 million over three years), Craig Kimbrel ($43 million over three years) contributed nearly $50 million of the Cubs annual salary from 2019-2020. If you consider Yu Darvish’s contract in addition to this, the salary dump seemed inevitable. Below you can see the pedestrian numbers each player has put up with the Cubs.


Contracts

WAR

ERA/ OPS

ERA+/ OPS+

Yu Darvish

6 yr./ $126 M

6.2

3.60

121

Craig Kimbrel

3 yr./ $43 M

-0.7

6.00

75

Tyler Chatwood

3 yr./ $38 M

1.2

4.70

91

Jason Heyward

8 yr./ $184 M

8.6

.721

90


Even with Chatwood and his contract gone, the Cubs are treading lightly with their salary after having the fifth highest payroll in the pandemic shortened season. The biggest NL Central signing of the offseason so far has been the Cubs signing Jonathon Holder to a one year $750,000, non-guaranteed contract.


Eno Saris of The Athletic gave context to the slow offseason, reporting, “According to multiple sources, many teams have told prospective free agents that they just don’t have a player acquisition budget yet. Hard to know how much you can spend on a single player when you don’t know how much you can spend on the whole team.”


With the uncertainty of a team budget, the Cubs seem to be clearing what room they do have. Whether or not that room is for another free agent or a group of them remains to be seen. The organization has tough decisions to make regarding extensions for their star players.


Between young stars like Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras, and Javier Baez, to veterans like Anthony Rizzo, the Cubs will have to figure out their future salary soon. Barring more big trades to free salary room, the Cubs will likely stay as quiet as they’ve been for the last two offseasons this year. With the team heading for a rebuild, you can expect them to look to replenish the farm system or add cheap veterans to make a postseason run in a weakened NL Central.


What Did the Cubs Get?


If you were hoping for at least one of the Padre’s top prospects from the Darvish trade, you would be more than disappointed to see the Cubs return. The Cubs sent Darvish and his personal catcher Caratini to San Diego for veteran pitcher Zach Davies, and prospects Reginald Preciado, Ismael Mena, Owen Caissie, and Yeison Santana.


Davies fills the rotation spot Darvish leaves behind after a stellar year in San Diego. With a 2.73 ERA across 69.1 innings last year to supplement a career 3.79 ERA, Davies could be extended or traded as he is due to become a free agent in 2021. The former Milwaukee Brewer returns to the NL Central


The prospects the Cubs acquired follow the Theo Epstein mindset of, “acquire young and talented infielders and the rest will work itself out”. Of the three infielders the Cubs acquired, Reginald Preciado has the most hype. The 17-year-old switch hitter was signed to the highest signing bonus for a player from Panama with $1.3 million. Preciado has five-tool potential but is a ways away from making an MLB roster.


Owen Caissie presents a lot of upside as well. The 18-year-old outfielder is also a ways away from the majors but being a second-round pick bodes well for his future. Ismael Mena at 18 years-old and Yeison Santana at 20 years-old finish out the trade. Both have upside and time on their side, but don’t have the draft and signing pedigree the first two prospects do.


Overall, the Cubs got a nice young haul of prospects who can make an impact 3-5 years down the line. The trade boosts a terrible farm system even a little bit in the right direction while dumping almost $20 million in salary for the next three years. Darvish’s trade is a bleak sign for Cubs fans, but one that is necessary if the organization wants to reset their roster.

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