Yu Darvish
Which version of Yu Darvish are the Padres getting? General Manager AJ Preller is putting his reputation on the line taking a risk he didn’t’ have to take. (Albert Cesare/Imagn Content Services, LLC)

The Padres made a big slash trading for Cubs starter Yu Darvish OR did they make a grave mistake? While the Padres might think they’re getting a quality starter to prop at the top of the rotation, it’s an incredibly risky trade by AJ Preller. One that he will likely regret.

Let’s just get this out of the way right now. Yu Darvish is a bad contract. Sports Illustrated gave the Padres an A for the trade which is just totally laughable. Obviously, a writer that doesn’t understand the true value of players.

Zach Davies is arguably a better player than Yu Darvish. The only difference is Darvish is just a bigger name. Davies had a lower ERA than Darvish in 2019 and 2018. He’s also the much younger player heading into his age 28 season while Darvish will play his age 34 season.

Yes, Darvish was great in 12 starts but think about how things have changed. He’s gone from a contract nobody wanted to giving up a cheaper and probably better version of Davies and four lottery tickets all ranked inside the top 20 of the farm system. Who does that trade?

Let’s use 2019 because that was mapped out over a full season. Of course, despite the fact that Davies is moving closer towards is prime and has shown consistent improvement. Darvish was declining but had 12 great starts out of nowhere.

Darvish had a 2.6 WAR in 2019 compared to 1.6 for Davies. Darvish was offering maybe net neutral surplus value. Davies on the other hand was earning pennies and provide above average contributions. The Surplus value sides with Davies.

For this trade to make any sense, Darvish not only has to pitch well, but he also has to pitch well enough to be worth about $15 million more than Davies. That money can be used to repair the rest of the Cubs roster.

If you’re San Diego, why would you eat $59 million of Darvish over the next three years while giving up assets? Corey Kluber, Trevor Bauer, Tomoyuki Sugano, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka, Jose Quintana, Jake Odorizzi, and Jon Lester are all available on the market. All of those guys can be had for just dollars instead of giving up pieces to already pay a high average annual value for Darvish.

For the Cubs, this was a no brainer trade. You sell high on Darvish all day long. Jed Hoyer hit the nail on the head.

“There are teams that never had that opportunity or chose not to take it,” Hoyer said of retooling. “The Giants and the Phillies and the Tigers are examples.”

Chicago added SS Reginald Preciado, SS Yeison Santana, OF Owen Caissie, OF Ismael Mena as part of the trade along with Davies. All of whom made the top 20 list in the Cubs farm system and neither are older than 20. Look, I’m not saying they’re guaranteed hits but it’s a nice boost to the system. If two of them can play, it’s a cherry on top to getting rid of the contract.

The Padres are all in. I’m not sure they should be. AJ Preller is the last guy to trust in order to build a contender. Preller has been the general manager since 2014 and has never guided San Diego to an 80 win season. Even last year, the Padres made the playoffs but were swept out of the building by the Dodgers.

Making panic trades for Darvish, a guy who choked during the postseason with LA, feels like a dangerous gamble. Which Darvish are we getting? For this trade to be worth it, the Friars need the 2020 version every single day who can throw 10 different pitches and fool hitters with his high spin rate.

I’m just afraid the 2020 version was a fluke. Darvish hasn’t been a high caliber starter prior to this season since 2014. The last time AJ Preller made a big move for an existing high salary player in his 30’s, it was Matt Kemp. How did that one go? Preller is once again staking his reputation on a risk he didn’t have to take.