Yesterday was full of activity for the Chicago Cubs, and the highest profile name that moved was involved in what was actually the least important trade. Over a week ago, the Cubs decided to part ways with Carlos Marmol, designated him for assignment, and set about the process of trying to find him a new home. A handful of teams were interested, but, ultimately, the best deal the Cubs could find is one that has thrown folks for a loop.
In it, the Cubs sent Marmol, cash, and $210,000 in international signing bonus space to the Dodgers for DFA’d reliever Matt Guierrer. The Cubs are reportedly saving about $500,000 in the deal. Marmol was then reportedly just DFA’d by the Dodgers. (UPDATE: Ken Gurnick says no, Marmol wasn’t DFA’d. For our purposes here, I don’t much think it matters – if he’s DFA’d, it’s just a procedural move to get him to the minors, which would be done this quickly only if Marmol has basically already agreed to accept that assignment. Gammons says Marmol is already on waivers, which, if true, would confirm his report. This is all probably just theater.)
I’ll admit that I, too, have a tough time pinning down precisely what the Cubs were hoping to accomplish in this trade. When you step back, it’s a very minor deal involving minor players, so it doesn’t merit a ton of hand-wringing. But, if I understand the financial particulars (and the reports have been a bit scattered), it sounds like the Cubs swapped Marmol for Guerrier, and used $210,000 in international bonus pool space to acquire about $500,000 in real money.
Given the obvious importance of international pool money to the Cubs this year, my instinct is to say the Cubs would have been better off just letting Marmol walk and keeping that pool space. Howeva, there are a ton of possible explanations here:
(1) the Cubs knew they weren’t going to use that final $210,000 in international pool space, so the “real” money made the trade worth it;
(2) the Cubs really like Guerrier and there were other teams interested in trading for him (despite the fact that he’d flamed out of the Dodgers’ woeful bullpen … );
(3) the Cubs like Guerrier just enough to believe that there’s a chance they can reclaim him over the next month and maybe deal him at the end of the month as a complementary piece (he does have a nice track record of success);
(4) the Cubs wanted to try and set Marmol up in the best possible landing spot to ensure he had a chance to succeed, rather than risk releasing him and seeing him not find a team (i.e., the “nice guys” explanation, where the Cubs effectively paid to force the Dodgers to take him – but today’s DFA calls that into question); and/or
(5) there are complex financial issues at play to which we don’t have visibility, and the financials of this deal helped the Cubs a lot more than we think.
Cubs GM Jed Hoyer told the media that the thrust of the deal was the cost savings it gave the Cubs, which, if taken at its face, suggests that explanation number one up there (and/or number five) is the primary motivator. If the Cubs go out and trade for another couple hundred thousand in pool space, though (as they might need to do to sign Eloy Jimenez), it’ll make us wonder. I’m guessing it’s one of those situations where it’s a little bit of number one, a little of number three, a little of number four, and a little of number five.
Again: for the 2013 Chicago Cubs (and the future), it’s a minor trade involving a guy who, at present, had no trade value. That the Cubs arguably received no value in return should therefore surprise no one. Hopefully Guerrier turns things around, and everyone celebrates.
Whatever the explanation, Marmol will now get a shot to re-establish himself with the Dodgers, who say they have identified a mechanical issue that they believe they can fix. (They didn’t say whether the mechanical issue was “his delivery.”) He’ll pitch in lower-leverage situations if and when he’s in the bigs, where he’s had the most success over the last couple of years. He still has a mid-90s fastball and a good – if no longer devastating - slider. There is still clay there with which to work, and that’s probably why he was DFA’d by the Dodgers – so he could head to the minors and work on those mechanical fixes.
Marmol was, for many years, the most incredible and terrifying reliever I can remember the Cubs having. When he was on, it was hilarious to watch batters embarrass themselves trying to hit him. When he was off, it probably would have been hilarious to watch the veins popping out of my neck as I struggled to keep the remote in my hand and off of the wall.
He set records with the Cubs. He once put up a 325 ERA+. He was critically important to those very good 2007 and 2008 Cubs teams. Sure, it was always a high wire act, but more often than not, he made it across the canyon with flash bulbs popping. There are plenty of good memories. I think I’ll hang my hat on those, rather than the times Marmol was booed before he’d even entered the game.
Good luck with the Dodgers, Carlos, and wherever the next stop is after that. May every next team have a high wire for you to successfully traverse.