Today, the Chicago Cubs picked up another young pitcher on the waiver wire, Brett Marshall from the Yankees. Marshall was the roster victim of the Carlos Beltran signing, and the Cubs are the benefactor.* In what proved to be a corresponding move, the Cubs lost young pitcher Liam Hendriks – himself a recent waiver wire pickup – on waivers to the Orioles.
*(Among the small, small upsides of being a downtrodden team like the Cubs: since you aren’t loading up your roster with free agent signings in November and December, you have your pick of the litter from teams that do grab a bunch of free agents, and are then forced to make tough roster decisions with guys like Marshall. Two years ago, the Yankees had to make a similar tough 40-man choice about a certain lefty having a lot of success on the South Side of Chicago right now (Jose Quintana).)
Marshall, 23, was listed by many as a top ten prospect in the Yankees’ system coming into 2013. Although that probably says as much about the state of the Yankees’ farm system as it does about Marshall’s talent, he’s definitely an intriguing arm. An overslot signee out of high school back in 2008, Marshall had Tommy John surgery shortly after joining the Yankees’ organization. After a drama-free recovery, Marshall reached High-A at age 20, and pitched well at AA at 22. That’s when he really had the prospect buzz going, but a down year in 2013 at AAA – 5.13 ERA, 1.1 HR/9, 4.4 BB/9 – tamped things down a bit. Still, his K/9 increased – 7.8 per 9, from a career mark around 7 entering the season – and the Yankees gave him a look early in the year as a fill-in starter, and then late in the year out of the pen (the samples are too small to really make much out of). For his minor league career, Marshall has a 4.07 ERA and a 2.10 K/BB.
Marshall was added to the Yankees’ 40-man roster last year to protect him from the Rule 5 Draft, which means he comes with a nice side bonus: two remaining option years. If he doesn’t make the Cubs in Spring Training, he can simply be optioned to Iowa to continue working there. Presumably, despite the brief stint in the New York bullpen last year, Marshall remains a starter. He’ll fight for the Cubs’ open 5th starter spot in the Spring.
Although it’s from mid-2012, you can read this piece from MiLB.com about Marshall and what he throws. The righty is listed at 6’1″, 195 lbs, so he’s well built.
In losing Hendriks to gain Marshall, the Cubs appear to have swapped similar stories – 23/24-year-old righties with good prospect pedigrees and a questionable ability to contribute at the big league level – but landed on the guy with more upside. I was unabashedly in favor of the Hendriks pickup, but I like the Marshall pickup even more. Marshall is a year younger, throws a little harder, and appears to have better swing-and-miss stuff. If you’re taking a no-risk gamble on a kid whom you can stash, you might as well take the one with higher upside.
It’s worth noting that it’s possible that the Cubs didn’t want to swap Marshall for Hendriks, and were instead merely trying to see if Hendriks would clear waivers so they could try and outright him to Iowa. Given that Hendriks made it all the way up the ladder to the Orioles suggests they came close. C’est la vie.
I’ve got the Cubs’ 40-man roster at 39 after the swap (further indicating that the Cubs didn’t have to swap one for the other if they weren’t hoping to stash Hendriks – they could have simply kept both on the 40-man until a spot was needed (though that was coming soon, with Jose Veras’ deal pending an official announcement)). Perhaps we’ll see the Cubs try to pass Marshall through waivers, too, allowing them to send him to AAA Iowa without taking up a 40-man spot.