Chicago Cubs Bullpen Prepared For Life After Carlos Marmol

By Thom Tsang
Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Cubs have been the only MLB team that Carlos Marmol has ever played for; but all things must end, and for the 30-year old closer, his relationship with the Cubs is going to be quickly drawing to a close in 2013.

With 92 saves over the last three seasons, there have been only five pitchers who have posted a higher save total than the Cubs closer, but even that won’t stop the team from parting ways with Marmol, who is set to enter free agency at the end of the season.

In fact, it should happen before then.

It’s not that the Cubs couldn’t use a back-end reliever with stuff like Marmol’s. After all, only three relievers have struck out batters at a higher rate than the right-hander over the last three seasons: Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen, and Craig Kimbrel.

That’s some pretty elite company to keep, but as good as his stuff is, the Cubs closer just hasn’t shown a consistent ability to control it, with a 6.30 BB/9 that leads all pitchers in the league over that same span, reliever or otherwise.

The strikeouts simply don’t do enough to alleviate the walks, and all the goodwill earned in the past isn’t going to give the the Cubs reason justify Marmol’s $7 million salary next season. Especially when he’s walking 7.32 batters every nine innings like he did in 2012.

So yes, barring an unexpected event where Marmol is willing to take a significant pay cut to continue his career at Wrigley, the Cubs will more than likely be shopping his strikeout stuff to potential suitors all season long.

Whether they’ll get a successful bite is yet to be seen in 2013, but luckily for the Cubs, their bullpen is set up so that they won’t miss a beat without their closer for the last three-plus years.

The obvious reason is Kyuji Fujikawa, the Japanese reliever with the highly-regarded late-life fastball who will be given every chance to take over in the ninth inning for the team some time in the coming season. Sure, the team has said that Marmol will go into the season as the closer, but barring overwhelming failure from Fujikawa, the four-time NPB All-Star will end the season in the closer’s chair after Marmol is traded mid-season.

What about dark-horse candidates? Well, there’s the trio of Shawn Camp, Rafael Dolis, and James Russell, all of whom earned save opportunities in 2012, even though none have what you’d normally call a typical closer’s arsenal.

Rule-5 pick Hector Rondon does, though. The 24-year old former Cleveland Indians starting pitching prospect made the conversion to a relief role after coming off his second elbow surgery, and is said to be throwing in the high-90s already.

The Cubs are going to get an extended look at Rondon in Spring Training, but it would not be a surprise to see the team make the decision to start grooming him as their plan B to Fujikawa.

As for Marmol? Well, he’ll be the closer on the Cubs until he’s no longer with the team, and given the numerous options set to replace him, the team will no lack for motivation to make that happen as quickly as possible.

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