Cubs Insider

Yu don’t say: Darvish dump by Cubs ‘shot of belief’ for SD

Cubs Insider

Less than two months after he dumped Yu Darvish in a $60 million salary-dump trade with the allegedly small-market Padres, Cubs president Jed Hoyer marveled at the difference between the contending, spending Padres these days compared to his two low-budget years at their general manager a decade ago.

“It’s funny,” he said. “The payroll my first year was $38-and-a-half million, and my second year I think it was $40-and-a-half million.”

Now? The team with the best record in the National League as it opens a three-game series in Chicago has two $300 million players on the roster in Manny Machado and Fernando Tatis Jr.

Two. Two of the seven such contracts in MLB history. Nobody else has more than one.

“It’s crazy,” Hoyer said.

It’s downright bizarre when set beside the direction and decisions over the past few months and years of the Padres’ opponent this week in Chicago: A Cubs team that is one of the richest in the game, annually among the top three revenue producers in the sport.

At least Darvish isn’t scheduled to pitch against the Cubs this week to further mock the players and fans with a power-pitching reminder of the $126-million arm ownership tied behind the team’s back before setting it on its budget-conscious way into this season.

So far, the Cubs have defied expectations with a monster May that has put them hot on the heels of the front-running Cardinals in the National League Central.

But this ain’t the Padres.


And for the first time in a very long time, that’s not a good thing for the North Siders.

“It’s a credit to ownership. It's a credit to our front office,” said the manager of the team doing all that investing in long-term contracts for good players and winning now.

“It’s a credit to … certainly the player development side,” continued Padres manager Jayce Tingler in response to a question about the upside-down nature of the big-money Cubs salary-dumping a pitcher of Darvish’s caliber while a team of traditionally lesser means snaps him up.

“I know this: I worked in the front office for two years, and the one thing that I learned is it’s incredibly hard to make deals,” Tingler said. “So when things line up, and you’re able to do it, I think to your point it showed a big-time commitment from our ownership and front office.”

It obviously helps when ownership on the other side flinches at short-term market threats to some of the bills at the top of its billions-high stacks of dollars.

And if you’re among the rank and file on either side not in position to make those decisions?

“I can tell you from the guys in this clubhouse, it sparks us,” Tingler said. “It’s a shot of adrenaline at the time. It’s a shot of belief. I also think it sparks a fan base as well.”

Hoyer is in the unenviable position of identifying with Tingler on the one hand, while on the other hand being as hamstrung as Jason Heyward and Jake Marisnick to do much about it when it comes to his current team these days.

“I will say this: It makes me really happy for the [San Diego] fan base,” Hoyer said in spring training. “This is a fan base that had two sports teams, and they lost the Chargers. The fact that now they can do this, it’s great for them, because I think they always had this sense of being the tiny market below L.A.

“And I think that was always something that bothered the fan base, watching these players knowing they’re going to be traded away, knowing they’re just grooming them for someone else. It’s really good for that city to be able to have this kind of team, especially now with the Chargers gone.”

Pre-Justin Fields Bears jokes aside, the absurd juxtaposition of the Cubs and Padres these days makes it hard not to see Hoyer’s return to a top job with the Cubs as some kind of cruel full-circle path back to a place that looks more like Nickels and Dimes than Addison and Clark.

Meanwhile, the guys in the Ricketts ownership’s clubhouse are doing their part despite the lack of “spark” and “belief” and support.

They were 18-8 in May entering Monday’s series opener.

And the two All-Star core guys in the lineup — the Machado and Tatis of this lineup who don’t have the long-term deals — struck like thunder and lightning in the third inning Monday when Kris Bryant tripled, and Javy Báez followed with a monster homer.


Bryant, an early MVP candidate, struck again in the fifth with a two-run homer. And Báez added another homer in the seventh.

Imagine if they were getting the same impact from the top of the organization. Imagine the spark to the clubhouse. To the fan base.

Look no farther than the Padres dugout and the man with the 2.16 ERA and 10-1 team record when he pitches for the Padres. On second thought, maybe don’t look too close at that this week.

“I just know we believe he’s — if not the top — one of the top guys in the league,” Tingler said. “And we just want to keep it going.”

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