Anderson Espinoza, Eric Jokisch Among Several Ex-Cubs Involved in Recent Transactions

While we await the inevitable underwhelming Cubs signing that will send social media into a frenzied gnashing of digital teeth and rending of virtual garments, I figured I’d point out some moves involving former Cubs. There are some pretty deep cuts here, none of which should have any implications whatsoever on the coming season, but that’s what makes it fun.

Following their three-team trade with the Braves and Brewers that sent Sean Murphy to Atlanta and William Contreras to Milwaukee, the A’s had too many players on the 40-man roster. That meant designating infielder Vimael “Hitting” Machin for assignment. The 29-year-old had been with Oakland since he was selected away from the Cubs in the 2019 Rule 5 Draft, though his nickname didn’t hold up at the MLB level.

Despite slashing .277/.368/.399 over parts of seven minor league seasons, including a .307/.394/.470 line over the last two seasons in the A’s organization, Machin has posted a mere .208/.290/.261 slash across 361 big league plate appearances. This is where you insert the requisite joke about that making him a good fit for a return engagement with his old club.

In sunnier ex-Cubs news, righty Anderson Espinoza has signed a minor league deal with the Padres. He was once the top-ranked prospect in San Diego’s system following a trade from Boston back in 2016, but he’s undergone two elbow reconstructions in the time since and hasn’t been able to fulfill his potential. Espinoza pitched in Double-A after coming over to the Cubs in 2021 in exchange for Jake Marisnick, then worked his way up to a cup of coffee this past season.

What’s really wild here is that Espinoza won’t turn 25 until March, so he’s still got plenty of time to put things together. His mid-90s fastball could gain more life, but it’s the breaking stuff that will have to carry him if he wants to break out.

Finally, we come to a pair of players who were recently signed by the KBO’s Kiwoom Heroes. Lefty Eric Jokisch was drafted by the Cubs out of Northwestern in 2010 and logged 14.1 innings for Chicago all the way back in the dark days of 2014. He bounced around from there, spending time with the Marlins, Rangers, and A’s without getting another shot at the bigs.

Jokisch joined the Heroes in 2018 and has gone 50-33 with a 2.72 ERA over 701.2 innings, even generating a little buzz regarding a potential stateside return a while back. But the 34-year-old is obviously very comfortable in South Korea and his $1.5 million guarantee is probably better than signing a minors deal and hoping to catch on with a team over here.

The Heroes also signed someone who’s been persona non grata in MLB for a while now, inking Addison Russell to a $700,000 contract that brings him back to Kiwoom after a stint in 2020. The disgraced former Cubs shortstop was suspended for 40 games in 2018 for violating MLB’s joint domestic violence policy, then was somehow tendered a contract for the following season. When his performance remained too poor for the club to justify his presence on the roster, he was non-tendered after 2019.

In addition to being a below-average offensive producer and an above-average offensive human being during his time in Chicago, Russell admitted in ’19 that he didn’t know the team’s baserunning signs. In his fifth season as a big leaguer. Just a stunningly bad look for someone whose mere presence on the roster was enough to anger most fans. He still had his share of defenders, though, and I’m guessing some will pop up in response to this take.

Russell has mainly played in Korea and Mexico over the last three years and just hit .348 with 24 homers in 80 games for Acereros de Monclova. His manager during part of that time? Former big leaguer and Mets manager Mickey Callaway, who was banned from MLB in 2021 following an investigation into sexual assault allegations that had taken place over the course of his career.

To really tie things together, Callaway’s last MLB gig was as the Angels’ pitching coach in 2020 under manager Joe Maddon. Callaway was suspended, then fired and banned due to the investigation into accusations stemming from his time as the pitching coach in Cleveland seven years earlier. He was also fired by the Acereros at the end of May because the team was struggling with a below-.500 record. His MLB ban expired at the end of the ’22 season, so I suppose it’s possible he could catch on somewhere next year.

Yikes, that took a pretty ugly turn at the end.

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