The possibility of trading Chicago Cubs’ closer Carlos Marmol has been a frequent matter of discussion since the trade deadline. Marmol, who just turned 29, is coming off a disappointing 2011 (4.01 ERA, 10 blown saves, 12 K/9), following an historic 2010 (2.55 ERA, 38 saves, 16 K/9). A drop in velocity in his fastball, together with reduced movement in his slider, conspired to make Marmol – and the remaining two years and $16.8 million remaining on his contract – a pretty unattractive closer.
But that was then.
Since “then,” a few things have changed, each of them making Carlos Marmol much more attractive today.
First, a huge number of teams effectively announced themselves as “in the market” for a closer, including the Blue Jays, Angels, Red Sox, Twins, Reds, Marlins, Mets and Rockies. The Phillies and Rangers were on that list as well, until recently.
Which brings me to the second factor increasing Carlos Marmol’s value: the contracts recently given out to Jonathan Papelbon and Joe Nathan. The former, who had a bounce-back year in 2011 after a down 2010, got an amazing four years and $50 million (plus a vesting option that could take it over $60 million) from the Phillies. And then yesterday, Nathan, 37, who missed the 2010 season after Tommy John surgery, and then pitched crappily in limited duty in 2011, got an unbelievable two-year, $14.5 million deal. Given those two contracts, and the pitchers’ situations, it’s not a huge leap to conclude that Marmol’s 2/$16.8M contract is looking fairly attractive, even in a market with a number of free agent closer options available.
Finally, the dramatic changes to the CBA announced today appear to have the effect of increasing the pool of money available to spend on free agents, thus increasing free agent salaries, and making players already under reasonable contracts more valuable. The impact of the CBA changes, mind you, are not fully understood (and, to be frank, might not be for another couple years), so it may be best to downplay the interplay between the new CBA and these kinds of prospective trades for now.
So, taken together, it’s easy to see how Marmol – even in spite of his rough 2011 season – could be looking pretty good to a number of teams. And, if the Cubs were willing to eat some of his remaining contract? He could net the Cubs a surprisingly large return.
I’ve made no secret of my desire that the Cubs strongly consider moving Marmol – first at the trade deadline, and now before the 2012 season. Marmol is valuable to other teams, a luxury to the Cubs, and replaceable internally by the Cubs. That’s the perfect trio when it comes to identifying tradable players. Given the Cubs’ relative depth at the back-end of the bullpen, they can afford to trade Marmol without suffering a dramatic drop-off in performance in 2012. In the process, they’d save some salary to be put to use elsewhere, and pick up some valuable prospects on the way.
Obviously, trading Marmol isn’t all sunshine and roses. The velocity issues are no secret to other teams, and are a concern the Cubs would have to overcome. The same is probably true of any unspoken conditioning concerns that teams might have (Marmol looked quite large in the posterior last year), as well as his overall ineffectiveness. Further, it isn’t a guarantee that one of the Cubs’ many replacement options – Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood, Andrew Cashner, Chris Carpenter, Jeff Samardzija, etc. – would be as effective as Marmol as the closer.
Still, even considering those risks, it’s hard for me to see a reason not to move Marmol in the right deal. And, given the changes in the closer market over the last two weeks, it seems even more likely that the “right deal” could come along if the Cubs are looking for it.