On Saturday, the Cubs announced they have agreed to terms with Marisnick on a contract for 2021 with a mutual option for the '22 season. Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the club. Sources told MLB.com it includes a $1 million salary for 2021 and $4 million (or a $500,000 buyout) for 2022.
Even with that plan, both Heyward and Pederson will surely receive days off from manager David Ross against certain tough lefties. Beyond that, the Cubs were in the market for bench options that not only offered pinch-hitting options, but defensive upgrades for later innings.
That is how Marisnick fits into the Cubs' roster picture.
"Jake’s exciting for us as a guy that can play all three outfield positions," Ross said on Sunday, "but really he’s an elite center fielder when you look at the way he goes and gets the baseball. He’s been on championship teams, and he knows what it’s like to play a role. His character is off the chart, and I think he’s a really good baseball player whose best is yet to come."
Over the course of his eight-year career -- which includes stints with the Marlins, Astros and Mets -- Marisnick has established himself as an excellent outfield defender with plus speed. He can essentially assume the role that opened up when the Cubs non-tendered center fielder Albert Almora Jr. (now with the Mets).
In the abbreviated 2020 season, Marisnick was effective at the plate (.333 average and .959 OPS in 34 plate appearances) when healthy. Hamstring troubles limited him to just 16 games, though. Marisnick dealt with a left hamstring issue early in the season and then a right hamstring setback in September.
The leg issues offer an explanation for Marisnick's sprint speed slipping to 28.2 feet per second in 2020, per Statcast. That put him in the 84th percentile in the Majors. From 2015-19, Marisnick's annual Sprint Speed stayed between 29.1-29.4, keeping him between the 94th and 97th percentile each year.
"He’s a guy that dealt with injuries last year and has something to prove," said Ross.
Defensively, Marisnick has posted 71 defensive runs saved in his career in the outfield. That includes 50 in 3,843 1/3 innings in center field, along with plus showings in both left (12 DRS in 331 2/3 innings) and right (nine DRS in 382 1/3 innings).
As a hitter, Marisnick has hit .229 with a .666 OPS in 701 career games, while stealing 73 bases in 100 attempts.
While Happ earned the everyday job in center last year, Ross typically shifted him to left in later innings to upgrade the defense. With a true center-field option like Marisnick in the fold, Ross has that option available again, and Chicago can keep Heyward in right full-time (the team's preference).
Another benefit to adding Marisnick could be avoiding using middle infielder Nico Hoerner in center field, unless out of necessity. The Cubs have also not ruled out using third baseman Kris Bryant in left field (a position he's played in the past against lefty pitching), so the added depth helps Ross when weighing such scenarios.