Padres should turn to rebuilding Cubs for pitching help

Padres Mike Clevinger

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With Mike Clevinger out for the 2021 season, the Padres need to engage the Cubs in trade talks for a starting pitcher.

On Monday, the Padres were blindsided, signing Mike Clevinger to a two-year contract extension, but it was also announced that the 29-year-old would require Tommy John surgery. He will miss all of the 2021 season.

Clevinger was the trade deadline splash for San Diego, making four starts to close out the regular season. In his fourth and final start, Clevinger left after an inning with bicep tightness later diagnosed as an elbow sprain.

He returned briefly in the NLDS against the Dodgers but left with similar symptoms. The Padres felt he would be 100 percent for spring training, but obviously, things have since changed.

General manager A.J. Preller immediately released a statement regarding Dinelson Lamet, confirming the 28-year-old will begin his throwing program soon.

Regardless if Lamet is healthy, starting pitching just jumped to the top of the Padres’ to-do list this offseason. The offense finished with the third-most runs in the league, and if Clevinger and Lamet were healthy for the playoffs, the NLDS could have gone differently. In order to keep pace with a Dodgers’ roster that will remain relatively intact, the Padres should consider making a move to acquire a rotation arm.

And they should look no further than the Chicago Cubs, who are apparently making everyone available this offseason, according to ESPN’s Buster Olney. The Cubs have had a string of lackluster seasons after winning their first World Series title in 108 years, and it appears they are committed to an extreme roster makeover.

The Padres should look at either Yu Darvish or Kyle Hendricks as their trade targets. The former finished second in Cy Young voting this past season, and Hendricks finished third in 2016. The Cubs would love to free up payroll, offloading Darvish’s contract, owed nearly $60M over the final three years of his deal. The first year and a half of his contract looked terrible as injuries limited the 34-year-old.

He bounced back in a big way in 2020, which carried over from the second half of 2019, posting a 2.01 ERA in 12 starts while fanning 93 batters in just 76.0 innings. The Cubs are obviously looking for prospects in return, but they’ll likely have to eat some of Darvish’s contract to make the deal work.

According to BaseballTradeValues, Adrian Morejon and Hudson Head are close to making it a fair trade for both sides. The financials make it a bit more challenging in terms of how much the Cubs would have to retain. Obviously, this is just one example of a trade, but the Cubs need younger arms close to Major League ready.

Hendricks is younger than Darvish and recently signed a five-year contract extension at a team-friendly $13.9M AAV through the 2024 season. He’ll turn 31 before the 2021 season begins and has consistently been a dominant pitcher despite not having blazing speed. He’s often been compared to Greg Maddux, utilizing off-speed and deception to fool hitters. Hendricks features a devastating changeup, yielding a .228 average against last season.

The Padres would likely have to give up more to acquire Hendricks, with the Cubs retaining none of Hendricks’ salary.

Outside of the Cubs’ organization, the Padres could sign the top free agent this offseason in Trevor Bauer. They would be able to keep everyone, but the organization would likely be tied down financially.

Regardless of which direction they proceed, Preller needs to have a starting pitcher (or two) in mind should Lamet follow Clevinger’s path as well. Both MacKenzie Gore and Luis Patino aren’t ready to be inserted into the rotation on Opening Day. Some seasoning and a promotion later in the year could be in the cards, but the Padres need to be proactive in acquiring starting pitching help.

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