While you were distracted by the big deadline trades of Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Trevor Williams, and Craig Kimbrel — while perhaps still dealing with the hangovers losing Anthony Rizzo, Andrew Chafin, and Joc Pederson — the Cubs quietly completed another trade just before the bell rang.
Outfielder Jake Marisnick is heading to San Diego, reportedly for 23-year-old High-A starter Anderson Espinoza.
The Cubs signed Marisnick, 30, over the offseason, and he was a big part of the team’s early season success, crushing lefties (129 wRC+) and filling in across the outfield. With his speed and defense, Marisnick is exactly the sort of complimentary piece contending teams love to add for the postseason. Not unlike relievers, their value is a little higher in October (relatively speaking), when the opportunities are fewer and more specific.
As far as the return goes, it’s actually pretty interesting. Espinoza, 23, was a big bonus ($1.8M) international free agent signed by the Red Sox back in 2014. And by 2016 (through 2017) he was a top-20 prospect in all of MLB, who made his way to the Padres in the Drew Pomeranz deal. Unfortunately, his career took a bit of a turn shortly thereafter, as he underwent Tommy John surgery in 2017 … and again in 2019. And with the 2020 minor league season getting cancelled, he didn’t make his way back to the mound until May of this year!
So in that respect, this is actually a pretty great flyer for a guy like Marisnick.
The Padres have been bringing Espinoza along slowly, allowing him to start games (12 so far), but never throwing more than 3 innings in any one appearance. And so far he’s struck out 37 batters (29.4%) against 13 walks (10.3 BB%) over 28.2 IP. He’s getting hit plenty, but I suspect the focus has been entirely on building him back up. Like I said, the last time this guy was healthy, he was a top-50 prospect in MLB. There’s a reason he was available at all – let alone for Marisnick – and that’s the surgery and lack of, you know, pitching over the last few years, but I love betting on upside in these sort of deals. And that’s just what the Cubs did. Heck, MLB Pipeline had Espinoza in the Padres top-10 before the season and FanGraphs has him as their 8th best prospect (40+ FV) on their updated rankings.
There’s a very good chance Espinoza doesn’t ever get “it” back with Chicago, but, hey, they’re called lotto tickets for a reason. And this one came with a small price tag and a potentially huge payoff. The only ding – well, other than the injuries – is that Espinoza is already on the 40-man roster, so he’ll be taking up a spot this offseason. To that end, you’d like to see him show a little bit by the end of this year if you’re going to keep him on.