The Cubs officially agreed to terms with backup outfielder Jake Marisnick Saturday night on a deal reported to be worth $1.5 million. A bulk of that will come this season with the remainder coming as a buyout on a mutual option for 2022 that is really just a way to defer some of the salary.
Marisnick is essentially replacing Albert Almora Jr. as a light-hitting defensive specialist, but he’s actually put up better defensive numbers than Almora over the course of a career spent mostly with the Astros. Even better, he doesn’t have an emotional attachment to the manager and probably won’t be used to lead off or pinch run as often as his predecessor. A right-handed batter, Marisnick is slightly better against lefties but is still too far below average to be considered a platoon hitter.
That’s what makes the corresponding move so odd. In order to make room on the roster, the Cubs opted to designate Phillip Ervin for assignment. That clears the path for Cameron Maybin, who just agreed to a minors deal, to earn a spot out of camp as a bench bat. But the odd thing about this is that Maybin is a right-handed batter who has a career 85 wRC+ against lefties.
Ervin, on the other hand, has tuned up southpaws with a 113 wRC+ that made him an excellent fit for a roster that features corner outfielders who typically struggle mightily against lefties. That might not be such a big deal if the Cubs weren’t trending down in that area as a team, to the point where they just had their worst overall production against lefties in over a century.
For a front office that seems to have been making moves aimed at exploiting small advantages here and there, this feels like a misstep. I guess we’ll have to wait and see on that, though. This is Ervin’s third DFA in less than six months after having been designated by the Reds in late August and the Mariners in December. He’s out of minor league options, so that lack of flexibility hurts him when it comes to sticking on the roster.
In other roster news, Sergio Alcántara has cleared waivers and been outrighted to Triple-A Iowa. He’s been invited to big league camp, though, and will be with the Cubs in Mesa.