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Cubs Prospect Perspective: Anderson Espinoza

The Cubs got some pitching talent in exchange for a player who was going to leave as a free agent anyway.

Anderson Espinoza pitches in a 2021 Spring Training game
Photo by Matt Thomas/San Diego Padres/Getty Images

Imagine the Cubs make a trade in the next two weeks. (They can’t during the lockout. Hence why it’s an imagination game.) Perhaps it’s a blockbuster, or an afterthought required by a 40 man roster addition. Whether you do any research or not, you come out with your assessment within a few hours. It’s either “love it,” “hate it,” or “I’m a bit unsure, as a few of the players are unfamiliar to me. However, you’re on the record. In my universe, it’s entirely acceptable for someone else to reference that assessment as often as they want. “Aren’t you the person that opposed the Jake Arrieta/Pedro Strop trade?”, or whatever. Do the research, and state your opinion, but it’s yours forever. This is my prospect profile of Anderson Espinoza.

Anderson Espinoza, right-handed pitcher

Born March 9, 1998, Caracas, Venezuela
Signed by the Padres as an international free agent.
Acquired by the Cubs in the Jake Marisnick trade.

Back when, I remember someone musing that the Cubs had acquired two live bodies for Tony Campana. While neither Jesus Castillo nor Erick Leal reached MLB, Castillo was traded for Joe Smith in 2016. Getting future pieces for a virtual non-entity in the team’s timeline is a get. Which isn’t to say Marisnick is/was a terrible player. He’s that type of player a contender might bite on every late July. Experienced. Versatile. Prone to hot streaks. The Padres bit.

Whether Marisnick slumped mightily, or played like Joctober Pederson, it was a fantastic trade for the Cubs. Whether Espinoza hits the MLB roster, it was a fantastic trade. Marisnick was going to be a free agent, regardless. He served the purpose he was signed for, and replicating “trading a rental for a valid prospect” is exactly what a team not in the 95-win range ought to make once a day, and four times on Thursdays. Even in contention, if a team is interested in trading for a Marisnick type, make the (game thread word) trade.

And call up the guy just like him in Triple-A.

Is Espinoza a prospect, though, really? Until 2021, he hadn’t pitched in a game with a box score since before the Cubs won the World Series. A litany of arm injuries kept him shelved until 2020, when COVID did the trick. With Fort Wayne in the Padres system, over a dozen starts, Espinoza had an ERA a bit over 5. Bumped to South Bend, Espinoza had an ERA of over 5 in five starts. Bumped to Tennessee, his three starts resulted in an ERA of....?

Wanna guess?



In his eight starts in the Cubs pipeline, all but one were between 53 and 69 pitches, with the ERA-crushing outlier an outing he was unable to escape for the first inning. Espinoza takes up a 40-man roster spot, but he’s already had starting success in Double-A. Sadly, he’s unlikely to get in any innings until the Collective Bargaining Agreement is agreed to. Whether he’s more of a starting pitcher or reliever will swing on about seven factors, not all of which Espinoza can control. (I’d wager M&Ms on him being a reliever if he reaches Wrigley.) Espinoza walked 19 in the Cubs pipeline in 29⅓ innings, so that’s concerning. The 43 strikeouts are the coin’s other side.

However, regardless how much you liked Marisnick, this was a fantastic trade for the Cubs. If you like Marisnick, or think another team might want him at the trade deadline, encourage the Cubs to add him on a minor-league deal. I’d be up for it.