Although the Cubs starting outfield picture is completely settled (especially now that Ian Happ’s 2021 salary has been decided), the 4th/5th outfield/bench role has been in flux. Last night, the Cubs re-signed veteran Cameron Maybin and today, they made the previously reported signing of Jake Marisnick officially official.
But it came with a 40-man roster casualty:
The #Cubs today agreed to terms with OF Jake Marisnick on a major league contract for 2021 with a mutual option for the 2022 season.
OF Phillip Ervin has been designated for assignment. pic.twitter.com/ftsTXCixoI
— Chicago Cubs (@Cubs) February 21, 2021
As Brett discussed earlier today, Marisnick is very likely to be the nominal “fourth” outfielder when the season begins, while Maybin will be competing with a number of back-end bench options (in both the infield and outfield) like Michael Hermosillo, Nick Martini, Ian Miller, Ragael Ortega, Matt Duffy, Ildemaro Vargas, and Patrick Wisdom.
Of course, we had initially included Phillip Ervin, 28, in that conversation given his youth and success against left-handed pitchers throughout his career (113 wRC+) – which was a big area of weakness for the Cubs offense last season. And it’s not like Joc Pederson nor Cameron Maybin (nor Marisnick for that matter) have done much to alleviate those concerns. Alas, the Cubs 40-man roster is full to the brim and the Cubs chose to keep Marisnick at the risk of losing Ervin (I’m sure landing Maybin helped make the decision a little easier).
Oh, and another thought: Remember that the Cubs have promised to give Joc Pederson a chance to start every day, even against lefties, which is yet another reason why risking the loss of Ervin likely felt tenable.
But remember, this doesn’t mean the Cubs have *definitely* lost him. Now that he’s been DFA’d and cleared from the 40-man for the time being, the Cubs have seven days to trade, waive, or release him. They could simply be hoping that, at this time of the year, Ervin will fly through waivers, as teams get their budgets and rosters settled, and could stick in the organization thereafter. He doesn’t have any minor league options left, however, so that makes his path with the Cubs a little more difficult. Of course, that might also help him avoid being selected by another team on waivers.
Here’s what Brett had to say about Marisnick when the signing was first reported:
Marisnick, 29, is a righty bat who has been near league-average in his career against lefties, but very much a “reserve” bat against fellow righties. But he’s carved out a successful role for himself on some very good teams because the glove plays well all over the outfield.
When deployed judiciously, as you can see, he won’t kill you at the plate (though he’s a high strikeout guy). But it’s the glove that matters most, because he can be above average in center, and a stud in the corners. Having that guy on your bench is very valuable. He also runs the bases really well, and, again, could be a decent bat against lefties off the bench.
Mostly, what you’re looking at here is an Albert Almora, Jr. replacement. The glove is similar, though Almora might be a touch better to the eye test (some metrics say Marisnick is better, though – he was also always heralded as a defensive stud, like Almora). The bat is probably going to favor Marisnick quite a bit.
Also, once again the Cubs have decided to do the one-year big league deal with a mutual option, which effectively allows them to defer some money to 2022 when the budget should be a little higher/looser.