The Rundown: Embarrassing Trade May Signal Start of Reckoning, Darvish Learns of Trade Via Twitter, Padres’ Aggressiveness Paying Immediate Dividends

Even if you were completely out of pocket yesterday, by now you are aware of the blockbuster deal that sent Yu Darvish and Victor Caratini to the Padres for Zach Davies and four prospects, none of which are pitchers. It appears the Cubs were always intent on trading Darvish in an effort to reduce salary, but perhaps Jed Hoyer should have waited until the market came to him a little more. With just one suitor for the former Cubs ace, he really didn’t have a whole lot of leverage to push San Diego GM AJ Preller to pay a higher premium.

Hoyer was placed in the unenviable position of having to slash payroll while navigating the narrowest of markets for Darvish. He’s said since taking over that the Cubs must walk a fine line of trying to remain competitive while also being wary of service-time issues and a budget that isn’t as robust as in the past. However, trading Darvish and cutting Kyle Schwarber seems a little more foreboding than any type of implied retool. If the Cubs don’t just burn it all down and start from scratch right now, I’d be disappointed.

Yesterday’s big trade also attaches a different spin to the latest news regarding Kris Bryant. Refusing to eat salary to move the former all-star and MVP seemed to indicate Hoyer and his entourage might stick with the third baseman at least until the trade deadline. I could be wrong, but now it seems like Hoyer is signaling to other GMs that he’ll accept less than market value to move his high-salaried core pieces. Expect the Nationals, who indicated yesterday they are still seeking another power bat, to try once again to lowball the Cubs in an attempt to acquire Bryant. I’m sure the Mets, Braves, Phillies, and Dodgers will be lining up, too.

A lot of people are indicating that the seemingly small-market Cubs are punting away 2021, but it’s a little bigger than that. The prospects Chicago acquired yesterday probably won’t see the majors until 2023 or ’24. With Bryant, Anthony Rizzo, and Javier Báez potentially entering free agency at the end of this year, and with Willson Contreras just a season shy of his walk campaign, Hoyer’s first two moves of this winter seems to be the start of the reckoning Theo Epstein promised but never delivered. More moves are probably coming, and based on yesterday’s meager return, fans may not be happy with the sudden influx of high-risk, high-ceiling minor leaguers Hoyer seems to be seeking.

If there is a bright side to yesterday’s blockbuster, it’s that the prospects the Cubs acquired ooze projection, make hard contact, show above-average bat speed, and can steal a few bases. Those qualities are relatively absent throughout the organization. The youngsters will also get plenty of seasoning, as none have played above rookie ball. Chicago is now incredibly deep at middle infield, though a few more pitchers would be nice.

As far as fans are concerned, the executive team at 1060 W. Addison has now plunged all of us back into the Dark Ages of Cubs baseball. Epstein promised us that would never happen again and then hightailed it out of town before he had to swallow a shit sandwich. Now it’s up to Hoyer to somehow convince us that ownership’s his plan is remotely palatable.

Cubs News & Notes

  • Evan was on top of all the details and subplots once the Darvish rumors started breaking, and you can follow in chronological order here, here, and here.
  • Darvish apparently learned of his trade via Twitter, another bad look by the Cubs organization.
  • Though the Cubs didn’t get a catcher from San Diego, don’t be surprised if yesterday’s blockbuster is a precursor to another significant move.
  • One would hope Hoyer is at least allowed to use some of the financial savings from yesterday’s embarrassing deal to extend one or more of his marquee players. If it were up to me, in order, I’d start with Contreras (unless he is going to be traded for pitching prospects), and then, in order, Bryant, Rizzo, and Báez.
  • Báez might be higher in the pecking order, except the Cubs are overflowing with middle infield prospects and will also be adding phenom Cristian Hernandez this winter.
  • On the plus side, at least Chicago’s long-term future looks better. In addition to Davies, the Cubs landed minor league shortstops Reginald Preciado (Padres No. 11 prospect) and Yeison Santana (16), and outfielders Owen Caissie (13) and Ismael Mena (15).
  • Of yesterday’s additions, I think I am most intrigued by Santana, who should be quickest to the majors of the four prospects Hoyer acquired.
  • From MLB Pipeline: “Santana’s selectively aggressive approach is advanced for a player his age, and he has already shown that he can do damage on pitches in the zone. He has a solid foundation for development, possessing a blend of bat speed, patience and feel for the barrel, with remaining physical projection that points toward future power gains. Santana has proven difficult to strike out early in his career, showing a penchant for quality opposite-field contact.”

Odds & Sods

Whatever it is you think the Cubs are doing or not doing, just put a re- before it and everything will be okay.

Tuesday Stove

With a flurry of moves over the last two days, Preller believes his team has closed the gap on the world champion Dodgers.

The Padres also agreed to terms Monday with free-agent Korean infielder Ha-seong Kim, according to multiple reports.

San Diego’s aggressiveness this winter stands out in a league that has been relatively complacent so far.

By trading Blake Snell to the Padres, the Rays are acting like anything but American League champions.

Tampa Bay is smart, frugal, and analytically forward, though they are not much fun to their fanbase.

Outfielder Kevin Kiermaier could be the next player jettisoned by the Rays.

If you’re waiting for the Mets to sign a big-name free agent, know that new owner Steve Cohen is just as anxious.

The Braves interest in re-signing Marcell Ozuna does not hinge on the league adopting the DH for another season.

The Phillies have reportedly made an offer to free agent catcher J.T. Realmuto.

Extra Innings

So long, Yu.

They Said It

  • “The organization faces a number of decisions this winter that carry long-term consequences; those types of decisions are best made by someone who will be here for a long period rather than just one more year. Jed has earned this opportunity and is absolutely the right person to take over this baseball operation at such an important time.” – Theo Epstein, when announcing his resignation last month.
  • “This is what a salary dump in a pandemic looks like. The Cubs aimed to transfer debt.” – ESPN’s Buster Olney

Tuesday Walk Up Song

Starting Over by Chris Stapleton – Too soon to say?

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