Chicago Cubs: Yu Darvish is struggling badly, so let’s re-visit that trade

(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
(Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images) /
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Last winter, Chicago Cubs fans were absolutely livid at the trade that sent Chicago Cubs pitcher and NL Cy Young runner-up Yu Darvish to San Diego for what seemed like a small bag of airplane pretzels.

Even at the time, most saw the move for what it was: a salary dump. As more time went on, the dots connected themselves and that was wholly confirmed. The Cubs started to falter this summer and, when Joc Pederson was sent packing to Atlanta two weeks prior to the trade deadline, the writing was on the wall: a teardown was coming.

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In hindsight, the Darvish deal was most definitely a salary dump, marking the real first domino to fall without anybody fully understanding just how complete a dismantling would come months later.

But maybe, just maybe, the Cubs made the right call with Darvish. In the right-hander’s last seven starts, he has allowed 28 earned runs over 35 1/3 innings. Most recently, Darvish gave up five earned on 2 2/3 innings of work before being pulled and is now currently day-to-day with what is being called back tightness. Darvish’s recent run would remind Cubs fans of his 2019 start to the campaign, where he seemed extremely overpaid and mightily underperformed.

In return for Darvish, our main piece in the return was Zach Davies who has been rather dreadful lately, allowing 18 earned runs in his last 12 frames of work. He currently sits 6-9 with a 5.26 ERA. Though this season is at the point that is doesn’t much matter, the Cubs can at least reset next season and show Davies the door if they so choose.

Looking at the rest of the return for Yu Darvish, the Cubs received four far-off prospects that seemed like a terrible deal for an ace in Owen Caissie, Reginald Preciado, Yeison Santana and Ismael Mena. Surprisingly enough, all of which except for Mena, are currently still in the top 30 Cubs prospects list according to MLB.com. The other three in Caissie, Preciado and Santana are all in Rookie Ball and are at least two to three years away from big league action, but it is good to see that all three actually have promise moving forward.

Hindsight is always 20/20, but had the Cubs not dumped Darvish earlier, they clearly would have anyway at the trade deadline. It would have been interesting to see the haul they would have gotten at the deadline vs. before the season, as Darvish’s ERA was 3.48 as the deadline approached and several teams would have been in on him considering the several years of service left on his contract, not reaching free agency until 2024. Could he have returned a team’s top100 prospect? More than likely.

On the other hand, as Darvish was starting his recent slump right before the deadline, could the return haul the Cubs actually received before the season be better than what they would have gotten for a scuffling hurler at the deadline while being paid $21 million a season? Keep in mind Darvish’s value as Cy Young runner-up over the offseason at the time.

In my opinion, I feel the Cubs would have gotten more at the trade deadline from contending teams looking to add a huge piece to their rotation for a postseason push. However, anything can happen in baseball. The Cubs front office knew they wanted to dismantle the team and therefore got rid of Darvish without risk of him getting injured and losing all of his value.

“Better safe than sorry” seemed to be the motive behind this trade. Sometimes, you need to secure whatever return you can get knowing how expensive of a contract Darvish would have if he had gone back to his down years with the Cubs. Time will tell if Darvish once again finds his mojo, or if dumping Darvish when the Cubs did was a blessing in disguise.