After Thursday’s loss to the Cincinnati Reds, Chicago Cubs’ manager Dale Sveum alluded to the idea that Carlos Marmol’s days as being the team’s closer may be coming to an end. Their is no need to re-hash over the continuous struggles that Marmol has gone through during the 2011 and now 2012 season. Needless, to say Cubs’ fans have been clamoring for a change since the beginning of the 2011 season.
Change is what the Cubs’ fans received on Friday during the Cubs’ game against the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Cubs entered the top of the ninth inning with a 9 to 4 lead over the Dodgers, and that is when Sveum made perhaps his biggest move of his short tenure of managing the Cubs. Carlos Marmol did not take the mound for the Cubs in the ninth inning. Prior to Friday’s game, Sveum had a discussion with Marmol. During that conversation, Sveum told Marmol that he will no longer serve as the team’s closer.
Sveum told reporters on Friday that the hope is for Marmol to regain his form and eventually return to being the team’s closer. However, I do not see scenario as a realistic possibility. Reason being the new Cubs’ regime holds a new form of accountability that was not on display with the previous regime. Meaning, this latest demotion of Marmol will not be similar to the demotion that Marmol went through during the 2011 season. Marmol was relieved of being the team’s closer for brief period of time during July of last season, however, Marmol was re-inserted as the Cubs closer in late July.
The difference between the 2012 season and the 2011 season is the regime change. The 2011 season is proving to be more of transition for the Cubs. After all, general manager Jim Hendry was made aware of his firing a month before Cubs’ chairman Tom Ricketts announced it to the public. With that mindset, Hendry and the rest of the Cubs’ front office members did not want to make any decision that would be seen as stepping on the toe’s of the next regime. Meaning, the reason Hendry did not try and trade Marmol before the July 31st trade deadline in 2011 was because the general manager did not whether Marmol would be a part of the Cubs’ long-term plans.
With Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer firmly entrenched at the top of the Cubs’ baseball department, the Cubs know what direction the organization is headed in for the long-term future. That direction is one that does not include Marmol.
Marmol’s new role within the team’s bullpen is not known yet. In his meeting with Marmol on Friday, Sveum told the the former closer to be ready to pitch when called on. Most likely Marmol will take on Rafael Dolis‘ role in the bullpen. While both Dolis and James Russell will share save opportunities, Dolis is going to receive the bulk of the chances. Meaning, Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio will need to find a primary set-up man. Kerry Wood could fill that role, but, Sveum told reporters that Wood will not return to set-up role upon the reliever being activated off the disabled list. Wood returned from the disabled list on Thursday. One would figure that Marmol will now be the primary set-up man in the Cubs’ bullpen.
That is the role that Marmol thrived in, and eventually led to him becoming the Cubs closer. The issue is that the Cubs now have one of the most expensive set-up relievers in all of baseball. Marmol is owed $16.8 million over the next two seasons. Combine Marmol’s struggles with his sizeable contract; and the Cubs have a reliever in Marmol that will be difficult to trade. Though, if the Cubs absorb the majority of the $16.8 million remaining on Marmol’s contract, the team will likely find a trading partner.
Dolis is going to experience growing pains in his opportunity to be the team’s closer, and those pains will likely translate into more heartache for Cubs’ fans. But with the Cubs going forward with Marmol no longer operating as the team’s closer, that is a step in the right direction.