Today, in a highly expected move, the Chicago Cubs finally signed Carlos Marmol on a three year deal worth a total of $20 Million. What this new contract does, is lock up their electric closer through both of his remaining arbitration years, as well as his first year of free agency. While Marmol is a key piece to the bullpen, fans across Cub Nation are split on whether or not this is, in fact, a good deal.
On one hand, baring injury or a complete implosion that we fans have come to be used to, the Cubs know exactly who their closer will be over the next three years. On the other hand, he is costing them a lot of money over the next three years combined. While the first year of his contract is a very manageable $3.2 Million, he gets a massive increase in 2012 when he will get a major pay raise to $7 Million. The contract which runs through the 2013 season, will then pay Marmol $9.8 Million in his final year. That is a major price for a relief pitcher, no matter how dominating he can be. However the best closer in baseball, Marino Rivera, just signed a new contract which says he will be making $30 Million over the next two years. In that aspect, you could very well consider the Cubs got Marmol at a discount. While pondering this, forget that Marmol is nowhere near the closer that Rivera is.
The sad thing about the arbitration years, is that no matter how much money you make, or how poorly you have played, you are guaranteed to get a raise if your current team decides to keep you. So if the Cubs and Marmol did not come to this agreement, he would have been making around $5 Million this year, and next year would have gotten another raise to likely between $7-8 Million then enter free agency, and the Cubs might have actually saved money in the long run.
Statistically speaking, Marmol is the most inconsistent pitching in baseball over the past four years, which just so happens to be his whole career. In his time with the club, we have seen the mixed bag that is the “Marmol Experience”. We have seen him walk the bases loaded on seemingly 12 straight pitches, and we have also seen him strike out the side on nine pitches. He is likely the most frustrating pitcher the Cubs have ever had, since Mitch “Wild Thing” Williams.
In order to understand just how maddening Marmol is, and to get a grip on the whole “Marmol Experience”, how about we take a look at his surprising numbers throughout his career.
First, on the plus side, Marmol has been the most dominating relief pitcher since he came into baseball. To say he is a lights out pitcher does not do him justice, because no one can get a hit off of him. Since the start of the 2007 season, Marmol leads all major league relief pitchers with 441 strikeouts and a .154 batting average against. Looking at strictly these stats, you would say that Marmol is worth every penny of the $20 Million he will be making over the next three years. However, if you are going to celebrate and embrace the greatness that is Marmol, you must also take the bad. You must also accept what makes you want to put your foot through the television set every time he takes the mound.
As dominating as Marmol has been over the course of his career, he has also been as inefficient as any pitcher over the same time frame. I said that no one can get a hit off of him, but that may be because he walks them before he allows them to get a hit.
Over the same timeframe that he has been completely lights out, leading all relievers in strikeouts and batting average against, he also leads them in some highly negative statistics. On top of those stats that make you say wow, he also leads all relief pitchers in walks allowed per nine innings. Currently, Marmol is allowing 5.63 walks per nine inning pitched, and has a grand total of 193 free passes in his four years of service. That is 60 more walks allowed than the man who holds second on the list of most walks allowed over the past four years. Ironically, that pitcher is Kevin Gregg, whom I am sure you all regret remembering. To add to the conundrum that is Marmol, he leads all relievers in hit batsmen over the same time frame, eight more than the next closest wild pitcher. Going off these stats, there is no way in hell Marmol is worth anything close to what he was signed for.
So you tell me Cub fans, with Marmol being the most inconsistent relief pitcher in baseball over the past four years, is he worth the $20 Million he will be making over the next three years? You can not argue with the fact that when he is on his game, there is no one better. But the flipside of the coin is when he does not have his “A Game”, he may very well be the worst pitcher in the game.
Either way you look at things, these next three years with Marmol will be very exciting.
Its been a while since I wrote anything on the Cubs, mainly because there hasn’t been anything to discus. There have not been any trades, or signings to talk about at all. On top of that, there are no longer any rumors to toy with on will the Cubs trade for this player or that player. So, not much to talk about that would gather much, if any, interest. However, there are some thoughts that are still in my head, and I would like to get the thoughts and opinions on my fellow Cubs fans out there.
First, and what I feel is most important, the pitching rotation. While I am comfortable with our four known starters, I am not sure how I feel about Sean Marshall taking over in the fifth spot in the rotation. Don’t get me wrong, I do feel that he is qualified to do the job, but I feel like he is needed more in the bullpen. At the moment, we have Neal Cotts, Ted Lilly, and Marshall as the only left handed pitchers on our pitching staff. Lilly will not be coming out of the bullpen, as he is one of the mainstays in our rotation. That leaves Marshall and Cotts as the only lefties that can be in the bullpen. If you take Marshall out of the bullpen and place him in the rotation, that means that Cotts is the only left handed pitcher we have to come in to a game to face those tough lefty bats. I don’t know about you, but I am not all too comfortable with Cotts coming in late in a game to face the best left handed sticks in the league. I think that we need Marshall in the bullpen. The only problem with that, is who do we have then to fill that fifth starters role?
The options for the fifth starter are limited. As I mentioned before, Marshall is likely the main candidate to fill that role. Other then him, we have Chad Gaudin who has started games before when he was with Oakland. We also have Angel Guzman, Kevin Hart, Aaron Heilman and Jeff Samardzija. Any one of the previous six pitchers could fill in nicely as the fifth starter. My personal preference would be either Gaudin, Hart, or Heilman. As I mentioned, I like Marshall in the bullpen because he gives us that extra lefty in the pen. he also gives us insurance incase we need someone to fill in for an injured pitcher or if the Cubs want to give Rich Harden more rest. Guzman is still coming off of an injury, so it is unlikely that he will be given a chance to make the rotation out of Spring Training. I think he would be a great setup man in the bullpen. On that same note, Samardzija, I feel would be better used at this point as a solid setup man in the late innings. His power arm would be nice to see in those late innings or a close ballgam. However, seeing a power arm like that in the fifth slot wouldn’t be bad either. Hart has started games in the minors, and I don’t think that he has gotten a chance to start in the majors yet. He does have the potential to do so, but not on this club, not this year. Heilman is intriguing if you think about it. He has done everything from starting to closing. He will be given a chance to start I am sure, but I don’t think that he will win the job. Marshall will likely be the man to win the spot though.
Speaking of the rotation, am I the only one who sees some concern with almost everyone else in the rotation? Carlos Zambrano is our ace, and that title wont change. He is a constant roller coaster ride as you never know what you are going to get from him. Will you get the no hit stuff that he shows from time to time? Or will you get the Z that gives up 5 runs in 3 innings. His shoulder injury from last year is also of concern. Is he going to be healthy all year? I have no idea what to expect from him, though I hope for the best. I hope that he will be the ace pitcher that we know he can be.
Dempster is another question mark for me. Last year, I thought he would do a good job starting, but he did surprise me with just how good he was able to do. Will he be able to have a repeat performance and give us another solid year? Or will he give us the year that so many Cub fans feared he would give us when they first learned that he would be a starter again after so many years out of the rotation. He did great last year, but it was only one year. I would be lying if I told you that I had no concerns about him.
Lilly, he has been very consistent over the past two years here. So I am a little less concerned with him. However, he has been known to give up the long ball on occasion, something he hasn’t really done too much his first two years here. Will he revert to his old days and give up bombs that put us behind? I wish i had the answer. Then again, I am not overly worried about him.
Harden is likely my main concern in the rotation. How healthy is he? He is being held back, with the same old song and dance that we are used to hearing when they used to talk about Wood and Prior. The old line ‘Oh no, he is fine. we are just taking it easy on him’. Things like that worry me. The Cubs don’t talk about injuries, and always try to sugarcoat it to ease the fans minds for as long as they can until the news comes out that they will not be ready for opening day. I am not saying that this is the case with Harden, but you can never be too sure. The Cubs are even saying that they will be happy with him making 25 starts, but is that how many they are expecting him to make, wishing he will make, or settling on him starting. Time will tell, and I hope he lasts the season.
The bullpen is a big question mark. We lost our closer in Kerry Wood, and are now expecting Carlos Marmol to fill in his shoes. Marmol is more then qualified to do the job, as he is one of the nastiest pitchers in the game when he is on. But he can also have that month or too bad stretch where everything he throws is very hittable. My only problem with him being the full time closer, is that it takes him out of the job that he had most of last year. He was the pitcher that came into the game when the Cubs were in a jam. Bases loaded no outs, he came in and put out the fire. If he goes into the closers role, who fills the void that he is leaving? Kevin Gregg? Samardzija? I am not sure if either of them could do the job as well as Marmol, though I don’t think that either one of them will fill in the closers role either. So Marmol will likely be the closer with Gregg being setup. We have a lot of bullpen arms so the competition should be strong for the remaining slots. But we lost Bob Howry, who despite last year, was a very good pitcher for us out of the pen. He had a really bad year, and cost us games last year. But he is a void that we also need to fill.
Well, that wraps up this blog on my thoughts with the pitchers. Stay tuned, because in the next few days I will talk about the starting lineup and the bench.