Chicago Cubs

Carlos Marmol Is the Obvious Choice for Chicago Cubs' Closer

PHOENIX, AZ - SEPTEMBER 30:  Relief pitcher Carlos Marmol #49 of the Chicago Cubs delivers a pitch against the Arizona Diamondbacks during a MLB game at Chase Field on September 30, 2012 in Phoenix, Arizona.  (Photo by Ralph Freso/Getty Images)
Ralph Freso/Getty Images
Ben PhillisContributor IIIFebruary 26, 2013

Carlos Marmol’s 2011 campaign was a disaster. His 2012 season was equally awful.

Why would the Cubs stick with Marmol as their closer?

Marmol has one year left on his three-year contract ($9.8 million) with the Cubs. While fans may want him gone now, his trade value is virtually nonexistent. According to the Chicago Sun-Times, Marmol thought he was already traded to the Angels last year. He would have worked in the bullpen rather than as the closer with the Angels, however.

If the Cubs want Marmol to have trade value as a closer, they need him to perform in 2013. If it seemed he wouldn’t produce, then they wouldn’t trot him out there again. All signs point to a better season though.

Manager Dale Sveum said Marmol is “throwing the ball way better than last spring training.” He also suggested that Marmol has developed better control with his fastball (via ESPN).

The Cubs need to hope so because Marmol’s 1.54 WHIP last year belies how awful his control was. Marmol’s great 2008 season was the only time his WHIP was under 1.10.

Sveum seems to have confidence Marmol will rebound. He isn’t playing Marmol because the Cubs lack an alternative.

Kyuji Fujikawa was brought to Chicago from Japan, where he had success as a closer for the Hanshin Tigers.

Fujikawa is only a few years older than Marmol, and he has the same overwhelming stuff. Their fastballs have similar velocity (around 94 MPH), and their career K/9 rates are similar (11.7 for Marmol, 12.4 for Fujikawa). The primary difference is in their off-speed repertoire and their fastball control. Fujikawa’s career WHIP is 0.86.

Shouldn’t that mean that Fujikawa is the obvious choice for closer?

The Cubs are in rebuilding mode, and they want to acquire the best prospects they can. If Marmol shows he can close early on, he becomes even more enticing trade bait.

Sveum could easily plug Fujikawa in after that, while easing him into American baseball with the setup role.

While Marmol blew a preposterous 10 saves in 2011, his 2007 and 2008 seasons showed his potential. If other teams see a renaissance they may be willing to deal a quality prospect for him at the deadline. Admittedly, his first 2013 spring training appearance was typical Marmol (1 IP, 1 H, 1 BB, 1 ER and 1 SO). It’s still early though.

Professional sports are a business, and Sveum knows that. He’s going with Marmol to build his trade value. It’s an obvious choice. The Cubs wouldn’t win the World Series this year with Marmol or Fujikawa or even a young Mariano Rivera. It’s irrelevant.

However, if Chicago keeps stockpiling prospects to combine with the young core in place, they could contend in years to come.

 

*All season & career stats came from Baseball-Reference.com

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