Cubs get McKinstry from LA for Martin

July 31st, 2022

SAN FRANCISCO -- The first domino in what is expected to be a busy Trade Deadline for the Cubs dropped on Saturday afternoon. The North Siders acquired versatile infielder Zach McKinstry from the Dodgers in exchange for veteran reliever Chris Martin.

Most of the trade rumors surrounding the Cubs have involved All-Stars Willson Contreras and Ian Happ, along with veteran closer David Robertson, but veteran pieces like Martin are also on the radar of contending clubs. As the clock keeps ticking toward Tuesday's 5 p.m. CT Trade Deadline, here is a look at the first deal completed by the Cubs.

What the Cubs are getting in McKinstry

The Cubs love versatility, and the 27-year-old McKinstry offers manager David Ross another player capable of moving between multiple outfield and infield positions. This season, between Triple-A Oklahoma City and the Dodgers, McKinstry has logged time at second base, shortstop, third base and both corner outfield spots. He played mostly shortstop at Triple-A, but he has been utilized mostly as an outfielder in the Majors.

"He can play all three infield positions and both corners," Ross said. "So I think it's just another flexible piece, left-hander. We're short on left-handers, especially off the bench. And then there's some matchups where we haven't been able to maximize the splits of the opposing pitcher. That'll give us another multi-faceted player that's got a skill-set at a lot of different spots."

A year ago, McKinstry enjoyed a strong April for Los Angeles, hitting .296 with an .883 OPS through 17 games, before a right oblique strain sidelined him for six weeks. After returning from that injury, the lefty-swinging McKinstry hit at a .173 clip with a .557 OPS in 43 games the rest of the way. He has appeared in just 10 big league games this season, going 1-for-11 at the plate.

This season with Oklahoma City, McKinstry enjoyed a strong showing, posting a .335/.417/.487 slash line with 17 extra-base hits, 25 RBIs and nearly as many walks (27) as strikeouts (33) in 48 games. Over 114 games in his career at Triple-A, McKinstry has hit .323/.401/.550 while bouncing around the diamond defensively.

The Cubs are set at shortstop with Nico Hoerner, but McKinstry would seemingly provide a complementary lefty option for second and third base, plus the outfield. If Chicago trades the switch-hitting Happ, there would be at-bats available in left field. At second base, Ross has been mixing and matching with righty-hitting Christopher Morel and David Bote. Second baseman Nick Madrigal, who also hits from the right side, appears on target to return in the coming weeks from the injured list.

What the Cubs gave up in Martin

One of the reasons Chicago targeted veteran relievers on short-term contracts (trade targets Mychal Givens and Robertson also fit that mold) was for this exact scenario. If the Cubs were not within range of contention, those arms would be trade chips. The North Siders took that same approach last season with Craig Kimbrel, Ryan Tepera and Andrew Chafin.

"We've had a really good bullpen, and he's been a big part of that," Ross said. "I'm happy that he gets to go on and continue to chase another championship. His time here was good."

The Cubs added the 36-year-old Martin on a one-year, $2.5 million contract (plus incentives) for this season to add an experienced setup option for the late-innings. The 6-foot-8 righty answered the call with a 4.31 ERA in 34 appearances in Ross' bullpen. Martin racked up 40 strikeouts and issued just four walks in his 31 1/3 innings for the Cubs.

With Martin out of the picture, and more trades possible involving Chicago's bullpen, the Cubs will use the season's final two months to keep evaluating some of its younger internal arms and watching others continue to grow into trusted options. For example, sidearmer Scott Effross is young in terms of MLB experience, but he has quickly emerged as one of Ross' top options from Chicago's homegrown relief corps.