Cubs

While baseball world buzzes over Justin Verlander, Cubs add Leonys Martin in trade with Mariners

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USA TODAY

While baseball world buzzes over Justin Verlander, Cubs add Leonys Martin in trade with Mariners

While the baseball world buzzed over the blockbuster Justin Verlander deal that apparently fell apart and then came together for the Detroit Tigers and Houston Astros, the Cubs made a minor trade with the Seattle Mariners before the Aug. 31 deadline, bringing extra outfielder Leonys Martin into their organization.

The Mariners included cash in the trade and will receive a player to be named later or cash for Martin, who got designated for assignment twice this season – and was no longer part of Seattle’s 40-man roster – but is now eligible to become part of a playoff roster for the Cubs.

It’s not immediately clear where Martin will report – or when or if the Cubs will eventually add him to their active roster – but he sure looks like a pinch-running specialist for September.

Martin has 114 career stolen bases and could fill the role Dave Roberts made famous with the 2004 Boston Red Sox – or at least represent the speed option Quintin Berry had been for the 2015 Cubs.   

Martin, a Cuban defector, spent his first five big-league seasons with the Texas Rangers, where he put up 30-plus stolen bases in 2013 and 2014 and developed a reputation as a solid defender, though that combination of skills hasn’t been enough to make up for a career .662 OPS.

Leading up to Thursday’s unusually dramatic waiver deadline (11 p.m. Chicago time), the Cubs didn’t see Verlander’s no-trade rights as an obstacle, framing their discussions around the price point where it would make sense to: absorb the $56 million remaining on the final two guaranteed years of his contract; drain a prospect pool that’s been tapped in multiple win-now deals; and take on the injury risk with a pitcher who will be 35 next season.            

An Astros team with the best record in the American League – and zero World Series titles in franchise history – looked at Verlander and asked the same question Cubs president Theo Epstein did last summer after acquiring Aroldis Chapman: If not now, when?

CubsTalk Podcast: Cubs continue hunt for pitching while Kyle Schwarber is again linked in trade talks

CubsTalk Podcast: Cubs continue hunt for pitching while Kyle Schwarber is again linked in trade talks

MLB Network’s Dan Plesac stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to discuss Kyle Schwarber’s trade value, how the Cubs can solve their pitching deficiencies and why Wade Davis should still be on their radar even after the soon-to-be-official signing of Brandon Morrow.

Plus, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki break down why they are now even more convinced Schwarber won’t be traded, how far the Cubs got in Giancarlo Stanton talks, why Kyle Hendricks was part of the Shohei Ohtani recruiting package and how the 2018 bullpen may look.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Shohei Ohtani fallout: How Cubs got a seat at the table with baseball's hottest commodity

Shohei Ohtani fallout: How Cubs got a seat at the table with baseball's hottest commodity

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes will go down as one of the wackiest — and most fascinating — free agent courtships in the history of Major League Baseball.

The fact the Cubs were even in the conversation down to the end is fascinating in its own right.

As he whittled down teams to a Final 7 before ultimately choosing the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani made his terms public: He preferred a West Coast team to make travel to his home country of Japan easier and an American League team made the most sense because it had been several years since he had played the field, serving as a designated hitter/pitcher in Japan.

The Cubs obviously cannot meet either of those requirements, yet Theo Epstein and Co. found themselves in the conversation, as the Eastern-most team left alive.

How?

"First and foremost, I think the Cubs have a lot to offer any player," Epstein said at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Monday during MLB's Winter Meetings. "It's a really strong brand right now, it's a great environment, our fans are amazing, Wrigley is a great place to play and we're the only team in baseball that's made the Final 4 the last three years.

"Just a really bright outlook. And beyond that, we pulled many all-nighters just to get this document done and created a pretty substantial document that we submitted that was really thorough and detail-oriented that I think got his attention so he wanted to hear more about it."

Epstein is proud of how the Cubs banded together to get such an impactful pitch to Ohtani ready in rather short notice after the 23-year-old pitcher was posted last month.

"A lot of people worked really hard on it," Epstein said. "No regrets. It reinforced some great bonds in the organization. A lot of people pulled together under a pretty difficult deadline to make something really impressive happen.

"It got us to the final table and it didn't turn out our way, but I think we overcame a lot in the process. We're all glad we went through it, despite the result."

Epstein wouldn't — and couldn't — get into too much detail about the Cubs' pitch, but Kyle Hendricks and Joe Maddon were there among uniformed Cubs members. Epstein and Co. also did not give Ohtani a virtual reality tour of life as a Cub like it was initially reported.

The Cubs spent two hours talking baseball with Ohtani and came away feeling OK about their chances despite the limitations they had no control over (geography, lack of DH).

Epstein admitted he didn't come out of that meeting rationally thinking the Cubs had a shot, but he did think they increased their odds with the final presentation.

"I was so proud of the work the organization had done and I had felt so passionate about the fit that I probably fooled myself into thinking we had a real chance," Epstein said. "It was a great process and I have no regrets. I certainly wish him well; he was a really impressive kid.

"I think health-permitting, he's gonna do really, really well and have a long career. He'll be fun to follow."