Monday, March 11, 2013
The Cubs closer's gig
By Jason Catania
The past year hasn't been kind to Carlos Marmol. The Cubs closer lost the ninth-inning role in the middle of a poor and injury-riddled 2012 season, was almost traded to the Los Angeles Angles for Dan Haren at the beginning of the offseason, watched the Chicago Cubs sign a Japanese All-Star closer and continues to deal with trying off-the-field problems. Through all of this, the Cubs insist that Marmol still will handle the final three outs.
Marmol, 30, managed 20 saves and a respectable 3.42 ERA last year, but his never-ending control struggles reached dangerous heights (7.3 BB/9), and now he enters the final year of his contract. No wonder there's been plenty of trade speculation surrounding the right-hander.
The primary reason for that, though, is the acquisition of Kyuji Fujikawa, one of the top closers for the past several seasons in Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball (NPB). A 32-year-old righty who has averaged 34 saves the last six years, Fujikawa has shown both great stuff (12.4 K/9) and great control (2.4 BB/9). He signed for $9.5 million over two years back in December.
For now, though, Marmol isn't going anywhere writes Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times. But that doesn't mean the speculation will end -- or that the Cubs won't eventually trade him, especially now that they have a replacement at the ready.
Fujikawa has skipped the World Baseball Classic at the Cubs' request, per Wittenmyer. That could be an indication the the club wants Fujikawa to assimilate himself to Major League Baseball as well and as quickly as possible, so that he will be in position to step into the ninth inning at some point soon.
So while the job would appear to be Marmol's still, the leash could be very short. Perhaps the best-case scenario for the Cubs would be to have Marmol pitch well for the first half of 2013, at which point he could be traded to a team in need of late-inning help, both freeing up some of his $9.8 million salary and opening the door for Fujikawa.