COMMENTARY | Carlos Marmol's career with the Chicago Cubs has been a wild ride. He not only managed a position change in the minor leagues, converting from catcher to pitcher, but developed into the best setup man in the National League and eventually the Cubs' closer.
At various times Marmol has been one of the most beloved players by Cubs fans and also one of the most loathed, thanks to his Jekyll and Hyde performances over the past several seasons.
But with one-year, $9.8 million left on his contract, the Cubs seemingly view Marmol as simply expendable.
WHAT'S TAKING SO LONG TO TRADE HIM?
Had it not been for Marmol's horrendous first half of the season in 2012 (5.61 ERA), he likely would've been traded last summer. Yet despite Marmol posting a much improved 1.52 ERA following the All-Star break, the Cubs are still without a taker for his services.
A trade nearly came to fruition this past Nov. when the Cubs and Los Angeles Angels agreed to the framework of a deal sending Marmol to L.A. in return for starting pitcher Dan Haren. But the trade fell through with the Cubs concerned over Haren's medicals. No dice.
Then, the baseball Winter Meetings came and went with Marmol's name barely making a blip on the trade radar. And when Marmol was accused of domestic violence in the Dominican Republic last month, there was another scare the trade window had shut for the spring, if not longer.
But with spring training at full throttle, and Marmol having appeared to steer clear of any wrongdoings in the Dominican, the trade rumors for Marmol have finally picked up.
According to Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago, 'several teams' are interested in trading for the 30-year-old, namely the Detroit Tigers who have penciled in Bruce Rondon, a 22-year-old rookie, for their closer's role.
Levine further details Marmol can veto trades to four unspecified West Coast teams, one of which we know is the Angels from the broken Haren deal (Marmol waived his no-trade clause to accept the trade before the Cubs declined the deal). Marmol also reportedly will consider waiving his no-trade list to join a contender.
WHAT CAN THE CUBS EXPECT IN RETURN FOR MARMOL?
Considering the Cubs' efforts to improve the pitching depth in their minor league system, we can fairly assume general manager Jed Hoyer will seek a younger, cost-controlled pitching prospect in return for Marmol.
Hoyer, however, isn't working with much leverage when you factor in Marmol's nearly $10 million contract and bouts of wildness on the mound.
Aside from Marmol's solid 11.7 strikeouts per-nine-innings ratio, his 7.3 walks per-nine-innings can't be ignored. And as far as his closing numbers, in three of the past five seasons Marmol's save percentage has been below 80-percent, including a league-leading 10 blown saves in 2011 (for his career Marmol is 115/140 (82-percent) in save opportunities).
Meanwhile, the Cubs essentially replaced Marmol with the surprise signing of Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa to a two-year, $9.5 million deal in Dec. In six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers Fujikawa, 32, has recorded 202 career saves, including a 1.32 ERA in 2012.
So for all intents and purposes, having roughly $20 million tied up in two closers doesn't make much sense for a rebuilding franchise.
Although neither Marmol or Fujikawa are in the Cubs' long-term plans, having Fujikawa for two years appears to give the organization not only a more reliable closer than Marmol, but also time to find the team's closer of the future.
So with all that said, I've made a list of teams where I think Marmol could potentially land via trade before opening day. And as a side order, a few of the possibilities may present the Cubs with the chance to package Alfonso Soriano along in the deal as well.
For the reasons listed above, and the possibility starter Rick Porcello is available. Jim Leyland has also inferred it's not likely Jose Valverde will return. The Cubs would also potentially have an outside shot to package Soriano with Marmol in a trade. I admit it seems a stretch to include Soriano, but Marmol alone would still appear a good fit.
They have the young pitching prospects the Cubs want. It's also another long shot at dealing Soriano with Marmol considering the Orioles have been searching for a right-handed slugger all offseason.
They're moving fast to compete and haven't been afraid to add payroll this offseason. Closer Chris Perez has declined over the past three seasons and Marmol could be the player to push him for the ninth inning role.
The Rockies are all-around bad, and closer Rafael Betancourt turns 38-years-old at the end of April. He went 31/38 in save chances last season, but how much is left in the tank?
Los Angeles (AL)
We already know Marmol accepted to waive his no-trade clause in Nov. to join the Halos. Maybe they'd think of adding him again in what's shaping up as a very tough American League West division.
Closer John Axford, 30, fell of the wagon badly last season after going 46/48 in saves in 2011. He temporarily lost his job in 2012 while finishing the season (5-8, 4.67) with nine blown saves in 44 chances (80-percent).
New York (NL)
The Mets don't have much of a bullpen and lost confidence in closer Frank Francisco last season. This likely leaves Bobby Parnell to close the door, a reliever with more career blown saves (17) than he has successful saves (14) during his five big-league seasons.
Never afraid to make a deal, Billy Beane is the king of spinning closers into trade deadline gold. His 35-year-old closer, Grant Balfour, has long battled arm troubles and is coming off knee surgery in Feb. However, the A's could potentially be one team on Marmol's no-trade list.
The Pirates need any edge they can get to stay in contention for a full season. Jason Grilli, 36, is taking over the closer's role with all of five career-saves under his belt in 10 seasons.
The Rangers and Cubs hooked up during last year's non-waiver trade deadline in the Ryan Demspter and Geovany Soto trades. Closer Joe Nathan is still a stud at 38-years-old, and newly acquired reliever Joakim Soria saved 160 games in five seasons with Kansas City. But perhaps Marmol would welcome a setup role on a contender. Not to mention, Soriano would appear a good fit in the Lone Star state as well.
Brian Corbin is a Chicago-based sports blogger. He's covered the Cubs year-round atBullpenBrian.com since 2007. His posts have been published on the Chicago Sun-Times News Group web sites and numerous baseball blogs.
You can follow Brian on Twitter @bullpenbrian.