Carlos Marmol did not officially get charged with a blown save on Monday against the Pittsburgh Pirates, but three of the four batters he faced reached base before Kyuji Fujikawa picked up his first major league save. Still, Chicago Cubs manager Dale Sveum said immediately after that he was sticking with Marmol as his closer.
Marmol picked up his first save of the season Thursday against the Pirates, but it was not without incident. He allowed two runs, yielding three singles and a walk along the way, before striking out third baseman Pedro Alvarez and inducing a double play from second baseman Neil Walker to end the game.
Marmol got off to a bad start last season, with a 5.84 ERA and more walks (18) than strikeouts (13) over his first 16 appearances (12.1 innings). That led to him being demoted from the closer role, and he also spent time on the disabled list with a right hamstring issue. He did turn things around from June 1 on, posting a 2.72 ERA with 18 saves and 59 strikeouts over 43 innings (45 appearances). That said, his control was still lackluster (5.7 BB/9) during that stretch and even worse overall in 2012 (7.3 BB/9).
Marmol was nearly traded over the winter, and Fujikawa was signed as a free agent from Japan after posting a 1.77 ERA, an 11.8 K/9 rate and 220 saves over 12 seasons for the Hanshin Tigers in the Nippon Professional League. Numbers in Japan are not always easily translated to American baseball, but Fujikawa’s long track record as one of the top closers in Japan is noteworthy and led to him being highly sought after prior to the Cubs signing him.
It’s unclear what direction Sveum will go with the ninth inning, but if Marmol keeps walking the tightrope there may be no choice but to give Fujikawa a long look in the role. Of course the two could wind up splitting save opportunities equally long-term, which would clearly frustrate fantasy baseball owners.
For now Marmol is still worth owning in all fantasy leagues, but those that look to be in good shape for saves at this early stage could consider trading him while his value is still fairly high. Fujikawa is available in nearly half of Yahoo! leagues right now, and that ownership percentage may rise quickly.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports.com. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.