The Chicago Cubs have reportedly agreed to send left handed relief pitcher Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for left handed starter Travis Wood and two minor leaguers. The deal is pending physicals by all four players and the prospects have not yet been named.
Don’t let the fact that he is not a closer fool you, Sean Marshall is one of the best relievers in the game. Marshall is entering the last year of his contract and is slated to make $3.1M in 2012, not a bad figure when you realize he was worth 2.8 fWAR last year and his 5.0 fWAR over the past two seasons is the highest of any reliever in the entire game.
If you simply take a look at Marshall’s career totals you would be doing him an extreme injustice. As a reliever in his career he has a 2.67 ERA and 228 strikeouts in 219 innings against only 63 unintentional walks and only 11 homeruns allowed. Pretty good, but he has gotten better each year.
Over the last two seasons Marshall has pretty much mastered his craft. He has a 2.45 ERA, 2.07 FIP, 2.50 xFIP, and 166 ERA+ in 150.1 innings while striking out 169 and unintentionally walking only 33 and allowing only four homeruns. He keeps the ball on the ground with a 54.9% groundball rate these past two seasons and a 0.24 HR/9 rate.
Marshall improved yearly and had his best season in 2011 with 2.26 ERA and 1.86 FIP. His groundball rate of 57.5% was also a career high for him and he set career best marks in HR/9 and BB/9. The Reds did not simply land a left handed reliever; they landed the best reliever over the past two seasons.
The Reds gave up Travis Wood who has back-of-the-rotation stuff and is under team control through the 2016 season and two prospects.
Wood has an 88-92 mph fastball, a breaking ball, cutter, and change up. None of his pitches are plus and while he has good control he does have some command issues and gives up a lot of fly balls. In fact, only Kevin Slowey has a worse groundball rate than Wood’s 31.4% over the past two seasons.
In 208.1 career innings at the Major League level Wood has a 4.18 ERA and very respectable 3.75 FIP while striking out 162 and unintentionally walking 60. His AAA results were not good last year but luck played a major part in that.
This deal allows the Reds to save money they may have intended to spend on a reliever in free agency and also allows them to transition Aroldis Chapman to the rotation. If the transition to the rotation does not work out then the Reds will have a deadly left handed duo at the end of games. If/when Marshall leaves via free agency, the Reds will likely land a draft pick as well.
The Cubs get a cost-controlled starter and two prospects in this deal and they save a few immediate dollars. Since we do not know which prospects are in this deal I cannot say whether or not this deal has a winner and a loser. The Reds do get the best player in the deal but only for one year and if they gave up a top 10 prospect and another top 15-20 then the deal may tilt in the Cubs favor.