Marmol was down on the farm this offseason

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Marmol was down on the farm this offseason

In 2011, Cubs closer Carlos Marmol struggled through his worst season since assuming the full time closer's role in 2009. He saw his weight go up, his conditioning was less than stellar, and his performance was far below average. He blew 10 save opportunities which tied for the major league lead and his ERA in the 2nd half of the season was 5.91.

After the firing of Jim Hendry and the hiring of Theo Epsteins management team, Marmol had a heart to heart talk with the new Cubs front office. They were direct in their criticisms and their desire to see him return to form as one of the most dominating pitchers in all of baseball. Marmol set a major-league record in 2010 when he averaged an astounding 15.99 strikeouts per 9 innings and after an off season of hard work he has come to camp with something to prove.

I lost about 15 pounds this winter through my workouts and I really didnt have to change my diet much because I eat healthy, lots of chicken and vegetables, he said.

In addition to a conditioning regimen that involved a lot of cardio work and weight training Marmol spent considerable time riding horses on his farm in the Dominican Republic. I love to ride horses and it is a good way to stay in shape and get some extra work in during the off season. My horses keep me very busy as my brother and I take care of our farms, he said.

Marmol owns an extensive farming operation that includes 40 horses and 700 head of cattle and while he is very involved in the off-season the operation is run full time by his brother. We have a great set up with our milk cows and our beef cows. We also have some chickens as well as all of our horses. It takes a lot of my time in the off season but it is a great way to get away from baseball for a bit when the season ends, he said.

Marmols farm produces milk that is sold in the Dominican Republic and is one of three farms that he owns in his home country. I have been around farms my entire life but a few years ago my brother and I decided to get into the business together. We have the milk cows that produce what we sell as well as some beef cows and some chickens, he said.

After a rough 2011 season, Marmol knows that some doubt his effectiveness as a closer but he is ready to put those doubters minds at ease. I am ready to have a good season and I feel I am in much better shape than I was a year ago. My pitch selection will be a little bit different but I want to get back to where I was in 2010 which is where I should be, he told me.

New Cubs pitching coach Chris Bosio loves Marmols ability and is confident the former All-Star can regain the form that made him one of baseballs most un-hittable pitchers.

We have tweaked his approach and his pitch selection some by having him use his fastball and curveball more and setting up that great slider. Carlos has all of the tools to be a great pitcher and we have to all work together to get him back to where he was. Not many teams have a bullpen that feature a Carlos Marmol and a Kerry Wood and we are very fortunate to have them in ours. Carlos has looked great so far in camp and I am looking for him to have a big year for us, Bosio said.

The Chris Sale trade had a major impact on the 2017 World Series odds

The Chris Sale trade had a major impact on the 2017 World Series odds

When the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Red Sox Tuesday, it shook up the balance of power around Major League Baseball.

Wednesday morning, that power shift was present in Bovada's 2017 World Series odds.

On Nov. 3 (the day after the World Series ended), the Cubs were the frontrunners for the 2017 World Series at 7/2 odds. The Boston Red Sox were right behind at 9/1.

After acquiring Sale, the Red Sox have now bumped up to 11/2 odds to win it all while the Cubs have gone down slightly to 15/4.

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

Here is the complete list of the Top 5 odds, as of Wednesday morning:

1. Cubs - 15/4
2. Red Sox - 11/2
3. Nationals - 9/1
4. Indians - 12/1
5. Astros - 12/1

The Cubs' odds may also see a boost if/when the Wade Davis trade becomes official.

On the other hand, the White Sox odds fell from 40/1 the day after the 2016 World Series to 66/1 Wednesday morning after dealing away Sale.

Of course, Sale is only one player, but it's more so the Sox trading him away is a clear indication they are not "going for it" in 2017 for the major decrease. If the Sox continue to sell, look for those odds to fall even further.

As of Wednesday morning, the Colorado Rockies (before they signed Ian Desmond to a five-year deal), Arizona Diamondbacks, Cincinnati Reds and San Diego Padres were the only teams with lower odds to win a championship in 2017 than the White Sox.

Cubs officially trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

Cubs officially trade Jorge Soler to Royals for Wade Davis

It appears as if the Cubs have answered two big questions surrounding Joe Maddon's team this winter.

With so many solid options in the fold to play everyday in the lineup, the Cubs now reportedly have one less guy to worry about in the outfield and one more pitcher to add into the late-inning mix.

USAToday's Bob Nightengale reported late Tuesday night the Cubs and Kansas City Royals had a deal in place with pitcher Wade Davis coming to Chicago and Jorge Soler acting as the return piece, though the deal did not become official until Wednesday afternoon:

[RELATED - Wade Davis trade would give Cubs a proven October closer]

As Nightengale also said, the Cubs gave up a lot for Davis, who will become a free agent after the 2017 season and was limited to only 43.1 innings in 2016 due to forearm issues:

Soler has struggled to stay healthy and cash in on his enormous potential during his two-plus years in the big leagues with the Cubs, but he is still young (he'll turn 25 in February) and won't become a free agent until after the 2020 season.

The main question with Soler entering 2017 was going to be where he would play — and how often — given Kyle Schwarber, Jason Heyward, Jon Jay and Albert Almora were already in the outfield mix and the anticipation Ben Zobrist would also see some time in the outfield with Javy Baez locking down second base.

It's no surprise to see Soler dealt this winter, but as David Kaplan said on Tuesday's CubsTalk podcast, Theo Epstein's front office is all about years of control, but if the deal goes through, they will have traded four years of control of a guy who was their top trade chip for only a year of control on a relief pitcher who has averaged only 61 innings per season the last three years.

However, if the 31-year-old Davis is truly the only return, he helps give the Cubs a boost in 2017.

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Davis — who spent the first four years of his big-league career pitching for Maddon in Tampa Bay — has emerged as one of the premier relief pitchers in baseball over the last three years.

In that span, Davis tallied a 19-4 record with 47 saves in 54 chances, a 1.18 ERA and sparkling 0.892 WHIP. He also struck out 234 batters in 182.2 innings while giving up just three homers. 

As the Cubs look to defend their first World Series title in more than a century, Davis would help shore up the bullpen and given his past experience, would figure to be able to pitch more than just the ninth inning come playoff time (if healthy). Davis would add another elite option alongside Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop and Carl Edwards Jr. in Maddon's remodeled bullpen.

Soler should benefit from a clear path to consistent playing time with the Royals, especially moving to the American League where he can slot in at designated hitter which may ultimately be his best position.