Cubs have struck gold on Marshall trade

Cubs have struck gold on Marshall trade
May 20, 2013, 10:30 pm
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Tony Andracki

When the Cubs dealt Sean Marshall, one of the game's elite relievers, to the Reds in December 2011, Theo Epstein and the front office were all about turning short-term assets into long-term assets.

They may have done just that with Travis Wood.

[MARCH -- The Cubs Playbook: Looking back at the Marshall trade]

Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and infielder Ronald Torreyes came back to the Cubs in exchange for Marshall in a deal that has worked out well for both teams.

After another very good start Sunday against the Mets, Wood sure looks like a core piece for the future and could have a place at the back end of a rotation headlined by Jeff Samardzija. With Matt Garza returning to the mound Tuesday and the No. 2 pick in next month's MLB Draft -- where they are expected to take either Stanford ace Mark Appel or Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray -- the Cubs are suddenly in a very good place with their rotation.

Wood won't turn 27 until February and has rattled off nine straight quality starts to begin the 2013 season. He has a 4-2 record pitching for a Cubs team on pace for 94 losses while sporting a 2.24 ERA, 0.93 WHIP and a phenomenal 5.5 hits per nine inning ratio.

Sappelt, 26, performed well (.800 OPS -- on base plus slugging percentage) in limited time late in 2012 and began the season as the right-handed portion of the center field platoon. But he hit just .178/.229/.222 in 20 games and the Cubs sent him down to Triple-A Iowa to make room for veteran outfielder Ryan Sweeney.

[RELATED: For Cubs, no DH necessary]

If the Cubs start selling off pieces at the trade deadline, Sappelt, a former minor-league batting champ, could find his way back up in the majors as a fourth or fifth outfielder.

Torreyes could be a darkhorse as an intriguing prospect who boasts a ridiculous contact rate. In 303 minor league games and more than 1,300 plate appearances, Torreyes has struck out just 74 times while drawing 84 walks. The Venezuelan native will turn 21 in September and carries a .265/.369/.353 line at Double-A Tennessee.

Torreyes is reportedly shorter than his official 5-foot-9 listing and his 140-pound frame will struggle to develop power, but he has already reached the high levels of the minor leagues despite being one of the youngest players in professional baseball.

The Cubs may have gotten exactly what they wanted, but the Reds have to be happy with their haul as well.

Marshall had only one year left before free agency at the time of the trade, but the Reds immediately locked him up with a three-year extension. The southpaw is only 30 and turned in 6.3 Wins Above Replacement (Baseball Reference version) from 2010-12 as one of the most valuable relievers in the game.

This season, Marshall has only appeared in 11 games -- totaling seven innings -- thanks to a stint on the DL with a minor shoulder injury, but he has already racked up seven holds and boasts a 2.57 ERA and 0.86 WHIP.

Marshall's presence as the set-up man for dynamic closer Aroldis Chapman provides a steady back end of the bullpen for a Reds team that has their sights set on an extended postseason run.

In this day and age, it's not often MLB trades wind up making both teams better. Usually it seems there is one clear winner or loser, or in some cases, both teams come out on the short end.

Take the Cubs-Rockies deal in early December 2011, when the Cubs traded Tyler Colvin and D.J. LeMahieu to the Rockies for Ian Stewart and pitcher Casey Weathers.

After contributing to the big-league Rockies last season, Colvin (18 HRs, .858 OPS in 136 games in 2012) and LeMahieu (.297 AVG in 81 games in '12) started 2013 with Triple-A Colorado Springs before LeMahieu was called up late last week.

Stewart missed most of last year after having wrist surgery, then hurt his quad early in spring training this season and struggled on his minor-league rehab assignment. When his rehab stint was up, the Cubs decided to keep Stewart in Triple-A and his future with the club is bleak.

[RELATED: Cubs have lost patience with Ian Stewart]

Weathers, the former eight-overall pick of the 2007 MLB Draft, saw his career derailed by Tommy John surgery that caused him to miss the entire 2009 season. He hasn't been the same since and has not made a professional appearance in 2013.