With the Cincinnati Reds coming to town for a three-game series, it's a good time to take a look at the Sean Marshall trade again.
Last Christmas, the Cubs sent popular and effective setup man Marshall to the Reds for pitcher Travis Wood, outfielder Dave Sappelt and minor-league infielder Roni Torreyes.
Marshall was due to hit a big payday, which he did with the Reds after the trade, and the Cubs were beginning a rebuilding project under president Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.
This was a trade made with the long term in mind for the Cubs, and they should begin to feel the real benefits next year.
Wood, who started Monday night's rain-delayed (3 hours, 37 minutes) did not make the big club out of spring training, and Sappelt spent most of the year at Class AAA Iowa.
But both have shown signs they can be bigger contributors starting as early as next year, and both are only 25 with very limited major-league service time.
"Woody's obviously made a lot of adjustments and done a nice job since he's gotten called up," manager Dale Sveum said. "Sappelt is probably swinging the bat as good as anybody right now. He's showing and doing some of the things that we thought.
"We knew there was a bat there, but we need him to be focused on baserunning and playing defense and all that, as well. There is a bat there that can play in the big leagues."
Sappelt has said he'd like to fill Reed Johnson's former role as the main backup outfield. That opportunity looks to be there.
"It should be, and he should be able to fill it," Sveum said. "He's got some speed. He's got some power, drives the ball, gives you good at-bats. He's a good fastball hitter.
"So all those things come into play when you're making those decisions. He's got the ability and the bat speed and the bat ability to play in the big leagues."
To me, one of the biggest factors making the Marshall trade even more palatable was the emergence of James Russell in Marshall's old role as left-handed setup man out of the bullpen.
Russell entered Monday 7-1 with a 3.43 ERA and a 1.33 WHIP, while Marshall was at 4-5 with a 2.72 ERA and a 1.22 WHIP. And Russell is doing it at a fraction of the cost of Marshall.
So give this one some time.
Castillo catching on:
Welington Castillo started this third straight game Monday as he appears to be edging Steve Clevenger in the battle to become the No. 1 catcher.
"He's made probably the biggest progress, I think, of anybody on the team," manager Dale Sveum said. "The changes he's made on defense and calling a game and preparation he's been going through. His whole attitude has changed dramatically right into an everyday catcher's mindset right now.
"I think he's starting to have a lot more fun understanding the progression he's had to go through. I think going into spring training, it'll feel like he's the everyday catcher. No matter what we do, he's going to have that mentality that he's going to catch 120 games next year."
At the plate, Castillo entered Monday with a line of .281/.352/.445 with 4 homers and 17 RBI in 128 at-bats. Clevenger was at .206/.268/.286 with a homer in 16 RBI in 189 at-bats.
The 28th Cubs convention will be Jan. 18-20 at a new location, the Sheraton Chicago Hotel and Towers, at 301 E. North Water Street. The longtime headquarters had been the Chicago Hilton on South Michigan Avenue.