Who among Cubs fans doesn't love Sean Marshall?
Most, if not all, of the North Side faithful came to love and respect the tall left-hander for his stellar work out of the bullpen, especially the last two seasons.
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That said, Cubs president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer probably did the right thing in trading the 29-year-old pitcher at his peak value.
The Cubs made things official Friday, sending Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds for left-handed starting pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor-league infielder Ronald Torreyes.
The mess Epstein and Hoyer inherited when they came to Chicago this fall left them with precious few assets to use in building the Cubs back to respectability.
Marshall, who will make $3.1 million in his free-agent year of 2012, was one of those assets, and the Cubs traded him at his peak value, something not often seen around these parts in recent years.
Another asset is starting pitcher Matt Garza, whose name also has been mentioned in trade rumors this off-season. Epstein addressed the Garza and Marshall situations Friday and how they fit into the overall picture.
"We've been honest with you guys that we're in the mode where we have to listen to everybody," Epstein said on a conference call with reporters. "If there's a way to improve the long-term outlook for this club, we can't look past opportunities like that. We're not in a situation where we have to do anything with Garza. But we're in the business right now of taking our short-term assets and turning them into long-term assets.
"In the case of Marshall, that ends up happening through a trade, one year of Marshall and turning them into what we hope will be three long-term assets. In the case of Garza, perhaps nothing happens, or perhaps we're able to turn him into a long-term asset by extending him. Or certainly we'll be listening because there's always a trade market for top-of-the-rotation guys with multiple years of control."
Marshall was 6-6 with a 2.66 ERA and 5 saves for the Cubs this year. He made 78 appearances after making 80 in 2010.
In Wood, the Cubs are getting a young lefty -- he turns 25 in February -- they can plug into their rotation immediately. In parts of two seasons with the Reds, Wood was 11-10 with a 4.18 ERA. He made his big-league debut against the Cubs on July 1, 2010, and he finished the year 5-4 with a 3.51 ERA. This year, he was 6-6 with a 4.84 ERA as he spent part of the season at Class AAA Louisville.
"The league made some adjustments, and I just wasn't able to get it in there like I had been," he said. "My control was little off; (that's) what I concentrated on this entire off-season.
"It's a great opportunity for me. The Reds have a lot of depth in their organization, and I shuttled back and forth. Hopefully I can get to Chicago, and that will make a difference."
The Cubs' rotation also includes Garza (for now, at least), Ryan Dempster, Randy Wells and Carlos Zambrano, if he can "earn" his way back onto the club following his August walkout and subsequent suspension.
"I still think the organization needs more starting pitching, both at the big-league level and minor-leagues," Epstein said. "But you've got to start somewhere, and we're really happy to acquire Travis Wood.
"Twenty-four-year-old starters who have had success in the major leagues don't grow on trees. We had to give up a great relief pitcher in Sean Marshall, someone we were proud to call a Cub, but we think to acquire Wood and two young guys, it was worth doing."
While Marshall can become a free agent next fall, Wood is not yet eligible for salary arbitration.
"It was a surprise, but I understand the moves that Theo and the crew are making," said Marshall, who came up with the Cubs in 2006. "I've had my whole career here as a Cub. I've been lucky in that aspect.
"I loved my time here as a Chicago Cub. I'm one of the players who was groomed in the minor leagues and made it to the big leagues with the Cubs and was able to have a successful stint here as a major-leaguer."
The Cubs like the potential upside of the other players they acquired. Sappelt, who turns 25 in January, made his big-league debut in 2011, when he had a hitting line of .243/.289/.318 with no homers. At Louisville this year, he had a line of .313/.377/.458 with 7 homers.
Torreys, 19, has batted .364 with 38 doubles, 17 triples, 8 home runs, 87 RBI and 37 stolen bases in 158 professional games in the Reds minor-league system the last two years. He has a career .419 on-base percentage and .517 slugging percentage.
• Follow Bruce Miles on Twitter @BruceMiles2112.