Sean Marshall Rumors

Extension Candidate: Sean Marshall

While Cubs closer Carlos Marmol grabbed attention the past couple years for his staggering strikeout rate and spectacularly excruciating blown saves, North Siders fans and fantasy owners in holds leagues alike will tell you that left-hander Sean Marshall was something of an underappreciated gem in Chicago's bullpen.

Indeed, after struggling as a starter early in his career, Marshall, 29, has settled in nicely as a reliever, serving as a dominant setup man in his two seasons spent exclusively in the bullpen. Last year was his finest, as the southpaw posted a 2.26 ERA, 9.40 K/9, 2.02 BB/9, 57.5% groundball rate and compiled 2.8 WAR. Apparently, the Cubs' division rivals took note, as Marshall changed uniforms within the NL Central in December, joining the Reds in a seemingly out-of-nowhere trade that sent Travis Wood back to the Cubs.

Marshall is set to earn $3.1MM in 2012 and is scheduled to hit free agency after the season, although Reds GM Walt Jocketty indicated that Marshall's foray into the open market may never come to fruition: "No guarantees, but we're going to try to sign him." Interestingly, Jocketty also said the Reds have not yet deterimed Marshall's role and left open the possibility of the left-hander closing, contingent upon whether they sign someone else to handle the ninth.

While we could debate the merits of strict bullpen distinctions such as "setup men" and "closers," the fact is that pitchers in those respective groups are usually compensated differently. So the uncertainty regarding Marshall's role and the Reds' interest in, or ability to, procure a so-called closer may be more than a minor footnote to the trade, at least with respect to Marshall's next contract.

If Marshall and his representatives at Meister Sports Management are amenable to signing an extension now – and reading the tea leaves from Jocketty's comments, they might be – they'll likely use the three-year, $15MM deal lefty Scott Downs signed with the Angels last offseason as a starting point in negotiations. And in light of the big contracts relievers have been securing this offseason, an annual average salary of $5MM is probably modest, so it could be bumped up from there.

The bird-in-hand philosophy could probably make Marshall a wealthy man before he even throws a pitch in 2012, but if he wants to leave open the possibility of getting paid like a closer, he could opt to play out his contract year. This would be an especially risky tack for a reliever, who are notoriously volatile from year to year, but could prove lucrative if Marshall is thrust into closing, approximates his 2011 numbers and hits free agency as a 30-year-old coming off a season in which he sewed up 35 or 40 saves.

While there are a few conditions that have to fall into place in that scenario for Marshall before we get ahead of ourselves, it's worth noting that Ryan Madson basically followed a similar arc and positioned himself for a windfall heading into this offseason.


Jocketty On Marshall, Cordero, Brackman

The Reds acquired shutdown lefty Sean Marshall from the Cubs for three young players earlier today, and they also claimed righty Josh Judy off waivers. GM Walt Jocketty spoke to reporters about the moves and more this afternoon, so let's recap…

  • The two sides first talked about a potential Marshall trade during the GM meetings in November, reports Bruce Miles of The Daily Herald (Twitter links). Jocketty joked that his team couldn't figure out how to hit Marshall, so they decided to trade for him.
  • "No guarantees, but we're going to try to sign him," said Jocketty when asked about a long-term contract for Marshall according to John Fay of The Cincinnati Enquirer (on Twitter). The southpaw can become a free agent after the 2012 season.
  • Jocketty said if they don't sign a closer, it's a "possibility" that they'll use Marshall in that role according to Fay (on Twitter). He acknowledged that they are still talking to Francisco Cordero about a possible return.
  • “After the first of the year, we’ll take a look at some things," said Jockett to reporters (including MLB.com's Mark Sheldon). "We still want to address our bench, maybe left field and see what we can do.”
  • Within Sheldon's piece, he also reports that the Andrew Brackman signing is not yet official, but it should be done any day now. "I’m not sure what’s holding it up to be honest," said the GM.

Epstein On Pitching, Sean Marshall, Matt Garza

The Cubs completed the Sean Marshall trade today, sending the lefty to the Reds for three young players. President of baseball operations Theo Epstein spoke to reporters after the deal was finalized, discussing a few different topics. Let's recap…

  • "I don't think we are done," said Epstein according to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago. "I do think we still need to build more depth on the starting pitching front, both in the big leagues and minor leagues."
  • "[The Marshall trade] fits our general direction," said Epstein while citing the new collective bargaining agreement as one reason behind the deal, according to Paul Sullivan of The Chicago Tribune (on Twitter). The Cubs could have lost Marshall to free agency after next season without getting draft pick compensation under the new agreement.
  • "[Matt Garza is] exactly type of pitcher we want to build around" said Epstein according to Gordon Wittenmyer of The Chicago Sun-Times (on Twitter). He added that his current mode is "to listen on everybody."
  • "We're not rushing into anything with [Garza]," added Epstein according to Wittenmyer (on Twitter). They're still weighing the right-hander's trade value against a possible contract extension.
  • Yesterday we heard that the Cubs were planning a "complete and total rebuild" and will attempt to trade "most of their valuable assets" before Spring Training.


Reds Acquire Sean Marshall For Travis Wood, Others

The Reds have already improved their starting rotation with the addition of Mat Latos this offseason, and now they've bolstered the bullpen. In a rare intra-division trade, Cincinnati has acquired lefty reliever Sean Marshall from the Cubs for Travis WoodDave Sappelt, and Ronald Torreyes. Both teams have announced the trade.

Icon_12006098Marshall, 29, has established himself as one of the game's top left-handed relievers. He posted a 2.26 ERA with 9.4 K/9, 2.0 BB/9 and a 57.5% ground ball rate in 2011. He'll earn $3.1MM during the 2012 season, after which he's eligible for free agency. The Reds have been looking for a closer, but it's not clear how they'll use Marshall and how his presence will affect Cincinnati's interest in relievers such as Francisco Cordero.

Wood is a 24-year-old left-hander who's under team control through 2016. He posted a 4.84 ERA with 6.5 K/9 and 3.4 BB/9 with a 32.1% ground ball rate in 106 innings for the Reds this past season. Though he added value in '11, he didn't match his 2010 numbers: a 3.51 ERA with 7.5 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 102 2/3 innings.

Sappelt, a 24-year-old outfielder, hit .243/.289/.318 in 118 plate appearances for Cincinnati last year, his big league debut. He produced a .313/.377/.458 batting line in 336 plate appearances for their Triple-A affiliate in 2011. Torreyes, a 19-year-old infielder, posted a .356/.398/.457 batting line in 306 plate appearances at the Low Class-A level this past season. Baseball America ranked Sappelt and Torreyes as the Reds'20th and 22nd best prospects in last year's Prospect Handbook, respectively.

Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago broke the news of the trade agreement while ESPN's Keith Law later added details (on Twitter). Photo courtesy of Icon SMI.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.


Quick Hits: Beltran, Wren, Padres, Marshall

Cornelius Alexander "Connie" Mack was born on this day in 1862.  After an 11-year playing career, Mack went on to become the manager and co-owner of the Philadelphia Athletics in 1901 and was a fixture in the A's dugout for the next half-century.  Between his 50 years with the A's (and three years managing the Pirates from 1894-96), Mack won five World Series titles and compiled a 3731-3948 record.  Needless to say, Mack's records for managerial wins and losses will never be broken.

Some news from around the majors…

  • The Indians made "an aggressive" two-year contract offer to Carlos Beltran worth "very close" to the $26MM Beltran received from the Cardinals, a source tells Paul Hoynes of the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
  • The Braves have been rather quiet this offseason but "the fact is we like our team," GM Frank Wren tells David O'Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.  "We continue to have some conversations,” Wren said.  “We’d have liked to have gotten something done in November in some areas, but just weren’t the matches….We’re continuing to work different options. This was not a good free-agent year, not a lot of players that impacted teams, especially in the areas we would like to get better in.”  Wren said the Braves may wait to see how their players perform during Spring Training before deciding if they need to bring in some new acquisitions.
  • The Padres still have around $7-$9MM to spend this winter, observes Bill Center of the San Diego Union-Tribune as part of his weekly chat with fans. 
  • Center also discusses Anthony Rizzo trade rumors, citing the Rays and Cubs as the most interested parties.  Center thinks teams who miss out on Prince Fielder (such as possibly the Mariners and Orioles) could look at Rizzo as well.
  • The Reds will use Sean Marshall as a setup man, not as a closer, once their deal with the Cubs is finalized, writes John Fay of the Cincinnati Enquirer.  Fay also wonders if the Reds are working out a contract extension with Marshall, as the price of Travis Wood plus two prospects seems high for a reliever who is only under control through 2012.
  • The Mariners are still interested in Jeff Francis, reports Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (via Twitter).  Seattle wants a veteran like Francis for the rotation to serve as a bridge for the team's young pitchers.  We heard about the Mariners' interest in Francis earlier this month, and the Twins, Pirates, Cubs and Rockies have also been linked to the Canadian left-hander.
  • Patrick Ebert of Perfect Game runs down the 10 biggest stories that emerged from this year's amateur draft.
  • Former Marlins manager Edwin Rodriguez told Todd Hollandsworth and Jim Memolo of MLB Network Radio (as reported by MLB.com's Joe Frisaro) that he didn't agree with Miami's signing of Jose Reyes.  "You already have an All-Star shortstop, why spend money on another All-Star shortstop?" Rodriguez asked.  "Why not put the money into another player, like Albert Pujols or a front-line pitcher?”  Rodriguez also wondered how "a very proud player" like Hanley Ramirez would handle switching positions and having Reyes be the center of media attention in Miami.
  • The Giants haven't spent much to address their lack of hitting this winter, writes Fangraphs' Wendy Thurm.

Reds, Cubs Close On Swapping Wood, Marshall

11:52pm: The deal is close, a source tells Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, and it includes the Cubs receiving two minor leaguers along with Wood.  Rosenthal and Morosi say the trade discussions are in the advanced stages.    

9:12pm: The Reds and Cubs are discussing a trade that would involve starter Travis Wood going to Chicago in exchange for reliever Sean Marshall, Major League sources tell Ken Rosenthal and Jon Paul Morosi of FOXSports.com. It's not known whether other players would be included in the potential swap, according to the report.

After acquiring Mat Latos in a trade with the Padres last week, Reds GM Walt Jocketty suggested he'd like to focus on bolstering his bullpen. Cincinnati is without a nominal closer as of now – incumbent Francisco Cordero remains on the free agent market - so perhaps Marshall, who has settled in as an effective late-inning reliever for the Cubs the past couple seasons, could man that role for the Reds.

Wood, meanwhile, is a player Cubs president Theo Epstein liked last season when Epstein was still with the Red Sox, the sources tell FOXSports. In just about one full season of work – 35 starts, 208 innings over two seasons – at the Major League level, Wood has posted 6.99 K/9, 2.85 BB/9 and a tendency to produce fly balls (31.4% GB rate).

Despite being only 24 and under team control for five more years, Wood has perhaps become expendable with the Reds now having six other starters in Latos, Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Aroldis Chapman.

Marshall will earn $3.1MM in 2012 and is slated to become a free agent at season's end. He'll turn 30 in August.


Garza, Marshall Continue Drawing Trade Interest

The Rangers and Blue Jays like Matt Garza and he’s not the only Cubs pitcher about whom other teams are inquiring, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Left-hander Sean Marshall is also drawing heavy interest.

The Rangers prefer Gio Gonzalez (four remaining years of team control) to Garza (two remaining years of team control), according to Rosenthal. Garza appeals to the Blue Jays, since they’ve seen the right-hander succeed in the AL East as a starter for the Rays. If the Cubs choose to rebuild, they’d be more likely to trade for Anthony Rizzo than sign Prince Fielder.

Lack of minor league depth and restrictions on draft spending could motivate the Cubs to make a deal, Rosenthal writes. MLB executives say the Cubs are frustrated by limitations on amateur spending, according to Yahoo's Jeff Passan.

The Cubs were said to be 'open for business' on Garza last month, but president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he'd like to build around the 28-year-old. Padres GM Josh Byrnes has interest in Garza.


NL Central Notes: Garza, Marshall, Pujols, Phillips

Happy 63rd birthday to former Reds outfielder George Foster.  A member of Cincinnati's Big Red Machine teams, Foster his 52 homers in 1977, a performance that won him the NL MVP Award.  Foster's 52 home runs were the most hit in a season by any Major Leaguer between 1965 and 1997.

Here's the latest from the NL Central….

  • Matt Garza "is exactly the type of guy we’d like to build around," Theo Epstein told reporters on Thursday, including Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune.  Epstein said that rotation depth was a priority for the Cubs, which would seem to indicate the recent Garza trade rumors may be for naught.  Epstein did say he would be "open-minded" about possibly moving assets like Garza or Sean Marshall, though in Marshall's case, Epstein said "if you have the best left-handed reliever in baseball, it’s hard to think about taking him out of that role."
  • Yahoo's Jeff Passan argues it would be good for baseball if Albert Pujols "pulls a LeBron" and signs with the Cubs, since it would catalyze interest in him and his sport.  The Cubs and Cardinals are both pursuing the free agent first baseman, though the Cubs’ level of interest remains unclear.
  • Brandon Phillips had no new updates about the ongoing contract negotiations between he and the Reds, but he told MLB.com's Mark Sheldon that "I just want to be here forever like my idol, Barry Larkin."  Phillips tweeted on Tuesday that talks were "moving in the right direction."
  • The Astros let president of baseball operations Tal Smith go with just two weeks of severance pay after 35 years of service with the Astros, according to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.
  • What does the Cubs' signing of David DeJesus mean for Tyler ColvinTony Andracki of CSN Chicago examines the question.

MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith also contributed to this post


Cubs Willing To Listen On Everyone

The Cubs are telling teams they'll listen to trade offers on everyone this winter while trying to rebuild the team to be competitive in the future, tweets Bob Nightengale of USA Today.  Danny Knobler of CBS Sports tweeted something very similar around the same time, so perhaps the Cubs are trying to get the word out.  ESPN's Buster Olney also joined in, saying Sean Marshall and Matt Garza figure to draw the most interest between now and July 31st.

The concept of listening to offers for any player is not unexpected for new Cubs president Theo Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer, and marks a change from Jim Hendry's reported summer stance of not listening on players he thought could help him in 2012.  Still, a team drawing three million fans a year doesn't often embark on a full-on offseason rebuilding effort.  The Cubs certainly haven't done that anytime recently.  Hoyer isn't afraid to make an unpopular decision, though, having traded Adrian Gonzalez for prospects months after his Padres nearly won the NL West.  And even after trading Gonzalez, Hoyer made a series of moves designed to keep the team competitive in 2011.  The Cubs aren't ruling out anything at this point, Hoyer told MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.

Garza, 27, could be one of the best available starters this offseason.  He's made 30 starts each of the last four years, has AL East experience, and struck out a career-best 197 this year with the move to the NL.  He's under team control for two more years, though his salary could approach $9MM in 2012 and will likely enter eight figures in '13.  Marshall is under contract for $3.1MM in 2012 and eligible for free agency after that.  With a 2.45 ERA, 10.1 K/9, 2.5 BB/9, and 0.2 HR/9 over the last two years, he's become an elite reliever capable of a Mike Adams-like bounty.  


Cubs Rumors: Aramis, Pena, Johnson, Gillick

A collection of links for all the Cubs fans out there…

  • Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena may have played their way into the Cubs' plans for next season, reports CSNChicago.com's Patrick Mooney.  The Cubs hold a $16MM club option on Ramirez for next season and while Ramirez has the right to void that option, his refusal to waive his no-trade clause would seem to indicate he wants to remain in Chicago. 
  • As for Pena, while the Cubs have been rumored as suitors for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder this winter, Mooney says "next year’s payroll – as well as ownership’s appetite for a megadeal – is still to be determined."  Pena could be brought back on a less-expensive contract to play first base.  
  • The Cubs continue receiving calls on Sean Marshall, but are telling all inquirers that the lefty setup man is going nowhere, tweets SI's Jon Heyman. The 28-year-old has a 3.11 ERA and a 49/10 K/BB ratio through 46 1/3 innings this year.
  • ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that while outfielder Reed Johnson is cheap, a trade partner likely wouldn't make the Cubs a very strong offer to acquire his services.
  • Former Phillies general manager Pat Gillick denied a Chicago radio report that he'd spoken with Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts about joining their front office, writes MLB.com's Carrie Muskat. Gillick says he's never even met Ricketts, and offered praise for Cubs GM Jim Hendry. Gillick is currently a senior advisor in the Phillies front office.

MLBTR's Mark Polishuk also contributed to this post