Really, I get it. People who were upset that Kris Bryant, Anthony Rizzo and Javier Báez were traded? I get it. That Jed Hoyer and others were unable to come to a long-term financial agreement with any of the three upsets people is entirely understandable. That Tom Ricketts seems to prioritize wealth retention over keeping popular players around might send Cubs fans away from being Cubs fans is a valid contention. Defending Ricketts isn’t required. However, not all of the July trades were contentious. The Jake Marisnick trade might have worked out as well as the Joc Pederson trade.
I’m not going to delve deeply into the trade piece the Cubs received, Anderson Espinoza, in this look. Espinoza made eight starts for High-A South Bend, and three more for Double-A Tennessee. At that higher level, sometimes seen as a level that can “break” developing hitters and pitchers, Espinoza had an ERA of 1.35 and a WHIP of 1.425 over 13⅓ innings, with 16 strikeouts.
Tolerable. Or perhaps even better than that.
Realistically, if someone wants to assess a trade in an even-handed fashion, they ought to roll with what their assessment of the trade will be based on before results start rolling in. If you “wait until later,” the unscrupulous assesser can choose any of a various number of methods, and roll with whichever best suits them later. Being honest before-the-fact tends to lead to credibility and believability. If postseason success is your touchstone, roll with that. If team player-specific success is your goal, roll with that. Pretty much any method of deriving value from Marisnick’s time in San Diego fails. Miserably.
The team fell apart. Marisnick didn’t help. Over 48 at-bats for the Padres, he hit .188/.264/.208 and had 10 total bases. While the trade may have made sense for San Diego at the time, the results were ghoulish. Whatever the expectations were from Marisnick were nowhere near met.
All the while, the Cubs received a pitcher who figures to be in major league camp in 2022, with a realistic chance of being on the roster in 2022 and beyond. However, the Espinoza angle isn’t why I wrote this article.
Shortly before the Marisnick trade, Triple-A Iowa outfielder Michael Hermosillo went to the IL with a mild quad injury. As such, when the Marisnick trade was made, Hermosillo wasn’t available to be summoned to Chicago. On August 17, Hermosillo, now healthy, was called to the major league club. Over roughly the next three weeks, Hermosillo made an impact on quite a few fans. Some people want Hermosillo on the 40-man roster all offseason. While I don’t share that view, it wouldn’t be absurd to retain Hermosillo on the MLB roster all winter. There is no shot in the universe that Marisnick, who was going to be declared a free agent on the fifth day after the World Series, regardless, would have had a 40-man roster spot all offseason.
Hermosillo was a better guy to have for the Cubs than Marisnick at the end of 2021, with an eye toward 2022. It wasn’t even remotely close. Marisnick being a better value over Hermosillo is a virtually impossible case to make, much less argument to win. Like Marisnick or not, and I’d be more than okay with him on a minor-league deal in the off-season, giving Marisnick at-bats in August or September would have been counterproductive.
After Hermosillo was injured, he entered a game as a pinch-runner. Despite his inability to swing a bat, he could still run. The Cubs used him as a specialist, even after his season-ending injury.
A week after Hermosillo’s last game of the season, Trayce Thompson was called to Chicago to fill in for a team with some serious injury concerns. From Thompson’s 2021 MLB debut on September 14, he was a regular piece much of the the rest of the season. Whatever you think of Thompson as a longer-term piece, he played eight entire games late in the season. His sum total was 28 at-bats for the Cubs. and he hit four home runs and accumulated 20 total bases. In his time with San Diego, Marisnick managed more at-bats (48) and plate appearances (54) than Thompson did with the Cubs, but managed fewer runs batted in (two) than Thompson hit home runs.
If the trade had been Marisnick for Thompson, the Cubs would have won the trade on production, and likelihood to still be on the roster on November 15. Thompson wasn’t even the guy called up to replace Marisnick. He was the player that replaced the guy that was called up to replace Marisnick, when that player (Hermosillo) was injured for the year.
The Cubs had two more productive (short-term) and (potentially) long-term useful pieces in Des Moines at the time of the Marisnick trade, and neither Hermosillo nor Thompson were the reason for making the trade.
Espinoza was the reason the trade was made. That Hermosillo and Thompson outplayed Marisnick down the stretch was merely joyous happenstance.