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?