The Chicago Cubs continue to shed payroll as they swapped lefties with the Cincinnati Reds. Twenty-nine-year-old Sean Marshall, a starter turned reliever, was sent to the Reds for 24-year-old Travis Wood and two prospects to be named later. Marshall was due to make $3.1MM in 2012 before becoming a free agent in 2013. Wood is still under a rookie contract until 2014 when he is arbitration eligible.
After a promising rookie year in 2010 in which he went 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA, 1.08 WHIP and 86 K/26 BB over 102.2 innings, Wood regressed in 2011. Over 18 starts, he went 6-6, 4.84 ERA 1.49 WHIP 76 K/40 BB over 106 innings. He features a plus/plus change-up that sits in the 79-82 mph range. His cut fastball tops out at 91 mph and is an above-average pitch. He uses both pitches to induce ground balls, something that is vital for success at Wrigley Field. He still needs to add a third reliable pitch as both his curve and slider are still a work in progress. At 5’-11”, 175 lbs, there have also been concerns about his durability as a starter and his upside may end up being a late inning specialist out of the pen.
Marshall, a 6’-7”, 220-lb lefty, was a sixth-round draft pick by the Cubs in 2003. He started out as a starter for the team over his first two seasons, then became a spot starter/reliever. Over the last two seasons, he has become one of the best, and most reliable, relievers in the game posting a 2.44 ERA, 1.10 WHIP and 169 K/42 BB over 158 appearances combined. He also had 56 holds and six saves.
Cubs GM Theo Epstein seems to be sticking with a plan of patience, possibly waiting for next year’s deep free-agent class that includes pitchers Matt Cain, Cole Hamels and both Dan Haren and James Shields having club options in 2013. With $33MM coming off the books next season, as both Zambrano ($19MM) and Dempster ($14MM) have expiring contracts, the Cubs figure to be major players in the free-agent market. They have already cut $48.8MM off the 2012 payroll as Aramis Ramirez ($14.6MM), Kosuke Fukudome ($14.5MM), Carlos Pena ($10MM) and Jeff Samardzija ($3.1MM) have all moved on.