As we continue to wonder whether or not Matt Garza will be with the team on Opening Day, it appears as if the Cubs are set to deal one of their other high-profile pitchers to a division rival.
Word has come down that the Cubs are close to a deal with the Cincinnati Reds that would trade reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds in exchange for mainly Travis Wood.
Marshall has not only been one of the Cubs’ best relievers in the last few seasons, but one of the best relievers in baseball overall. The 6’7″ lefty posted an ERA of 2.26 and a WHIP of 1.097, while posting one of the best WAR numbers in all of baseball at an even five.
It’s curious that the Cubs would consider dealing Marshall, who is their best reliever and setup man, and it certainly raises the question as to who could fill in for him. The most likely candidate is James Russell, who showed promise as a reliever after that disastrous experiment as a starter.
With an ERA over nine in the rotation, Russell posted a 2.19 ERA in just over 49 innings of relief and struck out 33 hitters. With no Marshall or John Grabow in the ‘pen, Russell immediately would become the featured lefty.
The more important part for the Cubs is the return they would get for their setup man. Travis Wood has shown he has the chops to be an effective starter in Major League Baseball, but did experience a decline from a strong 2010 season last year.
His 2010 season featured a nearly thrown perfect game against the Philadelphia Phillies and a 3.51 ERA in 102 innings of work. He also recorded 86 punchouts to just 26 walks. His 2011, however, was not as impressive, as Wood bounced between the bigs and Triple-A.
Though it might not be the popular thing to do, in trading a fan favorite like Marshall, there are certainly positives in acquiring a guy like Travis Wood, who is just 24. While Marshall becomes a free agent after next season, Wood would be under team control until 2017 and isn’t arbitration eligible until 2014.
If the Cubs were to acquire Wood, which looks extremely likely at this point, it’d be interesting to see if they would still pursue Paul Maholm, who they were rumored to be discussing a contract with. But acquiring Wood would get them a lefty in the rotation and a guy who is young and under team control for quite a few years, while allowing them to get something for Marshall, who could bolt and command big money on the market next winter. Stay tuned.
UPDATE: According to Bruce Levine, the two sides have agreed to the deal, with Marshall and Wood as centerpieces. The Cubs will also receive two minor leaguers in the deal. This marks the second trade the Cubs have made this winter, and they could be ready to sell even more in the days and weeks ahead.