As part of 7-player deal, Cubs send Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to Padres
In Jed Hoyer’s first holiday season as the top decision-maker in the Cubs front office, the president of baseball operations pulled off a 7-player blockbuster trade.
The Cubs are sending star pitcher Yu Darvish and catcher Victor Caratini to the San Diego Padres in exchange for pitcher Zach Davies and a quartet of prospects — infielders Reginald Preciado and Yeison Santana and outfielders Owen Caissie and Ismael Mena.
Darvish finished as the runner-up in National League Cy Young voting in 2020 after a spectacular season in which he went 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. He’ll end his Cubs tenure with a 3.60 ERA in 51 starts over three seasons after signing a free agent deal in February 2018.
Darvish — who turned 34 in August — has three years left on his contract until free agency and will make $23 million in 2021.
As the Cubs look to set the organization up for continued long-term success, Darvish represented the biggest trade chip for Hoyer’s front office given the price of top-of-the-rotation pitching.
With so many key players heading to free agency over the next couple years, this is exactly the type of move the Cubs were open to this winter. Hoyer acknowledged that fact earlier this month:
“We have a team that just won the division; we have a lot of really good players,” Hoyer said on Dec. 10. “I think we’re very focused on the ’21 season. That said, obviously if there are moves we can make that will help our future then we have to look at those given the fact we have a lot of players that are close to the end of their arbitration years. We’re certainly very open to talking about that kind of transaction.”
Caratini has been Darvish’s personal catcher for the past two seasons, but his departure also leaves a big hole on the Cubs roster as Willson Contreras’ primary backup and a catcher who boasts good rapport with the rest of the pitching staff.
The 27-year-old switch-hitter originally joined the Cubs organization at the trade deadline in 2014 in a deal with the Atlanta Braves. Caratini made his MLB debut in 2017 and appeared in 246 games with the Cubs over the past four seasons, hitting .250/.327/.372 (.699 OPS) in that span.
As for the return, the Cubs are getting four young players and a pitcher in Davies who can immediately slot into the 2021 rotation to fill Darvish’s spot.
Davies will turn 28 in February and has extensive MLB experience under his belt — 123 starts over six seasons. He has a career 3.79 ERA and 1.28 WHIP with the Brewers and Padres and he went 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA last season.
Davies will be a free agent after the 2021 season and has drawn comparisons to Kyle Hendricks for his ability to generate weak contact without high velocity (Davies has averaged just shy of 90 mph on his fastball/sinker over his career).
The Padres own a deep farm system and traded away a trio of top prospects Sunday in the Blake Snell deal with the Rays. Of the remaining prospects in the Padres system — according to MLB.com’s rankings — the Cubs secured four of the Top 13:
Preciado – 9
Caissie – 11
Mena – 12
Santana – 13
All four are 20 or younger and have not played above rookie ball. MLB.com projects Preciado, Caissie and Mena to reach the majors by 2024 with Santana on an estimated track for 2023.
Preciado is a 17-year-old switch-hitting shortstop who stands at 6-feet-4. He signed with the Padres in July 2019 as an international free agent out of Panama.
Caissie, 18, was San Diego’s 2nd-round draft pick this past summer out of Ontario, Canada. The left-handed hitting outfielder was committed to Michigan before signing with the Padres.
Mena, 18, is a 6-foot-3 outfielder who hits and throws left-handed. Like Preciado, he signed with the Padres as an international free agent in July 2019 (from the Dominican Republic).
Santana just turned 20 earlier this month and has been in the Padres system for three-and-a-half years after signing with the team in July 2017 out of the D.R. He’s a right-handed-hitting shortstop who batted .346 with a .923 OPS in 41 games in the rookie league in 2019.
Davies will help the team in 2021, but with the other prospects so far away from the big leagues, it will be years before we see how this deal pans out for the Cubs.