Travis Wood is big win for Cubs front office

Travis Wood is big win for Cubs front office

Sixty days after Theo Epstein was named the president of baseball operations for the Chicago Cubs, he made an unpopular trade.

Two days before Christmas in 2011, he sent popular and versatile reliever Sean Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds—a team within the Cubs division—for a package of players that most notably included a then 24-year-old left handed starting pitcher named Travis Wood.

Some Cubs fans were so willing to give Epstein and his new regime a chance, they supported the trade for the simple reason that their savior made it.  Some said there was no reason to invest heavily in a middle reliever—albeit a good one—when the team wasn’t ready to compete. (Marshall would eventually sign a three year extension worth $16.5 million this past off season to remain with Cincinnati).

But the vast majority lamented that a team in shambles—following a 91 loss season—couldn’t afford to keep of one of the few talented players they had.

Last year, while Cubs fans suffered through the early pains of Epstein’s rebuilding plan, I lost count of how many callers phoned WGN Radio to complain about “the Marshall trade”.

Fast forward just two months into Wood’s second year as a Cubs starting pitcher, and nobody is calling for the return of Sean Marshall.  Now they’re asking if Travis Wood is a legitimate part of the Cubs future.

And the answer just might be yes.

In his nine starts this season, every single one has been a quality start.  Wood has allowed three runs in just three of those nine, but only twice were all three runs earned.  He has been so good, and so consistent, his manager said something I never expected anyone to ever say about the bearded lefty.

“He’s the best starter in baseball, pretty much,” Dale Sveum said following Wood’s one run, six hit outing lifting the Cubs to a 2-1 victory over St. Louis May 7th.

Is he the best starter in baseball? No.  Ask anyone for the top ten pitchers in the game, and Travis Wood wouldn’t even make Ronnie Woo-Woo’s list.  But the now 26-year-old’s impressive start to the 2013 season creates an interesting story for a team in the process of rebuilding.

Can Wood keep this up?  Probably not.  Entering Monday’s start, his career ERA was just under four.  To expect him to shave nearly two runs off that average consistent isn’t likely to happen.

But when he comes back to earth, if he remains a solid, consistent starter, the Cubs should strongly consider keeping him for the long term.

Quality left handed starters don’t grow on trees.  Wood is still young, he’s making just $527,500 this year, according to Cot’s Baseball Contracts, and becomes arbitration eligible for the first time after this season.

Young, affordable, left-handed and potentially, pretty good.

“Travis Wood has really made that next step,” said Cubs television play-by-play man Len Kasper on “Cubs Weekly” on WGN Radio.  “You really can now project him as part of the future here.”

Besides the upcoming amateur draft and the development of the team’s prospects, Epstein and company continue to evaluate the active roster to determine which players will be here for the eventual turnaround.  It’s easy to conclude Anthony Rizzo, Starlin Castro and Jeff Samardzija will be prominent parts of that core.  But it’s also important for them to determine which ancillary parts may also be of value.

Enter, Travis Wood.

“You can’t expect every pitcher to be a top of the rotation guy,” Kasper added.  “You’ve got to fill out one through five in terms of your slots.  To me, Travis would be an ideal four starter, even five.  And you match him up against four starters from around baseball, and he stacks up very well.”

Like any developing pitcher, Wood has made subtle adjustments which have allowed him to have more consistent success.  He’s throwing a higher percentage of cut fastballs and sliders, which has brought him greater success against right handed hitting.  As Wood gets older, more experienced and continues to tweak his approach, it’s reasonable to conclude he can incrementally improve to remain a viable option for the Cubs in the long term.

He’ll never be the Cubs ace, but that doesn’t matter.  What does, is that Epstein’s move to acquire him looks like one that may benefit the Cubs for years to come.

And then we can give that unpopular swap from a year and a half ago a more satisfying new name—the “Travis Wood trade”.


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  • Got to give the FO credit on finding pitchers. Traded for Wood. Signed Maholm. Signed Feldman.

    I remember Theo saying that Feldman was going to do very well in the NL based off his peripherals and how it would translate into the NL.

    Seems to be right on to date.

  • In reply to IrwinFletcher:

    I actually wrote about Feldman and Baker months before it happened and suggested the Cubs would go after both. Also mentioned Villanueva and Sanchez.

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    For a rebuilding team, a stud set-up man on a one-year deal is truly a luxury. The FO recongnized that, and turned a short-term asset into longer-term ones.

    Don't forget Torreyes either; he's cooled off after a hot start, but there aren't alot of 20 year olds in AA ball

  • Wood has been terrific find so far. Starting rotation overall has been a positive, bullpen a disappointment. We are making process in our rebuilding phase, something no one in the last 50 years has tried to do with the exception of Dallas Green. The WIN NOW philosophy has never worked signing veterans past their prime.

  • I loved this deal from start and like it even more now.

  • At least we know that Wood can go on a hot streak and pitch like an ace for a full quarter of a season (and counting). That's a long hot streak with which to open a season--so long that the Sun Times had to dig up Mordecai Brown's 1908 statistics in order to place TWood's 11 consecutive quality starts into proper context.
    I'd say that a quality left handed pitcher who can go on long and dominant hot streaks is definitely worth blowing the dust off the dial on Rickett's safe (above his fireplace, hidden behind his painting of Andre Dawson) and digging out a stack of cash for a new contract.

  • In reply to baseballet:

    Ha! I didn't realize you had such detail of the Ricketts home!

    I agree there. Let's keep Wood. I know he's not an ace - -but I think he can be the northside version of Mark Buerhle. An athletic pitcher with good command who helps himself on the mound. While he may never be a star, I think he'll be good pitcher for a long time.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    And we're going to need some studs on the mound given what the Cardinals appear ready to throw against us.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    And let's not forget that he can help himself with the bat too!

    Oh and John, be really, really careful with those Buerhle comparisons. If Rogers catches wind, he'll maybe dislodge himself from kissing Mark's behind and firmly latch those lips to Travis'.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    Haha! We wouldn't want that to happen.

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    And we still Roni Torreyes having some success as a 20 year old in AA. If he continues to develop -- and his hit tool is something special -- we can either use him as our starting second baseman or he could be the key piece in a trade for a Marshall caliber reliever.

    Just love that trade.

  • Good post and good timing love the quotes from Len too!.

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    Anyone who didn't like this trade from the get go is an idiot who doesn't know a !@#$%^ thing about baseball, and to boot, it's trade that is truly a win-win for both teams.

    I've said this before and I'll say it again. If you're counting on Wood to be a front of the rotation starter, you're probably the Astros or the Marlins, but if Wood is in the back 2/5ths of your rotation, you've got a World Series caliber rotation.

    Is Wood part of the long term future of the Cubs? I'd have to say, "Yes." The only reason to trade Wood is if you're truly getting something that makes your team better or has the potential to make it better down the road. For example, if KC is calling about Wood, they should be willing to part with Zimmer. Zimmer has ace potential, but that doesn't mean he'll reach it, where as Wood will help the Royals now.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    The Cubs will need every productive arm they can get 1-5. Cardinals have some great arms, though I think a couple of them may be a bit overrated -- overall though they should have a very good staff for years to come. It's not going to be easy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Yes, Mordor on the Mississippi has some excellent Ochs in their system, but as we saw in "Return of the King", the good guys win in the end.

    BTW, did you catch what I sent you yesterday? Interesting comments by Bowden on Front Office yesterday about the Orioles and Feldman. I'm not sure I like the match up though. They don't have much beyond Bundy and Gausman, and I don't see them giving us either of those two for Feldman.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    "Mordor on the Mississppi"? FUNNY!

    Where is the of the arch? I knew something was watching me as I drove downstate.....

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    In reply to Zonk:

    Yes, and in case you weren't aware, Queen Bitch of the Universe, aka my ex-wife, resides near there. I found it necessary to put an entire state between us.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I did. I was at the game at the time. Will probably start writing more about trade possibilities after the draft. I don't know if anything will happen before then unless the Cubs specifically want something from the draft (i.e. the KC competitive balance pick) -- but I find that unlikely at this point.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It would be very out of the norm for a trade to happen before the draft, but if it did, I'd bet money it involves KC and that CBP. We know they've scouted Garza, and we think they've scouted Feldman too.

    For Feldman, I still like Sam Selman and Jason Adam and the pick. They've both struggled, but Selman and Adam both seem to be the kind of pitchers that would peak the interest of the Cubs front office. That being being tall, athletic, high risk, high reward types.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I'm honestly shocked they haven't made a move yet. The season they bet everything on is starting to get away from them. And, really, they need DDJ more than they need any of our pitchers. Could use Valbuena, too. (And Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, but hell no.)

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    Right now, they're 4 games out of first in the ALCD and 2 games back of the ALWC. They still have some time, but they have to be getting concerned. I don't think anyone expected Cleveland to step up like they have.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Also, 2 weeks ago they were 17-10. They've gone 3-10 since then. And the better teams are beating them. The pitching has been pretty good -- it's the moribund offense that is the problem. They have some gimme games for the next week, but then start a stretch where they play the Cardinals, the Rangers, the Rays, the Tigers, and the Indians. If they don't improve their offense quickly, the season could be over by the end of June.

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    In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    They might consider Bundy at this point -- it would be a risky pickup, though.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Briliiant! I want a Mordor on the Mississippi t-shirt now.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    There were several reasons to like this trade from the get go. Marshall was going to be a free agent and Wood is very young and could be a #3. What I always like about Wood was he does everything well. He hits , fields his position above average and runs well.
    As for Torreyes he could surprise. He is very young and in 102 PA he has k'd a whopping 7 times and walked 14 times. It seems he always walks more then he k's. I think he was originally a 3rd basemen with the Reds and switched to 2nd. I think he a solid 2nd baseman though not flashy.
    Sappelt so far has disappointed but has a history of being able to hit. He has speed and hopefully he'll still be valuable as a 4-5 th outfielder.
    Good trade.

  • In reply to rockyje:

    At the time of this trade, who was the key player from the Cub's vantage point? I don't recall.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    I believe the plan was to turn 1 asset, Marshall, into multiple potential assets.

  • In reply to Good Captain:

    The key player was absolutely Travis Wood. The prospects were gravy.

  • There is nothing more valuable in baseball than left handed pitching. That's why we were sad to see Marshall go. Wood's loss yesterday was sad, because he threw a helluva game. I'm not saying he will continue at this level, but why should we think he can't? Koufax wasn't this impressive early in his career.

  • The Marshall/Wood trade was one that simply worked out for both teams. The Reds got a top left-handed setup man, the Cubs got a mid-rotation starter, a bench outfielder, and an intriguing second base prospect. Not a bad haul for one year of control over a pitcher who couldn't cut it as a starter.

    Had the trade not happened, Marshall likely would have walked/been traded elsewhere, and Wood would either be a Louisville Bat or in Cincy's pen.

    I'm still convinced that Torreyes might just be the gem of the trade, though. 20 year olds just don't put up .369 OBPs in AA. I know the Cubs are loaded with middle infielders, but that sort of thing can't help but make you fantasize a bit.

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    In reply to Jim Weihofen:

    Torreyes is in a bit of a slump at the moment but, as you say, he's 20. That he's shown he can hang with the guys at AA is quite impressive. He strikes me as one of those guys who could grow into a major league job and everyone will be shocked by his numbers because he was only okay in the minors -- and that's of course because he was young at every stop in the minors.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Players will have slumps. I really do think Torreyes is a potential MLB starter at second base, or at least a quality utility infielder. That said, he had no chance in the Cincy system, with Brandon Phillips so deeply entrenched at second.

  • I heart Travis Wood. In the end, I think he ends up a 4 on this team, but he'll be an excellent 4 if that's the case. I'm not sure this is a guy I'd extend unless they can get a really good deal. He's cost controlled until 2016. If they could sign him to a 4 year, $18M deal with 2 option years at maybe $7M and $9M, I'm all for it. But no reason to give him a big contract.

  • Love the trade too, was just wondering, at that time, Cingrani was a sleeper prospect. I wonder if he was at all discussed in that deal?

  • I keep hearing Jeffy S as a significant core piece, but if you look at his numbers this year (soph starting year) and he is a 3 or 4 guy. Right now Wood and Feldman are the 1-2 with Jackson at 4. Bring in Garza and Jeffy is a 4/5 who strikesout a lot and goes 6 with an ERA around 4+. Lets not be so quick to toss Feldman to the trade in June pile. Right now I would not trade any starter as I don't think the return would be an improvement for now or the future. Wood has shown hints of what we are seeing when he was a Red. He is a core player and at based on his age only likely to improve.

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    Just kinda makes you wonder what Theo/Jed saw in Wood that made him their guy. Yes, I know they were saying how he was a "cost controlled" lefty compared to Sean Marshall, but there are loads of "cost controlled guys out there.

    Just like to be a fly on the wall during some of those talks between Theo and Jed!

  • John says they prefer athletic pitchers and Wood fits the bill. I also like his moxie and that HR he hit yesterday was a lot of fun.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    He drilled that pitch.

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