Darvish trade signals major shift in Cubs direction
When Jed Hoyer arrived with Theo Epstein before the 2012 season, the duo immediately began cleaning house.
It was a painful rebuild, but it paid off big. The Cubs made the playoffs in 2015, won the World Series the following year and advanced to the NLCS in 2017.
The Cubs also finished first in the NL Central last season and made the playoffs in 2018, but the championship vibe around Wrigley was not nearly as intense.
Well aware the competitive window is drawing down, Hoyer traded ace starting pitcher Yu Darvish and his personal catcher, Victor Caratini, to the Padres Tuesday night in exchange for veteran starter Zach Davies and four prospects.
The Cubs are saving $56 million of the $59 million Darvish is owed over the next three seasons, but Hoyer, the Cubs' new president of baseball operations, said the deal was not made for financial reasons.
"I think we're going to have a really competitive team next year," Hoyer said. "Davies was fifth in ERA and we have a lot of really good players. But do we make some moves with the future in mind after six years of every single move being directed on the present? Yes. I think that's the prudent thing to do.
"It's something we've talked about for several years, something we haven't done. We kept pushing and we kept trading more prospects and we kept spending more money. We're at that time right now. Are we going to be competitive? Absolutely. But are we going to have an eye on the future and make sure we continue to bolster our farm system and make sure we can build a future that is as bright as the last six years we just went through? That's our goal."
Darvish helped the Cubs win the division last season, going 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA and finishing second to Trevor Bauer in Cy Young Award voting.
He's the latest in a long line of veterans no longer on the Cubs' roster, and more players are approaching free agency and likely to follow in the near future.
"There are contractual realities to this core group," Hoyer said. "The fact we haven't been able to get these guys to sign extensions that we felt were the right value, I think we'd be foolish not to keep that in mind as we move forward."
Kris Bryant and Javier Baez are two biggest names eligible for free agency at the end of the 2021 season, and Anthony Rizzo is also on the list.
"We've been incredibly aggressive with some of these guys and they've made the decision that it wasn't enough and they wanted either to wait for a better offer or test free agency," Hoyer said. "That's 100% their right. I begrudge those guys zero percent for making that decision. I'm proud of the offers we've made and I think we certainly didn't try to sign these guys at the bottom of the market or anything."
While Hoyer insists the Cubs are still going to contend for the playoffs next year, he won't be looking to spend big on free agents to fill multiple roster holes anytime soon.
"Once we get back to a place where we feel like we want to step on the gas again, we will financially," Hoyer said. "We will be in that market again just as soon as we have a team that has the bones necessary to do that. We are at this period at the end of the window where I don't think that would make a lot of sense right now. We just did that over the last six years. I think right now, having an eye toward the future is really important."
Three of the four new prospects acquired from San Diego -- shortstop Reginald Preciado and outfielders Ismael Mena and Owen Caissie -- are teenagers. Shortstop Yeison Santana is 20 years old.
"I think it would be a mistake to look at the age of those players and think we viewed this as ... their ages don't represent sort of a window or when we think we can be competitive," Hoyer said. "The focus of this deal was to try to move a player (Darvish) in the second half of his contract and try to acquire a lot of young talent. We don't have many opportunities to do that.
"Look back on the last six years, when have we had a chance to replenish in any way? This was an opportunity to do that and we're excited about what we got back."