Earlier today the Cubs came to terms with free agent outfielder Jake Marisnick on a one year deal that guarantees $1.5 million with an option for $4 million for 2022 or a $500,000 buyout. I admit, I scratched my head a bit over this because I was kind of hoping they’d sign a second baseman or starting pitcher next, but Marisnick improves the Cubs outfield in three important ways for 2021.
I’ll be upfront, Marisnick’s offensive numbers don’t jump off the page. He’s a career .229/.281/.385 hitter with a wRC+ of 81 over 1884 plate appearances. He had an outstanding 2020 at the plate with a slash line of .333/.353/.606 and a monster wRC+ of 158, but you should be skeptical of that because it’s only based on 16 games and 34 plate appearances. Is it possible that Marisnick finally figured something out in 2020 with the Mets? I suppose it is, but it seems more likely that the Mets effectively used Marisnick as a platoon player and he got lucky — that slash line was built off an unsustainable .429 BABIP.
While Marisnick’s career splits are pretty even, as you can see below, the Cubs other new center field option, Joc Pederson’s, are not. You might not be in love with Marisnick’s career wRC+ of 93 against lefthanded pitching but it’s orders of magnitudes better than Pederson’s career mark of 59 against lefties. Notably, Marisnick would also be an offensive improvement over Jason Heyward in right field against lefthanded pitchers, Heyward’s career wRC+ against lefties is 78. In case you were wondering, no Heyward’s improvements in 2020 were not evident against lefthanded pitching. In the small sample size season Heyward put up a wRC+ of 55.
It seems reasonable that Marisnick could find playing time at center or in right as part of a platoon with Pederson and/or Heyward, which would allow the Cubs to move Ian Happ to left field where he would excel.
Defense is where Marisnick really shines and his glove will be an asset to the Cubs in 2021.
Since coming into the league in 2013, Jake Marisnick has +71 defensive runs saved and +39 Outs Above Average. That’ll play. #Cubs— Russell Dorsey (@Russ_Dorsey1) February 11, 2021
After years of cobbling together center field the Cubs will finally have a solid defensive option in center. Admittedly defensive fWAR leaves something to be desired, but among players with at least 500 innings in center field since he came into the league in 2014 Marsnick is the 14th best center fielder over the last seven seasons. For comparison’s sake, former Cub Albert Almora Jr. is 40th on this list, Jason Heyward is 41st, Ian Happ is 55th and Joc Pederson is 79th.
Jake Marisnick is wicked fast. His sprint speed slowed down a bit in 2020 relative to the rest of the league, but he was still in the 86th percentile of runners in the league according to Statcast. He will provide an excellent pinch running or late inning defensive replacement option for manager David Ross in 2021: