Padres acquire Yu Darvish in blockbuster trade with Cubs

David Banks-USA TODAY Sports
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CHICAGO — San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller reunited with an old friend in another blockbuster move Tuesday night.

The aggressive Padres got Yu Darvish in a trade with the Chicago Cubs, adding another ace to their rotation after announcing a deal for Blake Snell earlier in the day. During his time in Texas’ front office, Preller scouted Darvish before the Rangers acquired the Japanese right-hander in 2012.

“His last season and a half has been as productive as anybody in the game. He’s a force,” Preller said Tuesday night. “So I think getting back on the phone with him, catching up for a few minutes, really looking forward to being around him every single day again.”

The Padres got Darvish, catcher Victor Caratini and $3 million from the Cubs for right-hander Zach Davies and four young minor leaguers. The switch-hitting Caratini caught Darvish in Chicago and batted .241 with 16 RBIs last season.

“We’ve had interest in Victor for a few years now,” Preller said. “I think he’s been a guy that, just on his own, we feel like is a quality catching option for us.”

Davies went 7-4 with a 2.73 ERA in 12 starts for San Diego this year. The package of prospects headed to Chicago includes Owen Caissie, an 18-year-old outfielder who was selected by the Padres in the second round of this year’s amateur draft.

The 34-year-old Darvish was 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts for Chicago during the pandemic-shortened season, finishing second in the NL Cy Young Award race. He has three years and $59 million left on the $126 million, six-year deal he signed with the Cubs before the 2018 season.

Chicago will send San Diego payments of $500,000 on the first day of each month from April through September in 2021, offsetting a portion of Darvish’s $22 million salary. He is owed $19 million in 2022 and $18 million in 2023.

San Diego also completed a big trade with Tampa Bay for Snell. The 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner was sent from the Rays to the Padres for a package of four players: right-handers Luis Patino and Cole Wilcox, and catchers Francisco Mejia and Blake Hunt – all well-regarded youngsters from a San Diego system that’s been stocking the farm for years.

The Padres made the playoffs this year for the first time since 2006, but their injury-depleted rotation was in shambles when the postseason arrived. They beat St. Louis in the first round before getting swept in three Division Series games by their NL West rivals, the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers.

Mike Clevinger, acquired from Cleveland in August, isn’t expected back from Tommy John surgery until 2022, but the Padres have other quality starters in Dinelson Lamet and Chris Paddack. Left-hander MacKenzie Gore is one of baseball’s top pitching prospects.

“Pretty much every trade conversation usually starts with MacKenzie Gore,” Preller said. “But again, I think we’re looking forward to Mack coming to camp and competing and being part of the organization here for a long time.”

Darvish is in the middle of a career renaissance after struggling upon arrival in Chicago. He was limited to eight starts and 40 innings in 2018 because of injuries. He started to regain his form in 2019, posting a 2.76 ERA with 118 strikeouts in 81 2/3 innings over his final 13 starts.

He picked up this year right where he left off, helping the Cubs to the NL Central title. The right-hander attributed some of his turnaround to going back to a more deliberate style that he employed when he was a star pitcher in Japan. He also has developed a rapport with Caratini that should help his transition to San Diego.

Four years after a historic World Series championship, Chicago is retooling under Jed Hoyer, who was promoted to president of baseball operations after Theo Epstein stepped down in November. Veteran outfielders Kyle Schwarber and Albert Almora Jr. were let go on Dec. 2, but the Darvish deal is the team’s biggest move since Hoyer took over.

There could be more trades on the horizon. All-Star sluggers Kris Bryant, Javier Baez and Anthony Rizzo are eligible for free agency after next season. But the Cubs still might be able to contend while Hoyer reworks the roster due to the cost-cutting atmosphere around the NL Central.

Minor league infielders Reginald Preciado, 17, and Yeison Santana, 20, and outfielder Ismael Mena, 18, also were acquired by the Cubs in the Darvish trade.

Bonds, Clemens left out of Hall again; McGriff elected

John Hefti-USA TODAY Sports
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SAN DIEGO – Moments after Fred McGriff was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame, almost two decades after his final game, he got the question.

Asked if Barry Bonds belonged in Cooperstown, a smiling McGriff responded: “Honestly, right now, I’m going to just enjoy this evening.”

A Hall of Fame committee delivered its answer Sunday, passing over Bonds, Roger Clemens and Curt Schilling while handing McGriff the biggest honor of his impressive big league career.

The lanky first baseman, nicknamed the “Crime Dog,” hit .284 with 493 homers and 1,550 RBIs over 19 seasons with six major league teams. The five-time All-Star helped Atlanta win the 1995 World Series.

McGriff got 169 votes (39.8%) in his final year on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot in 2019. Now, he will be inducted into Cooperstown on July 23, along with anyone chosen in the writers’ vote, announced Jan. 24.

“It’s all good. It’s been well worth the wait,” said McGriff, who played his last big league game in 2004.

It was the first time that Bonds, Clemens and Schilling had faced a Hall committee since their 10th and final appearances on the Baseball Writers’ Association of America ballot. Bonds and Clemens have been accused of using performance-enhancing drugs, and support for Schilling dropped after he made hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, reporters and others.

While the 59-year-old McGriff received unanimous support from the 16 members of the contemporary baseball era committee – comprised of Hall members, executives and writers – Schilling got seven votes, and Bonds and Clemens each received fewer than four.

The makeup of the committee likely will change over the years, but the vote was another indication that Bonds and Clemens might never make it to the Hall.

This year’s contemporary era panel included Greg Maddux, who played with McGriff on the Braves, along with Paul Beeston, who was an executive with Toronto when McGriff made his big league debut with the Blue Jays in 1986.

Another ex-Brave, Chipper Jones, was expected to be part of the committee, but he tested positive for COVID-19 and was replaced by Arizona Diamondbacks President Derrick Hall.

The contemporary era committee considers candidates whose careers were primarily from 1980 on. A player needs 75% to be elected.

“It’s tough deciding on who to vote for and who not to vote for and so forth,” McGriff said. “So it’s a great honor to be unanimously voted in.”

In addition to all his big hits and memorable plays, one of McGriff’s enduring legacies is his connection to a baseball skills video from youth coach Tom Emanski. The slugger appeared in a commercial for the product that aired regularly during the late 1990s and early 2000s – wearing a blue Baseball World shirt and hat.

McGriff said he has never seen the video.

“Come Cooperstown, I’ve got to wear my blue hat,” a grinning McGriff said. “My Tom Emanski hat in Cooperstown. See that video is going to make a revival now, it’s going to come back.”

Hall of Famers Jack Morris, Ryne Sandberg, Lee Smith, Frank Thomas and Alan Trammell also served on this year’s committee, which met in San Diego at baseball’s winter meetings.

Rafael Palmeiro, Albert Belle, Don Mattingly and Dale Murphy rounded out the eight-man ballot. Mattingly was next closest to election, with eight votes of 12 required. Murphy had six.

Bonds, Clemens and Schilling fell short in January in their final chances with the BBWAA. Bonds received 260 of 394 votes (66%), Clemens 257 (65.2%) and Schilling 231 (58.6%).

Palmeiro was dropped from the BBWAA ballot after receiving 25 votes (4.4%) in his fourth appearance in 2014, falling below the 5% minimum needed to stay on. His high was 72 votes (12.6%) in 2012.

Bonds has denied knowingly using performance-enhancing drugs, and Clemens maintains he never used PEDs. Palmeiro was suspended for 10 days in August 2005 following a positive test under the major league drug program.

A seven-time NL MVP, Bonds set the career home run record with 762 and the season record with 73 in 2001. A seven-time Cy Young Award winner, Clemens went 354-184 with a 3.12 ERA and 4,672 strikeouts, third behind Nolan Ryan (5,714) and Randy Johnson (4,875). Palmeiro had 3,020 hits and 568 homers.

Schilling fell 16 votes shy with 285 (71.1%) on the 2021 BBWAA ballot. The right-hander went 216-146 with a 3.46 ERA in 20 seasons, winning the World Series with Arizona in 2001 and Boston in 2004 and 2007.

Theo Epstein, who also served on the contemporary era committee, was the GM in Boston when the Red Sox acquired Schilling in a trade with the Diamondbacks in November 2003.

Players on Major League Baseball’s ineligible list cannot be considered, a rule that excludes Pete Rose.