The Chicago Cubs have a growing problem that has the potential to derail any possible hope that the Cubs have for the 2012 season. Not that the Cubs had much of any hope for the 2012 season. But the problem that is growing this season is a problem that the Cubs’ organization has been faced since the start of the 2011 season.
Last season, any hope the Cubs had to contend in 2011 was quickly dismantled when the Cubs bullpen blew game after game during the early portions of the season. The 2012 season started in similar fashion with Carlos Marmol and Kerry Wood blowing the first two games of the season for the Cubs. The struggles of Wood are not too concerning. Considering the veteran reliever likely will not be a part of the team’s 25 man roster next season. But the issues for Marmol are a whole different topic for the Cubs.
Prior to the 2011 season, Marmol signed a three year, $20 million contract with the Cubs. At the time, the did not appear to be too much of an issue. After all, Marmol was coming off season in 2010 that the closer have 38 saves for the Cubs with an ERA of 2.55. Little did the Cubs know at the time that Marmol was on the verge of a downfall that has seen the closer go from being one of the National League’s best closer, to being one of the league’s worst closers.
2011 was the beginning of the downfall. While Marmol had 34 saves on the season, the closer was tied for having the most blown saves–1o being the lucky number. In addition to having 10 blown saves, Marmol had an inflated ERA of 4.01 to go along with 99 strikeouts and 48 base on balls. Despite his struggles, the new Cub’ regime was confident that Marmol would once again return to the form that earned him the label of being one of the league’s most feared closed.
The new regime was right in that aspect. Marmol still is feared. Though, the fear resides in Cubs’ fans whenever they see Marmol take the mound in the ninth inning. In ten appearance this season, Marmol has an ERA of 5.87 to go along with 2 blown saves while striking out six batters and issuing nine base on balls. If those numbers aren’t enough to give any Cubs’ fans nightmares, nothing will.
The Cubs’ front office has to make a decision on Marmol. Marmol is showing no signs of improving this season, in fact, it seems Marmol’s ability is on a steady decline. This is where Marmol’s contract re-enters the picture. The three year contract that Marmol signed prior to the 2011 season was heavily back-loaded. While the closer only made $3.2 million in 2011, the pitcher is scheduled to make $7 million in 2012, and another $9.8 million in 2013. Much like the organization is with left fielder Alfonso Soriano, the Cubs are trapped with Carlos Marmol.
Unlike the trade of center field Marlon Byrd, the Cubs would likely have to take on most of the remaining salary that is on Marmol’s contract. Until Marmol proves that he is capable of being an effective reliever. Though, that does not mean that Marmol should continue to be the team’s closer.
Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum has given Marmol a vote of confidence at every turn this season. That confidence is not going to last for the entire season. There is going to come a time this season where Marmol’s struggles will reach a point of no return. The new Cubs’ regime has preached that there will be a new form of accountability among the organization. That accountability needs to be there for Marmol. At 29 years of age, Marmol is not clear piece for the Cubs’ long-term future. Meaning the closer is blocking another pitcher–perhaps Rafael Dolis–from solidifying his role with the Cubs for the long-term future. Dolis’ role could very well come as closer. With the end of Marmol’s struggles no where in sight, Dolis should receive strong consideration to replace Marmol as the team’s closer. In a season that is geared towards rebuilding, it is more fitting for Dolis to work through his struggles as the team’s closer than it is Marmol.
Whatever the Cubs do, it is beginning to look blatantly clear that Marmol is not going to be the Cubs’ closer for much longer.