December 23, 2011. That was the day that Theo Epstein and company made their first “big” move to signal a shift in the direction of this organization, it also meant the beginning of starting over. Theo Epstein signed on with the Cubs just two months prior to the Travis Wood deal, so he acted quickly, and gave a change hungry fan base something to chew on, and for the most part, they hated it. Sean Marshall was the centerpiece of the deal for the Reds, and Marshall was coming off two brilliant seasons out of the Cubs bullpen. Fans were borderline outraged that Theo could come in here and trade the Cubs best reliever, and lefty as well, some of us were thrilled though, as it meant that the Cubs just acquired a 24 year-old left handed starter for an aging bullpen arm that meant more to a contending team than to one starting over.
This was my take on the Travis Wood trade, it was in our very first blog post (1/29/2012)
“The fact that the Cubs could trade a relief pitcher and get three players, including a left handed 24 year starting pitcher is tremendous. Sean Marshall has put up stellar numbers out of the Cubs pen the last few years, but given the direction of the team, and the fact that Marshall had only one year remaining under team control it was a no brainer to take this deal. Furthermore, the fact that the new CBA eliminates compensation from MLB for the type of FA Marshall would be after this year played a big role in the deal. Acquiring Travis Wood seems like a no lose situation for the Cubs, as he will be in the rotation or given every opportunity to be in the rotation. He has shown the ability to have plus stuff at the Major League level, and it’s hard to pass that up given his upside.”
Here was Epstein’s reaction to the deal from the Sun-Times
‘‘No doubt our bullpen just got weaker,’’ said Epstein, who also acquired rookie outfielder Dave Sappelt and infield prospect Ronald Torreyes in the deal. ‘‘But I think our starting rotation just got stronger and our farm system got better. And if Wood bounces back to pitch like he did for that half of 2010, you could even argue we got better for 2012.’’
The trade was a calculated risk by the Cubs as they knew that they had very little use for Sean Marshall at the time, but trading away a guy like him could very well come back to bite them, especially given the fact that the main piece they were getting back (Wood) was coming off a rough year. So far, the return on investment has been fantastic, and the real payoff is still down the road a bit. Travis Wood has cemented himself in this Cubs rotation not only right now, but also when the Cubs are contending, and that’s all that Theo and Company could have hoped for. Let’s take a look at the numbers since this deal happened.
Dave Sappelt – Sappelt did some good things within the organization, unfortunately the thing he was best at was messing around on Twitter. He is no longer with the Cubs, and is currently in the Philadelphia Phillies organization.
Ronald Torreyes -Roni hit at every level before coming to the Cubs, but struggled a bit once he was here. He has moved on to the Astros organization, and at 21 years old is having a solid season at the Triple A level. I wanted him to stay here because I thought he was someone the Cubs could have used, but losing him was not the end of the World.
Travis Wood – I really couldn’t be any happier with how Wood has performed on the North Side. He has started 62 games over the last three seasons for the Cubs, his record over that time is 16-27, which is more of a reflection of the teams he’s been on than himself. Wood has worked 381 innings, giving up 161 runs, 150 earned (3.54 ERA) on 323 hits, while walking 124, and striking out 291. That is pretty solid right there, excellent number two, or number three stuff on a contending pitching staff.
Sean Marshall – Marshall did exactly what the Reds wanted him to do in 2012 in his first season in Cincinnati, unfortunately he was bit by the injury bug and hasn’t been able to be on the mound consistently. Marshall has a 5-6 record with the Reds over the last three years with nine saves, and a 2.36 ERA. The issue, as I mentioned, has been his health, he has only worked 72.1 innings for the Reds, giving up 21 runs, 19 earned, on 61 hits, while walking 18, and striking out 85. Those are solid numbers for what he is, and that is something the Cubs just didn’t need at the time he was traded.
Is it a little early to declare a winner in this trade? Probably, but when things are all said and done, I think Travis Wood will mean more to a great Cubs season and future than Sean Marshall would have. Sean Marshall can still be a weapon for the Reds, and if healthy, has plenty of years left on the mound, but I don’t think anyone is too upset that he is no longer pitching for the Cubs, and those same fans that were outraged earlier are most likely thrilled with Travis Wood.
As I mentioned in the series preview the Cubs look to be finding a groove and riding the momentum of some nice wins lately. Tonight was pure domination from beginning to end as the Cubs had a 5-0 lead after two innings en route to a 9-1 victory, their third straight win. These wins are coming against good teams as well, and they held their own in their most recent losses against the Reds, and Cardinals. I’m not saying the Cubs are going to be contenders next week, but they are playing some of the best baseball they have played in the last three years. Okay, I know, that really doesn’t take much, but watching this team every night I can see the change. Lost in the offensive awesomeness, say that five times fast, was the performance of Travis Wood. He was brilliant again, and is pitching like a true number one, this is the Travis Wood the Cubs’ brass was hoping they got when they traded Sean Marshall to the Reds. Actually this is probably more than what they expected this soon, just outstanding.
At The Plate – The best offensive night for the Cubs this year, they pounded out fourteen hits and scored nine runs. They were an impressive 6-for-18 with runners in scoring position and had eight extra base hits, six doubles, a triple, and a home run. David DeJesus was 2-for-4 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and two runs scored. Starlin Castro was on base all night going 2-for-3 with a walk, a double, two RBI’s, and a run scored. Alfonso Soriano padded his slugging numbers in this one going 2-for-4 with his fourth home run of the season, a double, two RBI’s and a run scored. Nate Schierholtz was 2-for-4 with a triple, and two RBI’s, he is now hitting .299 on the season. Welington Castillo and Travis Wood also had two hits in the victory, both of Castillo’s hits were doubles, what else is new, the Cubs lead the Majors in doubles.
On The Mound – Travis Wood was brilliant, what else can be said, he has been all year. Wood worked seven scoreless innings giving up two hits while walking three and striking out two. This was his eighth straight quality start to begin the season, he improved his record to 4-2, and lowered his ERA to 2.03 as well. Kyuji Fujikawa had another solid performance out of the pen tossing a scoreless inning while striking out two. Carlos Marmol worked the ninth inning giving up one run on one hit while striking out three.
Up Next – The Cubs go for their fourth straight win as Carlos Villanueva looks to get things back on track. The Rockies counter with Jeff Francis, first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM CST, and the weather is supposed to be very summer like.
Wood’s scoreless outing
DeJesus two-run single
Schierholtz two-run triple
Cubs turn two to end the fifth
Castro turns two
Castro’s two run double
Travis Wood helps himself with a double
Alfonso Soriano launches one out onto Waveland
Lost in the hoopla surrounding the Cubs since the end of the season was the little matter of deciding Mike Quade’s future. Even if we, and most Cub fans knew that Mike Quade was not Major League manager material, the Cubs brass
needed to make that official. Shortly after the Cubs front office was completely re energized, the no brainer decision to let Mike Quade pursue other opportunities, most likely in the minors or outside of baseball was made. We will give Epstein some credit here with the way he handled the process of letting Quade go, very professional. He made multiple trips to meet with Quade, and had a number of conversations with him and others in the organization to see if he would be a good fit, not based on what he had done it the past, but where he thought, and wanted this team to go in the future. Clearly, Quade’s idea’s did mesh with the idea’s of the new regime that was now in place, and he was let go from his two year deal that had one year remaining on it. Epstein and company didn’t have to go far to find the 52nd manager of the Chicago Cubs, just a short trip up I-94 to Milwaukee to find Dale Sveum. Sveum, serving as the third base coach in 2004 with the Red Sox, won a World Series title with Epstein. Since 2006, Sveum was on the Brewers coaching staff with titles ranging from third base coach, to bench coach, and to most recently hitting coach. Sveum did get a crack at the managerial position albeit a short one in 2008 when he took over for Ned Yost and led the Brewers to a 7-5 record down the stretch and a NL Wild Card berth. Along with Sveum, the following coaches will be joining the Cubs this season...