General managers and other baseball operations executives, including Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein, from the Cubs, will be meeting in Milwaukee this week to jumpstart their offseason discussions, most notably, with each other.
One of the things the various GMs will no doubt be discussing: the increasing cost in the closer market.
Despite a wide range of free agent closer options available this Winter, the Philadelphia Phillies recently decided to give Jonathan Papelbon the richest deal ever given to a reliever – four years and $50 million, with an option for a fifth year that will reportedly easily vest, making the deal worth $60 million.
And apparently, the huge contract demanded by Papelbon isn’t an aberration.
One of the teams most open about its need for a closer, the Toronto Blue Jays, has apparently been “shocked” at the amounts agents are asking for their closers this Winter. For that reason, and because the Jays have a “surplus of prospects,” GM Alex Anthopoulos admits his preferred route for acquiring a closer will be through trade.
And, as I’ve been saying for a week, the Cubs just so happen to have a “surplus” closer, whose two-year, $16.8 million contract suddenly looks mighty attractive – to the Blue Jays, and other teams.
Now, Phil Rogers says that the Cubs are expecting to be approached about Carlos Marmol, as soon as this week at the GM meetings. No doubt.
Marmol, 29, is coming off his worst season in half a decade, where a decrease in fastball velocity, an increase in slider velocity, and a suspected increase in – how to put it delicately? – butt fat conspired to tank Marmol’s effectiveness. Marmol had a 4.01 ERA and 1.378 WHIP in 74 innings, on route to 10 blown saves and an awful 77% save percentage.
Still, Marmol is one year removed from being one of the most consistently dominant relievers in baseball – and he played that role, if frustratingly, for five straight years. New Cubs management says that he’s just a tweak or two away from a return to that dominance, and, while that’s something you’d expect them to say, maybe it’s also true. After all, there was one other difference for Marmol in 2011: no Larry Rothschild. With a new pitching coach, and an offseason of study and adjustment, it’s not at all implausible that Marmol can come back as good as ever in 2012.
If that’s true, why would the Cubs want to trade Marmol? The back end of the bullpen is, perhaps, the only area of the Cubs’ roster where they could replace a player like Marmol internally. Whether it’s through a move of Sean Marshall to the 9th, or the return of Kerry Wood, or the emergence of someone like Andrew Cashner or Chris Carpenter as a closer, the Cubs can afford to move Marmol without a striking drop in overall team performance. The move would also free up some cash that could be put to work in the rotation, or at a corner spot in the infield.
Given that, and Marmol’s emerging value in a the current closer marketplace, let’s hope Theo and Jed do plenty of listening this week, assuming teams come to bend their ear about their “surplus prospects.”