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The Yu Darvish trade isn’t as bad for the Cubs as you think

... and in the long run, it’s likely going to be very good for the ballclub.

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Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Yes, I know. You hate the Yu Darvish trade. You think the Cubs are tanking.

In The Athletic, Peter Gammons says that isn’t so:

For the Cubs, this isn’t about tanking.

Well, that’s a provocative statement. Let’s let Gammons elaborate:

“The farm system,” says one Cubs observer, “is already being completely rebuilt. The Padres trade only makes that better and Cristian Hernandez, who is in this year’s international class out of the Dominican, has been comped to A-Rod.”

Well, that’s very interesting. Of course, Hernandez is another 17-year-old kid and even if he does wind up as good a player as Alex Rodriguez (without the PEDs, one would hope), he’s still two to three years away from the big leagues.

But wait, there’s more!

The Cubs think fireballing lefty Brailyn Márquez will be up this season, as will right-hander Adbert Alzolay. Catcher Miguel Amaya is close. Outfielder Brennen Davis has the earmarks of a star. Nico Hoerner is a really good player, in the infield or center field.

That sounds like a system ready to produce, if not multiple star players, at least solid major-league regulars and pitchers.

And what about the four players the Cubs got from the Padres?

“We really like the guys we sent to the Cubs,” says one Padres official who, unlike some who commented on the trade, saw all of them extensively in the instructional league. He sees 6-foot-5 switch-hitting shortstop Reggie Preciado as a “hit tool guy who can play a corner.” Shortstop Yeison Santana is a “strong kid who could stay at short or anywhere in the infield.” Outfielder Ismael Mena is “a really athletic front-of-the-order tools guy who probably will be on a corner.” Outfielder Owen Caissie is a June second-rounder with power.

This all sounds really good. Yes, they are all probably at least three years away, perhaps more. But as Gammons reminds us, speaking of Fernando Tatis Jr.:

None of the players the Cubs got from the Padres have played in the minor leagues yet. But neither had Tatis, five years ago.

And as I have noted elsewhere, the Cubs could still contend in the NL Central in 2021 even after trading Darvish:

As Hoyer planned the reboot, he could make the Darvish trade — and perhaps more to come by the trading deadline — because of the lack of spending in the NL Central. The Cardinals have not seemed inclined to add any big pieces. The Brewers can’t afford to. The Reds seemed poised to be back in the high life, but they are losing Trevor Bauer, traded Raisel Iglesias and are moving on to their next window. And the Pirates are not going to add high-priced players.

“Perhaps more to come by the trading deadline.” Well, maybe. That would depend on how the Cubs are doing in the division race, no? If the Cubs are in first place at the deadline, would they still trade potential free agents Bryant, Baez and Rizzo? I’d think they’d rather hang on to them in that case, even if this Cubs team doesn’t seem likely to win any postseason round — and remember, we still don’t know what sort of postseason we’re going to have. It could wind up being expanded to the point of having wild-card series again, as we did in October 2020.

I don’t believe the Cubs are going to trade Willson Contreras, despite the rumors out there. He’s not expensive and he’s under team control through 2022. Jed Hoyer and his team should be working on a contract extension for Willson, in my view. As Gammons notes:

When there is a restoration of normality at Wrigleyville, the Ricketts family investments will begin to profit again. The Darvish trade will free them of $19 million to use on player payroll.

Get it done, Cubs. Because if you don’t, those Wrigleyville profits might not happen.