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A look at Cubs’ potential trade partners for Carlos Marmol

By bullpenbrian - March 6, 2013 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

Carlos Marmol Cubs

It’s been a wild ride for Carlos Marmol with the Cubs. He’s gone from minor-league catcher, to reliever, to the best setup man in the National League, to closer and finally, expendable.

After another Jekyll and Hyde year in 2012, the Cubs made no secret they would try and move the closer this winter. He was nearly dealt to the Angels in Nov. for starting pitcher Dan Haren, but the deal fell through with the Cubs concerned over Haren’s medicals.

Then, the 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 cleared of any wrongdoings in the Dominican, the trade rumors have picked back up according to Bruce Levine of ESPN1000 Chicago.

Levine reports ‘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 also 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 reportedly waived his no-trade right to accept the trade before the Cubs declined the deal). Marmol, however, is said to be willing to waive his no-trade rights to join a contender.

So what can the Cubs expect in return for Marmol? It’s generally accepted the Cubs will ask for a younger pitching prospect in return–an attempt to add another cost-controlled piece to the longer-term rebuilding plans.

However, aside from Marmol’s 1.52 ERA following the All-Star break last season, the Cubs wouldn’t appear to have a ton of leverage. His first half ERA was 5.61 and we also know how wildly inconsistent he’s been throwing strikes the past several years.

Even worse, in three of the past five seasons Marmol’s save percentage has been below 80-percent–and he led the league in blown saves (10) as recently as 2011. For his career Marmol is 115/140 (82-percent) in save opportunities.

So for all intents and purposes, trading Marmol is more a cost-cutting move by the Cubs with Marmol still owed $9.8 million through 2013.

Meanwhile, the Cubs essentially replaced Marmol with the surprise signing of Japanese pitcher Kyuji Fujikawa, 32, to a 2-year, $9.5 million deal in Dec. In six seasons with the Hanshin Tigers Fujikawa has recorded 202 career saves, including a 1.32 ERA in 2012.

Having roughly $20 million tied up in two closers doesn’t make much sense for a rebuilding franchise. And although neither Marmol or Fujikawa are in the Cubs’ long-term plans, having Fujikawa for two years gives the organization not only a more reliable closer than Marmol, but also time to find the team’s closer of the future.

With all that said, here are my best guesses at where Marmol could land before opening day.

Detroit
For the reasons listed above, and the possibility starter Rick Porcello is available. Jim Leyland has implied 
Jose Valverde is not an option and there’s potentially an outside shot at packaging Alfonso Soriano with Marmol in a trade. That one’s a stretch, but Marmol alone would appear a good fit.

Baltimore
They have the young pitching prospects the Cubs want. It’s also another outside shot at dealing Soriano with Marmol considering t
he O’s have been searching for a right-handed slugger all offseason.

Cleveland
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.

Colorado
The Rockies are all-around bad, and closer Rafael Betancourt will turn 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 Angels
We know Marmol already accepted to waive his no-trade right 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.

Milwaukee
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 to begin with and they also appear to have lost confidence in closer Frank Francisco. That leaves Bobby Parnell, a reliever with more career blown saves (17) than he has
successful saves (14) during his five big-league seasons, to close the door in the ninth inning. 

Oakland
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.

Pittsburgh
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. 

Texas
The Rangers and Cubs hooked up at 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.

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World Series Tanks In TV Ratings

By bullpenbrian - October 28, 2012 - 1:15 am Leave a comment.

Baseball could’ve used a competitive World Series to put a bow on what’s been a very good postseason.

Instead, the Giants have jumped out a 3-0 series lead and look to close out the championship Sunday night or soon thereafter.

Television ratings for the series became a concern the moment the Tigers and Giants clinched its respected League Championship Series.

With little national interest in either team, the series’ television ratings tanked through the first two-games and only looks to worsen with the Giants headed towards a 4-game sweep.

No team, after all, has ever lost the World Series after winning the first three games, and the Tigers don’t exactly appear poised for a comeback given its struggles offensively.

Pablo Sandoval’s three-homer performance in Game 1 remains the signature moment of this Fall Classic, but Miguel Cabrera’s fifth inning pop out with the bases loaded in Game 3 was the pivotal turning point in the series.

If the Triple Crown winner manages a hit in that situation the Tigers likely tie the score 2-2, if not take a lead, and maybe win the game.

With a Game 3 victory Detroit would’ve been sitting pretty with Matt Scherzer pitching Game 4 and Justin Verlander taking the hill at home in Game 5. It could’ve been a whole different series, both on the field and in the ratings.

“Major League Baseball must privately long for the day when the Chicago Cubs win a National League pennant and participate in a World Series against the likes of the Yankees, Red Sox or Angels.”

-Wayne G. McDonnell, Jr., Clinical Associate Professor od Sports management at New York University

Now that it appears the Giants have the series in-hand and the series bumping up against the NFL on Sunday night, I wouldn’t be surprised if Game 4 is the least watched World Series game in the series’ ratings history.

Obviously, Major League Baseball can’t dictate the outcomes of its postseason to increase World Series viewership. But the league could hold the general fan’s interest longer by taking the necessary steps to increase competitive balance among its teams long before October baseball ensues.

Banking on the Yankees and Red Sox winning in October has made it far too easy on baseball to cash in on the television side and justify it’s gaudy payroll disparity throughout the league.

Give every market a financially competitive shot to win in April and baseball will win the television ratings come October.

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World Series Humor!

By bullpenbrian - October 26, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

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Live Game Blog | World Series | Game 1

By bullpenbrian - October 24, 2012 - 7:35 pm Leave a comment.

Game Over

What did we learn tonight? This is the Panda’s world and we’re just living in it. Meet your newest player you love-to-hate, Detroit.

With tonight’s victory the Giants are (12-7) in World Series openers and (6-4) in Fall Classic Game 1s at home.

It pretty crazy Verlander allowed more earned runs (5) than innings pitched (4). Granted, his game looked better than the numbers and the Giants did get a few lucky bounces in their favor…in particular Angel Pagan’s double off the third base bag.

Barry Zito. Man, for all the heat this guy’s taken over the years for an inflated contract he hasn’t lived up to…well, they sure love him now in San Fran.

Here’s a look at the upcoming pitching matchups. Fister has been outstanding this postseason. Bumgarner, conversely, has not.

Game 2 RHP Doug Fister (0-0, 1.35) vs. LHP Madison Bumgarner (0-2, 11.25)
Game 3 RHP Anibal Sanchez (1-1, 1.35) vs. RHP Ryan Vogelsong (2-0, 1.42)
Game 4 RHP Max Scherzer (1-0, 0.82) vs. RHP Matt Cain (2-2, 3.52)

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A World Series Saved

By bullpenbrian - October 24, 2012 - 1:16 am Leave a comment.

Bullpen Brian

As far as I’m concerned the Tigers and Giants saved the Postseason.

A World Series void of St. Louis & New York restores a proper order to the baseball universe, for which I am grateful considering October baseball has been out of whack for far too long.

The two better teams advanced in their respective LCS series sparing us from what would’ve been an unbearable Fall Classic.

-And on the seventh game, God looked down from the heavens and said “For the betterment of all things good on earth, let the ridiculousness of Cardinals’ postseason baseball end.” And so it came to be. The Baseball Bible

Detroit vs. San Fran appears to be a really good matchup–at least on paper as the saying goes. And it may not have great interest from the masses, but if it extends beyond five-games it should be a real treat for any and all baseball fans.

Most importantly, it won’t be the ‘puke-on-my-shoes’ Cardinals or the expletive Yankees winning it all again. If the Fall Classic could’ve been any less desirable, those two would’ve accomplished it by merely showing up for Game1.

We’re saved, I tell ya. Saved! Baseball fans rejoice!

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Jim Leyland Enjoys His Vodkas & Cranberries

By bullpenbrian - October 22, 2012 - 6:30 pm Leave a comment.

It’s not unusual to hear about players being injured in post game celebrations. But it’s not often a manager gets involved.

Jim Leyland, however, was the target of his new make-shift closer, Phil Coke, who accidentally nicked his skipper on the back of the head with a champagne bottle following the Tigers’ 4-game sweep of the Yankees in the ALCS.

It’s nothing a little cocktail couldn’t fix, or an injury that will keep Leyland from managing in the World Series.

”That was just Phil Coke pouring champagne. I got real cold. I usually don’t go out in those celebrations. ”Well, as he poured the bottle down, I jumped up. Well, he hit my bald spot in the back, split my head open, but fortunately it was just a big scab. It didn’t slice it open. I didn’t need stitches or anything. After a couple more vodkas and cranberries, I didn’t feel anything,” said Leyland.

Aside from his victory scar life’s been pretty good lately for the 67-year-old who continues to enjoying the benefits of leading his club to its second World Series in six-years.

”I can’t tell you how many free meals I’ve had in the past 24 hours. I’m almost embarrassed, but every time I go to pay a check they said somebody picked it up,” Leyland said. ”They’ve been great, really neat, in the grocery store and stuff everybody’s pumped up obviously.”

I imagine the love affair should only continue if the Tigers bring home the golden trophy. Vodkas and cranberries for everybody!

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Grand Return For Papa Grande?

By bullpenbrian - October 21, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

Who does Jim Leyland turn to as his closer in the World Series? He wouldn’t go back to Jose Valverde, would he?

Papa Grande’s been nothing short of awful this October: 7-earned runs, 7-hits in just 2.1 innings. Is that really worth gambling on in the Fall Classic?

We’re about to find out. The Tigers’ starting staff is just too good not to find themselves in a closing situation in a game or two against its NL opponent.

Detroit’s already spun 8 quality starts in its 9 postseason games, which is no fluke considering they tossed 90 during the regular season–2nd most in the American League.

It’s the big reason why the Tigers have found so much postseason success lately—the LCS last season and the World Series this year. But as good as the starters have been, Valverde has matched them every step of the way converting 93.2-percent of his save opportunities during the past 3 seasons–the best mark of any closer in the majors over that time.

But when Valverde’s ritualistic compulsions turned ugly in October, first in Oakland and then gut-wrenchingly bad in New York, Leyland was forced to turn elsewhere at closer.

Phil Coke’s primary job as a reliever is to retire left-handed hitters–not close games. But he served as Leyland’s temporary stop-gap at closer, and did so not once but twice in the ALCS. Coke cleaned up Valverde’s mess in Game 1 and returned the following night to close out the Yankees in Game 2.

It was such a rare postseason feat Coke actually made baseball history by becoming the first pitcher to ever earn two post-season saves following a season in which he had one-or fewer saves.

Interesting, indeed. But it doesn’t change the fact Coke isn’t closer material…and neither the Cards or Giants are the ‘no-hit’ Yankees of this postseason.

The closing job for Coke–if, in fact, Leyland decides to stick with him–will be considerably tougher in the coming days. And it’s probably more a case of Leyland playing the matchups before hoping lightning strikes twice with his suddenly sensational lefty.

That could mean running Joaquin Benoit out for the ninth, who’s been average this postseason but does have closer’s experience. It’s minimal…13 saves in 11 big league season, six coming in 2007.

The seemingly ageless Octavio Dotel is another candidate. He has plenty of experience having notched 109 career saves. But he’s also been consistently unpredictable in his later years and far from the closer he once was. Another crapshoot at best.

I can’t imagine the closer issue hasn’t been at the forefront of Leyland’s mind since capturing the AL pennant…more so than lineups, rotations or too much time off for his team before the World Series.

A ninth inning lead will be anything but a certainty for the Tigers. Will Valverde bounce back? Will Leyland risk finding that out by thrusting his cuckoo reliever back into the thick drama of a save situation in the World Series?

It’s enough stress to drive a man like me to start blazing Marlboros right alongside the Tigers’ skipper, and especially if it’s Valverde easing the way for another Cardinals world championship.

Come to think of it, anyone here have a light?

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Contraction, Contenders, Champions

By bullpenbrian - October 19, 2012 - 2:00 pm Leave a comment.

In November of 2001 baseball’s owners voted 28-2 in favor of contracting two teams from the league. It was never specified which two teams, but many speculated the down trodden Tigers were headed for the ax.

Detroit had seen one winning season in the previous 10-years, the in-between was mostly garbage…92, 96, 97 & 109-losses, and most fans, understandably, didn’t care to watch the debacles first hand. A mighty damper was hanging over mo-town and the league had its own ideas how to make it go away.

As we know, baseball didn’t contract the Tigers, or any team for that matter, after striking a new collective bargaining agreement with the players. The league moved on and so did the Tigers–albeit in the same hapless direction.

Detroit lost 106, 119, 90 & 91-games in the following four seasons, enough misery for Tiger fans to wonder “hey, about that contraction stuff..?”

But it all changed in 2006, five years removed from dodging the supposed chopping block. Under new manager Jim Leyland the Tigers won 95-games, took the wild card and stormed through the playoffs reaching the World Series, which they lost to St. Louis 4-1

Nevertheless, since then the Tigers have seen but one losing season. They’ve reached the LCS in back-to-back years, lost to Texas last season, but easily swept the Yankees out this year. Now it’s back to the Fall Classic.

I thought about all this yesterday watching the Tigers celebrate the AL pennant. What a turn-around this has been…contraction…to contenders…to sitting on the door step of being champions, and all done in the decade since Detroit’s darkest hour.

Kind of makes me hopeful as a Cubs fan. Maybe reaching a World Series on the North Side isn’t as far off as it often appears. Would you take two World Series in the next decade following this 101-loss season? Yeah, I’d take that deal, too.

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Joe Girardi Wrong For Sticking With Raul Ibanez?

By bullpenbrian - October 17, 2012 - 2:15 am Leave a comment.

I don’t blame Joe Girardi for sticking with Raul Ibanez against Phil Coke in the top of the ninth in Game 3 of the ALCS.

The numbers game suggest Girardi should’ve opted for a right-hander batter, say A-Rod, given righties torched Coke to the tune of .396/.446/.604 during the regular season.

Ibanez, however, has been the best clutch hitter on the Yankees this postseason, and arguably the only hitter on the Yankees in October. Seriously, who else would New York want at the plate with the game-tying run on second base?

If it’s Aroldis Chapman on the mound, it’s a different story. But Coke is far from a ‘lights-out’ closer or unhittable ‘loogy.’

After all, Teixeira and Cano (another left-handed hitter) both singled in front of Ibanez leaving no reason to believe the hot-hitting 40-year-old couldn’t drive in the tying run.

Girardi’s decision to stay with the lefty-lefty matchup is no worse than him choosing to leave Rodriguez, hitting an ice-cold 2-for-23, on the bench.

Ibanez, of course, struck out to end the game. But it was ‘damned if you do, damned if you don’t’ for the Yankees’ skipper.

Let’s not forget, either, how right Joe was turning the table earlier this postseason when he pinch-hit Ibanez for A-Rod. A hero when it worked, the goat when it doesn’t.

Yet, regardless of whether you believe Girardi made the right move or the wrong one, it’s no fault of Girardi’s his team is hitting a ghastly .182 in October.

What’s a manager to do–pinch-hit the entire lineup?

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It’s Matt Garza’s Time To Shine

By bullpenbrian - June 13, 2012 - 7:07 pm Leave a comment.

Matt Garza | Photo Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Matt Garza (2-4) 3.99 ERA is due for a big outing.

He’s winless over his last six starts posting an (0-3) record and 5.40 ERA.

His last victory was April 29 at Philadelphia. It’s also the last time Garza lasted more than six innings. We know the Cubs workhorse is capable of better.

He is, as baseball folk like to say–due.

It’s to Garza’s advantage he makes tonight’s start at home where he’s pitched particularly well going (1-0) 1.91 ERA in four outings.

The Tigers, meanwhile, are simply not hitting well as a team outside Fielder & Cabrera.

Whether Garza is positioning himself for a contract extension or a valuable trade option, it seems there’s no better time than now to make his case either way.

I’m looking forward to watching.

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