The Cubs assigned Zach Davies and Kyle Hendricks lockers right next to each other in spring training. Two right-handers, who throw in the high-80s and rely on fineness, side by side.
“I think they know the comparisons too,” Davies joked Sunday, in his first Zoom conference with local media since joining the Cubs.
Davies landed on the Cubs roster as part of the Yu Darvish trade in December. The Cubs sent their ace and catcher Victor Caratini to the Padres for Davies and four prospects. And just like that, Davies went from a team with World Series aspirations to one in transition.
“This is the third time for me being traded, so I'm kind of used to it by now,” Davies said.
From the outside, however, this change of scenery looks especially jarring. The Padres were trending toward championship contention last season before injuries hobbled their starting rotation. After adding Darvish, Blake Snell, Joe Musgrove and Ha-Seong Kim, not to mention agreeing on a massive extension for Fernando Tatís Jr., San Diego is widely considered the winner of this offseason.
The Cubs, on the other hand, only recently gained more budget flexibility. Their most expensive signing of the winter was Joc Pederson, who joined the Cubs on a $7 million one-year contract. Describing this season as a transition is an understatement, with core hitters like Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Anthony Rizzo entering their final season of club control, and many of this season’s additions joining the Cubs on short-term deals.
Davies too could become a free agent in 2022.
“I think it's business as usual,” he said. “I think everybody in this clubhouse is preparing to win ballgames during the course of the year and compete for playoffs.”
As Davies prepares for the season, he’s a favorite to claim a No. 2 or 3 spot in the rotation. He’s also joining a pitching staff full of starters with skillsets similar to his. Another change.
When the Padres acquired Mike Clevenger at the trade deadline last year, he became one of four Padres starters whose fastball sat in the mid-to-high 90s. Davies was the odd man out, a different look for hitters.
The Cubs, on the other hand, have a plenty of finesse pitchers vying for spots in the rotation.
“We're not trying to corner the market on control/command, guys,” Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer said with a chuckle. “I think it seems that way with (us) getting Zach Davies this winter and then adding Trevor Williams. I love guys who throw 97. But I do think our infrastructure has done really well with these guys.”
Those command/control guys, including Hendricks and Alec Mills, have stressed their differences this spring. They point to their individual strengths and how those alter the way they attack hitters. Their similarities, in turn, give them a foundation to learn from each other.
Davies and Hendricks can just turn to the locker next door.
“I love information, I love talking about baseball,” Davies said. “So, I enjoy every moment of those conversations.”