It’s no secret that, should the right opportunity present itself, the Chicago Cubs would be open to trading closer Carlos Marmol. Indeed, the right opportunity presented itself earlier in the offseason, and the Cubs agreed to trade Marmol to the Angels for Dan Haren. But medical concerns about Haren’s hip and back scuttled the deal, and the Cubs had the unenviable task of reminding Marmol just how much they appreciated him and wanted to keep him.
That said, very few expect Marmol to finish the 2013 season with the Cubs. He is a free agent after the year, and, as a closer on a team not expected to have all that many important games in need of closing, he’s something of a luxury that the Cubs would probably rather convert into young, longer-term assets. I’d imagine modest trade discussions about Marmol have continued at the periphery for the entirety of the offseason, with newly-signed set-up man Kyuji Fujikawa ready to slide into the closer’s role (and, in turn, have his own value increased) should Marmol be moved.
Enter the Tigers.
A team with obvious playoff aspirations after reaching the World Series last year, the Tigers would undoubtedly like to have no holes on the roster. Entering Spring Training, they had a glaring one at the back of the bullpen, which they told the world they planned to fill with a just-turned 22-year-old who has barely pitched above A-ball (Bruce Rondon). So far, the results haven’t been encouraging this Spring, and Danny Knobler reports that the Tigers have finally conceded that they’re going to need outside help. Sources tell Knobler that the Tigers are “pushing hard” to find a closer.
Knobler’s report doesn’t mention Marmol or the Cubs, instead focusing on the extra bullpen depth in Washington (but they’d like to keep it) and Boston (they could conceivably move one of Andrew Bailey or Joel Hanrahan). Perhaps, after dealing with Jose Valverde’s implosion, the Tigers are scared off by Marmol’s frequent bouts of wildness.
But, of course, those bouts of wildness are punctuated by ridiculous nastiness. And, as we’ve noted many times, after returning from the disabled list early last season with a mild hamstring issue, and after being told he couldn’t shake off the catcher and had to use his fastball more, Marmol put up a 2.66 ERA over his final 44 innings. He struck out 60 in those 44 innings, and walked just 29 (which, for him, is saying something).
In other words, that Carlos Marmol was a shut-down closer. He seems like a guy the Tigers should want, especially if they’re having trouble finding the right guy elsewhere. Marmol is set to make $9.8 million in 2013, and, although money may not be an issue for the Tigers, the Cubs would gladly eat some portion of that salary to make the return a little more exciting on their end.
Starting pitcher Rick Porcello, currently superfluous and starting to get expensive via arbitration, is likely to be mentioned frequently as the Tigers’ trade bait in talks with other teams. Although he’s disappointed in his young career, many feel his numbers could improve dramatically if he had a better infield defense behind him. Even though the Cubs have seven starting pitchers, they’re always looking for young, controllable talent (particularly guys with warts on whom they think they can “buy low”) like Porcello. If the Tigers proposed such a swap, I’m sure the Cubs would listen. Would the Tigers, though? Maybe they’d rather give up a couple good, not great prospects.
In any event, I’d think you would start to hear an uptick in Marmol/Tigers rumors over the next couple weeks, until the Tigers’ bullpen situation is resolved. They may ultimately go the cheap free agent route (Brian Wilson remains on the market, for example). But if they want to make a trade, Marmol makes about as much sense as anyone else realistically available.