The Cubs have made a trade with the Giants just ahead of the final game of their series in San Francisco, but it won’t have any impact on the contest. That’s because the Cubs swapped Triple-A infielder Dixon Machado for righty Raynel Espinal, who is also at the highest level of the minors. This is actually Espinal’s fourth Triple-A season, the first three of which were split between the Yankees and Red Sox organizations.
Machado came up through the Tigers system and spent parts of four seasons in Detroit before joining the Cubs as a minor league free agent in 2019. He then played two seasons with the KBO’s Lotte Giants and signed another minors deal with the Cubs in December of last year. He was having an excellent season for Iowa, batting .312 with a .366 wOBA and 121 wRC+ over 391 plate appearances.
Espinal’s performance has not been quite as strong, though he has struck out 102 batters over 83.1 innings. The big issue is that he’s walked 38 batters and allowed 16 homers, leading to a 5.29 ERA that is right in line with his 5.51 FIP and 5.15 xFIP. The 30-year-old first played professionally as part of the Yankees’ Dominican Summer League team in 2013 and he slowly worked his way up through the system, finally reaching A-ball in 2016.
The 6-foot-3, 215 righty was selected by the Red Sox in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft and made his MLB debut on August 30, 2021. He appeared in just one game, pitching two innings and allowing two runs on two hits and a walk with no strikeouts. Espinal then signed a minors deal with the Giants and made 18 starts at Triple-A for them this season.
Armed with a fastball that sits around 92 mph and touches 95, Espinal also has a decent slider and changeup with a curve that is a little less than great. He’s been able to miss bats in the minors and has posted double-digit K/9 numbers at multiple stops, but he apparently lacks the ability to repeat that at the highest level. This looks like little more than an organizational depth move with potential for a little upside if the Cubs can tweak something in Espinal’s mechanics or sequencing.
Update: The deal will impact the series finale because Machado is in the lineup for the Giants.