According to multiple sources, the Chicago Cubs and Cincinnati Reds are in deep discussions about a deal that would send lefty reliever Sean Marshall to the Reds in exchange for pitcher Travis Wood and prospects.
Both Bruce Levine and Ken Rosenthal reported the talks a few hours ago, and a team source just confirmed it to me. I’m told the talks are quite serious, and a deal could even be announced as early as today.
It was just yesterday that the prospect of trading Sean Marshall – something that’s been lightly suggested for a while – became a cold possibility. Having missed out on Yu Darvish, it was conceivable that the Cubs would move toward a more “sell” mentality, and it’s possible that we’re now seeing that happen with Marshall as the first piece.
Marshall, as discussed yesterday, is a free agent after this year, in which he’ll make just over $3 million. For one of the clear best relievers in the game, he’s a bargain. That he should net the Cubs a very good return goes without saying. And, to be fair, given his role and contract situation, trading him doesn’t necessary signal an imminent dive bomb into the 2012 season.
As for the return on Marshall, Wood makes an interesting centerpiece. A lefty with just one year of service time, Wood debuted in 2010, and put up a 116 ERA+ in a half season at age 23. He had a 3.51 ERA and a strikingly good 1.081 WHIP that year, with a 3.31 K/BB ratio. He couldn’t keep it up in 2011, though. In another half year, his ERA ballooned to 4.84, his WHIP to 1.491, his walk rate went up, and his K rate went down. The Reds’ trade for Mat Latos this weekend made Wood expendable, if he was even going to crack the rotation at all in 2012.
Drafted by the Reds in 2005 in the second round out of high school, Wood, who will turn 25 in February, was a consistently good minor league pitcher as he worked his way through the Reds’ system. Until his 2011 hiccup – not only did he regress in his time in the big leagues, he struggled at AAA – Wood had the look of the kind of pitching prospect you’d be thrilled to get for Sean Marshall. In that regard, he certainly makes sense as a “buy low” candidate for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer. The kind of player they say they like to target.
Bruce Levine says the Cubs would also be getting prospects for Marshall, but, despite Marshall’s superiority as a reliever, I have a hard time seeing the Cubs getting top prospects in addition to a young, lefty starter who has had success at the big league level, and who isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2014. Perhaps they could get a couple decent, high upside kids – ones they could include in a deal to the Padres for Anthony Rizzo, perhaps? – but I don’t think we’d see the Cubs taking anyone from the Reds’ top ten prospect list.
Obviously we’ll have more on this as it develops, which, again, could be as soon as later today. The Cubs will presumably be making a number of calls to other teams – if they haven’t already – to tell them that this is their last chance to make a knockout offer for Marshall.
When calculating Marshall’s value, don’t forget: if he’s on the same team for all of 2012, and then leaves via free agency (after an offer of a one-year contract worth the average of the top 125 salaries in the game (about $12 million), which he might decline), he will net his team two high draft picks.