Yu Darvish found out things move fast when San Diego Padres general manager A.J. Preller is wheeling and dealing.
The right-hander didn’t think he’d be traded away by the Chicago Cubs but was caught up in Preller’s vortex. Within the span of about 24 hours this week, the Padres obtained left-hander Blake Snell in a big deal with Tampa Bay, finalized a $28 million, four-year deal with South Korean slugger Kim Ha-seong, a deal that could be worth $34 million over five seasons if a a mutual option is excised and contains $1 million annually in performance bonuses. San Diego then obtained Darvish in another blockbuster deal.
Darvish found out about it on social media.
“When I woke up that morning I saw the Snell trade go down and I thought nothing’s going to happen,” Darvish said through an interpreter during a videoconference Thursday. “I wasn’t expecting the Padres to make another move but I was receiving phone calls within the hour and I found out on Twitter, yeah.
“I wasn’t expecting to be traded and obviously this happened in one single day so I was pretty shocked. Not in a bad way,” Darvish said.
After running out of starting pitching during their first postseason appearance in 14 seasons, the Padres added two aces in moves that solidify them as one of baseball’s best teams and should make for an interesting NL West race against the eight-time defending champion Los Angeles Dodgers.
The 34-year-old Darvish was 8-3 with a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts for Chicago during the pandemic-shortened season and finished 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.
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Chicago will send San Diego $3 million in $500,000 installments 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.
During his time in Texas’ front office, Preller scouted Darvish before the Rangers acquired the Japanese right-hander in 2012.
The Padres also got catcher Victor Caratini as part of the trade 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.
The Padres made the playoffs this year for the first time since 2006, but injuries left their rotation in shambles when the postseason started.
Mike Clevinger, obtained in a blockbuster deal with Cleveland at the trade deadline, and Dinelson Lamet were forced out of their final regular-season starts by elbow injuries. Clevinger missed the wild card round against St. Louis and started Game 1 of the NL Division Series against the Dodgers, but was forced out in the second inning. He had Tommy John surgery in mid-November and will miss the 2021 season. Lamet missed the postseason entirely but has avoided surgery.
The Cubs also made the playoffs but were swept in the wild-card round by the Marlins. Darvish started and lost Game 2.
“Obviously with what’s happening with the coronavirus and the money that the Cubs have, I wasn’t really thinking about being traded and also they are a winning team, so I felt we would be able to compete," Darvish said.
The Padres had the NL’s second-best record in 2020.
“I think this is one of the best teams in baseball right now,” Darvish said. “Actually, I wanted to throw against the Padres last season just to see how good I was. I always want to be fighting against the best teams. I’m very happy to be joining a team as strong as the Padres.”
Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, helped the Rays reach the World Series. He went 4-1 with a 3.24 ERA in 11 starts, and then went 2-2 with a 3.03 ERA in six postseason starts. He was memorably pulled from Game 6 of the World Series after 73 pitches, and the Rays went on to lose the game and the Series to the Dodgers.
Darvish and Snell join a rotation that will include Lamet and Chris Paddack, with a number of young pitchers, including top prospect MacKenzie Gore, competing for the fifth spot.
“I just want to study a lot from the guys in this rotation,” Darvish said. “There’s a lot of great pitchers and myself, I want to be able to watch their bullpens, watch their numbers throughout the season, and hopefully that can help me grow into a better pitcher.”
He’ll be backed by an exciting offense that plays with flair, led by Fernando Tatis Jr. and Manny Machado.
Darvish said he’s had his kids watch highlights of the Padres’ lineup on YouTube.
“They’re a very strong team and I’m really excited to watch batting practice,” he said.
Kim gets a $4 million signing bonus, payable in $1 million installments on March 15, 2021, and each Jan. 15 from 2022 though 2024, and salaries of $4 million in 2021, $5 million in 2022, $6 million in 2023 and $7 million in 2024. The deal includes an $8 million mutual option for 2025 with a $2 million buyout.
He would earn $100,000 a season for 400 plate appearances, $200,000 apiece for 450 and 500, and $250,000 each for 550 and 600. Bonuses would be payable on Jan. 15 following the season in which they are earned.
Kim would get a one-time $1 million assignment bonus if traded, payable by the receiving team, and his team will provide an interpreter and English lessons for Kim and his family. He will receive eight round-trip business class plane tickets each season and the team shall reimburse or pay for visa fees. Kim cannot be sent to the minor leagues without his consent during the 2023, 2024 and 2025 seasons, and he will become a free agent when the contract ends.
Follow Bernie Wilson on Twitter at http://twitter.com/berniewilson