The Cubs acquired right-handed pitcher Dauris Valdez from the Padres Monday in exchange for righty James Norwood, who was designated for assignment last week to make room for catcher Tony Wolters. Originally signed by the Padres as an international free agent on February 12, 2016, the 25-year-old Valdez has an 8-9 record with a 3.97 ERA and 14 saves in 122 career minor league appearances in the San Diego organization.
The 6-foot-8 right-hander was a non-roster invitee to major league Spring Training each of the last two seasons after reaching the Double-A in 2019. FanGraphs did not rank Valdez among the Padres’ top 53 prospects heading into the 2020 season, but he did receive honorable mention among a small group of relievers.
You have to believe members of the Cubs’ pitching infrastructure are drooling at the chance to work with a big-bodied hurler whose fastball sits 96-98 mph and can touch triple digits. According to John Eshleman of 2080 baseball, the heater “rides up in the zone and features late tailing action when he hits a spot in the lower third.” The issue is that Valdez may lack the athleticism to truly get the most out of his 3/4 delivery, though that’s something Craig Breslow‘s staff may tinker with.
“[H]is fastball projects to play as a 55-grade future pitch despite his 70-grade raw velocity,” Eshleman wrote. “A 81-to-84 mph slider shows the signs of being an out pitch, and Valdez has a good feel to throw it both early and late in counts. He can steal a surprise strike with the breaking ball or snap off a wipeout pitch down and out of the zone for a strikeout when he gets to two strikes.”
Sounds good to me. There’s also the idea of the Cubs picking up big and/or hard-throwing pitchers from the Padres, which seems to be a significant trend at this point. Rowan Wick, Brad Wieck, Trevor Megill, and now Valdez have been acquired via Rule 5 pick or trade for a player the Cubs no longer had room for. At 6-foot-3, Wick is the shortest member of that group by 5 inches.
The 27-year-old Norwood was 0-2 with a 4.50 ERA in 23 career relief appearances spanning the 2018-20 seasons for Chicago. He was selected by the Cubs in the seventh round of the 2014 draft.