On Monday night, the San Diego Padres and the Chicago Cubs agreed to a seven-player trade that will ship right-hander Yu Darvish, personal catcher Victor Caratini, and cash considerations to the west coast in exchange for right-hander Zach Davies and four prospects: outfielders Owen Caissie and Ismael Mena and shortstops Reginald Preciado and Yeison Santana.
Darvish's arrival in San Diego comes less than 24 hours after the Padres agreed to trade for Tampa Bay Rays left-hander Blake Snell. It also comes a month and a half after the 34-year-old Darvish finished second in National League Cy Young Award voting (behind free agent Trevor Bauer), following a season in which he started 12 times and posted career-bests in ERA+ (221) and strikeout-to-walk ratio (6.64).
What does this trade mean for Yu Darvish's fantasy value? CBS Sports experts broke it down on the latest Fantasy Baseball Today podcast. Listen below:
As with Snell, Darvish is under contract for three more seasons. He'll bring home nearly $60 million through the 2023 season, including $22 million next year.
We here at CBS Sports are nothing if not judgmental. As such, we've decided to break down the trade while providing grades for each team. Let's proceed to that part of the endeavor now, beginning with a recap of the moving pieces:
- Padres receive: RHP Yu Darvish, C Victor Caratini, cash
- Cubs receive: RHP Zach Davies, OF Owen Caissie and Ismael Mena, SS Reginald Preciado and Yeison Santana
Padres grade: A
It seems too cute to write that the Padres have hacked this era of baseball by deciding they want to win now, and that they're willing to pay players in order to do it -- but is it false? In the span of 24 hours, the Padres added two above-average starting pitchers without sacrificing the top of their farm system; indeed, one scout estimated San Diego had traded two players from its top 10. (Preller also reportedly inked Korean infielder Ha-Seong Kim, who profiles as a league-average starter and who should see significant action at second base.) The Padres, already a dangerous team, look more capable now. It may not be enough to chase down the Los Angeles Dodgers in the National League West, but they have a better chance of it than they did a week or, heck, three days ago.
Though Darvish scuffled in his first season and a half in Chicago, he's reverted to good form since July 2019. Slicing and dicing years is never advisable when it comes to respectable analysis, but to illustrate the point: he's held the opposition to two runs or fewer in 17 of his last 26 starts. In 2020 alone, Darvish threw a higher rate of strikes and missed a greater rate of bats than he ever had previously. Those gains seem attributable to an altered pitch mix that saw him chuck more cutters, sliders, and curves and fewer four-seam fastballs.
Will Darvish continue to perform at this level? Probably not. Is there risk here? Certainly; he's getting deeper into his mid-30s, and he's had some injury woes in the past. At some point, decay comes for everyone -- yes, even you, and Yu. Still, Darvish has a dizzying amount of stuff and intelligence, and it's hard to argue with his track record. He's posted an ERA+ above 100 in seven of his eight big-league seasons, and he's topped 120 in five of those campaigns. The Padres, then, have every reason to believe Darvish is going to contribute in a meaningful way over the next three years.
One of the weirder aspects of this trade is how Caratini, who served as Darvish's personal catcher in 2020, is regarded as being just a throw-in. He's more than a warm body; this time last year, he was coming off an above-average offensive showing that had the Cubs scrambling to find additional playing time for him. Now, Caratini probably isn't going to hit enough to be a surefire starter heading forward, but he walks and he frames and that makes him a good backup candidate. At minimum, he should be an upgrade over Francisco Mejia, who the Padres shipped out in the Snell deal.
Cubs grade: D
There's reason to believe this is the beginning of the Cubs' long-rumored rebuild. What exactly that means is to be determined, but the feeling across the league is and has been throughout the winter that everyone on the roster is available to be had. In other words, Cubs fans should get used to seeing the team ship out veterans for prospects. Is that the way a large-market behemoth, coming off a playoff appearance and just years removed from a World Series championship, should be behaving? No, not really.
The Ricketts family, however, will blame their unwillingness to spend to keep and buttress their core -- Javier Baez, Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, Willson Contreras -- on the financial losses they suffered during the pandemic. That explanation doesn't explain why the Cubs have been toying with a reset since before COVID-19 was a thing, nor why they were so capped out in recent years that they couldn't sign Adam Warren types. You can only hope that the Ricketts learn that they need to be able to pull themselves up by their own bootstraps rather than turning to others to bail out their poor decisions.
The return here is shockingly light given … well, everything: Caratini's inclusion; the financial component going back to San Diego; and Darvish himself. It's hard to believe the Cubs couldn't drum up interest from other teams who could've used the rotation boost and who seemingly have money to spend. Within the state of California alone, that means the Dodgers, the Angels, and the Giants. Yet they either couldn't or wouldn't try. One way to achieve peace is to accept things for what they are instead of what you think they should be. With that in mind, let's move on to the players themselves.
Davies is a right-handed changeup artist who is coming off the best season of his career (157 ERA+ and 3.22 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 12 starts). He doesn't throw hard, and he's always been more of a contact-manager than a bat-misser, but that changed a bit in 2020. Davies threw his cambio more than ever, over 40 percent of the time, and that tweak boosted his K rate to eight per nine innings. He's a free agent next winter, which, combined with the Cubs' teardown, suggests he'll be on the block again in July.
Only one of the other four players the Cubs received has played in a real professional game. (That being Santana, whose history includes all of 41 games on American soil.) The range of outcomes on every player here, then, is laughably wide and dependent on the ability of the Cubs' development staff to get the most from these youngsters.
Caissie, San Diego's second-round pick this summer, just turned 18 in July and is arguably the top prospect the Cubs received. He's a well-built Canadian with a promising bat and good power potential. He's likely to end up in a corner spot. Santana, 20, is a good athlete who could remain at short. Preciado, 17, received more than $1 million to sign in July 2019. He has a projectable frame that suggests he may have to slide off shortstop as he fills out. Then there's Mena, who has the tools to become an above-average defensive center fielder. It's to be seen if he can fulfill that promise.