SAN FRANCISCO — Anticipation had been building since the Cubs’ last home series, and the team made its first trade of the deadline Saturday.
The Cubs sent reliever Chris Martin to the Dodgers for utility man Zach McKinstry before a 5-4 loss to the Giants in which their ninth-inning rally came up short. Martin is likely the first of a trio of back-end relievers the Cubs will deal before what’s expected to be a busy deadline for them Tuesday.
McKinstry, 27, has a .210 career average in 74 major-league games. He debuted in 2020 and played in 60 games last season on either side of an injured right oblique. But his big-league playing time has been sporadic this season, with only 11 at-bats. A left-handed hitter, McKinstry is slashing .335/.417/.487 in Triple-A.
‘‘We’re short left-handers, especially off the bench,’’ said manager David Ross, who added that he had talked with Dodgers manager Dave Roberts about the Cubs’ newest addition. ‘‘And then when you want to, there’s some matchups where we haven’t been able to maximize the splits of the opposing pitcher, so that’ll give us another multifaceted player that has got a skill set in a lot of different spots.’’
Ross said he expects McKinstry to join the major-league squad in the next couple of days. In the meantime, the Cubs filled Martin’s open roster spot by recalling right-hander Mark Leiter Jr.
Martin’s signing this spring came amid a flurry of short-term deals when the Cubs were adding veteran arms to their pitching staff once the lockout lifted.
Martin, fresh off a World Series title with the Braves in 2021, joined the Cubs on a one-year, $2.5 million deal. He posted a middling 4.31 ERA with the Cubs, but he was on pace for a career-best 11.9 strikeouts per nine innings.
‘‘The cool part for him was our group had some thoughts about him when we got him, and he was open to them and owned them and took them into the game,’’ bullpen coach Chris Young told the Sun-Times. ‘‘High-strikeout, low-walk, a ton of ground balls, it’s what every guy wants. I’m not surprised someone came and got him.’’
On Friday, rookie reliever Scott Effross had stood in the visiting clubhouse at Oracle Park, his locker neighboring Martin’s, and raved about the impact veteran relievers David Robertson, Mychal Givens and Martin have had on him.
‘‘It stinks,’’ Effross told the Sun-Times after the trade, while acknowledging the merits of the trade itself. ‘‘It’s a good opportunity for him to go win back-to-back rings, I guess. But he was super-good to me and a really good guy to have in the bullpen. We talked about that group [Friday], and he was a huge part of it. So I wish him all the best.’’
More goodbyes are expected in the coming days, with catcher Willson Contreras, outfielder Ian Happ, Robertson, Givens and plenty of others the subject of trade speculation and rumors.
‘‘The organization is going to do what they need to do to make themselves better for the upcoming years,’’ Robertson said recently. ‘‘And if part of that is moving me and other players in this clubhouse to get the talent that they need to get to where they want to be, then so be it.
‘‘There’s not much I can do about it. I still am going to get an opportunity to play baseball. I signed up to play and am being paid to play, and I’m going to play for whoever has me between the lines.’’