Cubs Notes: Marmol deal nearly complete

386768.jpg

Cubs Notes: Marmol deal nearly complete

Sunday, Feb. 13, 2011
Posted 5:57 p.m. Updated 7:31 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz. At this time last year, people wondered how Carlos Marmol would handle the closers job fulltime. Now hes about to cash in on a historic season.

Cubs general manager Jim Hendry met with agent Barry Praver on Sunday at Fitch Park and both sides expect the long-anticipated deal to be finalized and announced by Monday. The extension is expected to buy out Marmols first year of free agency and run through 2013.

After notching 38 saves and 138 strikeouts which translates to 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings pitched, the highest mark ever for a major-league reliever Marmol filed for arbitration at 5.65 million. The Cubs countered at 4.1 million, but neither side sees this case going to a hearing.

Praver, who also represents Carlos Zambrano, was in a good mood in the lobby of the Cubs administrative building, joking to reporters that his client was about to be traded to the Yankees.

WATCH: First day all about Quade

This would give the Cubs some cost certainty as they plan for the future and provide Marmol, 28, with a large measure of security.

Weve done a lot of deals with Barry Praver over the years, Hendry said. Weve been working on avenues (toward) a multi-year deal or a potential one-year deal. I certainly dont have any anticipation that something wont be done before (Tuesdays) arbitration date.

No. 1 starter?

Its a point of pride for Zambrano that he has made six consecutive starts on Opening Day, and Mike Quade doesnt want to offend anyone. The manager owes a lot to Ryan Dempster, who was the first player to publicly lobby for Quade to get the job. And Matt Garza was the offseasons centerpiece acquisition. Quades nowhere close to deciding on who gets the April 1 assignment.

I will milk that (as long as possible) because I have so much respect for all three of them, Quade said. My ace is the guy thats pitching that day. I guess thats easy for me to say, but I truly feel that way. Were going to need all three of those guys if were going to contend.

Leading off

Its the annual question that doesnt have an answer. Like almost every other team in baseball, the Cubs do not have a prototypical leadoff hitter. Quade will analyze that days matchups, which could mean some combination of Blake DeWitt, Jeff Baker, Kosuke Fukudome and Starlin Castro.

To be honest, I havent even thought about it, DeWitt said. You prepare yourself for anything. If they ask me to do it, Ill be more than happy to do it. Its a big responsibility, but (so is) hitting eighth.

Whos on first?

Carlos Penas one-year deal is a bridge toward 2012, so he can re-enter the free-agent market and the Cubs have the flexibility to look for another first baseman. Tyler Colvin still looms as a potential option. Quade surprisingly revealed that the 25-year-old outfielder will spend some time working out at first this spring.

I dont think he can just show up and think hes at Club Med for awhile, Quade said. Im not handing him a job. Hes got plenty of work to do, but hes a kid were excited about and he knows it. He comes to work every day expecting to earn a job and thats all you can ask.

Chemistry counts

No one can quantify the value of good clubhouse guys, but Hendry places a high value on them and sees Reed Johnson as a positive influence. The 34-year-old got deeper into the offseason and realized he wasnt going to receive a major-league contract.

So Johnson a fan favorite on that 97-win team in 2008 went with what he knows. Its a minor-league deal without any guarantees, just a chance to compete against Fernando Perez for the fifth-outfielder spot.

Its tough to go into an organization (and) start all over again, Johnson said. Ive been on a one-year deal all nine years of my career. Ive been used to having to come into spring training and fight for jobs every year.

PatrickMooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. FollowPatrick on Twitter @CSNMooneyfor up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as a late-game force

After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as a late-game force

MESA, Ariz. – Inside Wrigley Field’s state-of-the-art clubhouse, the Cubs posted a blown-up image of the 2015 Sports Illustrated cover where Pedro Strop is high-stepping next to Kris Bryant down the third-base line, the mosh pit awaiting at home plate.

Between his tilted-hat look, chest-pounding celebrations and overall joy for the game, Strop sets an example for the younger guys in the bullpen and the Latin players in the clubhouse. Strop has been so valuable that Jake Arrieta could have never thrown a pitch in a Cubs uniform and Theo Epstein’s front office still would have considered the Scott Feldman trade with the Baltimore Orioles an absolute success.  

Yet when the long rebuild reached its apex – and manager Joe Maddon searched for World Series answers – Strop had already been marginalized in the bullpen. A freak injury – Strop heard a pop and tore the meniscus in his left knee while trying to slide and field a groundball in August – bumped him from his role as the seventh- or eighth-inning stopper.  

“It was a little difficult,” Strop said. “After I came back from my surgery, it was a different situation. But it’s something that you got to get used to and understand the situation, understand how deep our bullpen is and just go and fight whenever they ask you to.

“I don’t think it’s going to be a big deal.”  

During Sunday’s media session, Maddon dismissed any issues with Strop (2.85 ERA) or Hector Rondon, the former 30-save closer who strained his right triceps last summer and didn’t quite get his timing down for the playoffs. Down 3-1 in the World Series, Maddon summoned Aroldis Chapman to throw 97 pitches combined in Games 5, 6 and 7 against the Cleveland Indians.

“Listen, it’s not a lack of trust,” Maddon said. “(Strop) just got hurt. And when you get hurt like that at that time of the year, it’s hard to play catch-up. When guys get injured in-season and you get to the moment where you’re trying to win a championship, you got to put like personal feelings aside on both sides of it, whether you’re managing it or playing.

“I have nothing but trust. My God, the threat is when you have him, you want to use him too much, always. And the same thing with Ronnie. I talked to Ronnie about that – I don’t want to put him in a position. I think Rondon got hurt last year because part of it was my greediness on using him too much in the early part of the season.

“You really have to battle against that when you get guys that good. You want to use them all the time. (I have) a tremendous amount of trust in both of those guys. It’s just a matter of utilizing them properly and keeping them healthy.”

[MORE: What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez]

Since the middle of the 2013 season, Strop has notched 84 holds for the Cubs, putting up a 2.68 ERA and a 0.984 WHIP to go with 254 strikeouts in 211-plus innings. At a time when a $10 billion industry is reassessing the value of high-leverage relievers, Strop will make $5.5 million this year before hitting the open market.

“You never know,” Strop said. “I would love to repeat the championship season and win another one here before I hit free agency. Hopefully, they want to bring me back. I really like the city of Chicago. I love the fans and I love my team and the coaches.

“After this season, it’s going to become business, so hopefully we can put something together.”  

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

What Joe Maddon wants to see next from Javier Baez

MESA, Ariz. – In an alternate universe, Javier Baez might have become the goat after committing two errors in a World Series Game 7. But the young Cubs played without a sense of panic and wanted to write their own history.

Baez shrugged it off in Cleveland and homered off Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber that night. Baez will be remembered as a breakout star from those playoffs, a game-changing defensive force with his mixture of lateral range, rocket-arm strength and instincts for tagging.

But there have also been times where manager Joe Maddon would like Baez to be a little more boring. The next stage of Javy Being Javy would be showing more of the consistency that made Addison Russell an All-Star shortstop at the age of 22. It may also partially explain why Maddon for now still sees Ben Zobrist as his primary second baseman, even after Baez started all 17 postseason games at that position.  

“You definitely continually speak about (how) you want guys to make the routine play routinely,” Maddon said Sunday at the Sloan Park complex. “I’ve often talked about lack of chrome. Gary DiSarcina (with the Angels) was the guy that really embedded that thought in my head, because he was so chrome-less and he was so good at the routine play. I used to always yell that at my infielders in instructional league: ‘No chrome!’

“Having said all that, Javy comes from a different background, and he has a flair about his game, so I don’t necessarily want to subtract that. But just have him understand the routine stuff has to be made routinely well.

“He’s very capable of that. I think as his game continues to develop and mature, you’ll see him make less mistakes, whether it’s that or sometimes even on the bases. He’ll make a spectacular play on the bases and then again do something that you don’t like. But I think that’s just part of his nature and his game.” 

Zobrist delivered a World Series MVP performance after signing a four-year, $56 million contract last winter with the idea that focusing on one position – instead of moving around as a super-utility guy – would help him age better.

“Last year, I played 147 games,” said Zobrist, who will turn 36 in May. “I don’t know what that number’s going to look like. You got to stay healthy. There were probably only a few games that I missed because there was physically something that was keeping me from playing.

“We’ll play it by ear. Some of those will have to do with if I’m a little tired and the matchup is right, maybe they’ll choose to give me an off day on certain days. But I know that there’s other times last year where – whether you’re tired or not – you got to be in there because that’s the matchup that works best for the club. So just make adjustments as the weeks and series go on.”

[MORE: After playoff bullpen issues, Cubs again see Pedro Strop as late-game force]

Maddon is already thinking of ways to rest Zobrist – who played into early November after helping the 2015 Royals win the World Series – on a team with so many versatile athletes. The Cubs could also try to go back to last year’s model, putting Baez wherever their scouting-and-data projections predicted the ball would be hit most that night.

“We have to balance a lot of different things out,” Maddon said. “(Javy’s) going to play some second, of course, and so will Zo. Zo’s going to be out there primarily, and then we’ll work Javy in there. But Zo can also do what he’s done in the past and play some outfield.

“What happens – and I hate to say it like (this) – but baseball has a very cruel way of determining things. I don’t want it to be any injuries. I’d rather have to figure all of this stuff out on a daily basis. Javy was so significant to the conclusion of last season. He’s going to be very significant again this year and years to come.

“It’s all in theory right now. Of course, he’s going to play. Of course, he’s going to play a lot. How it’s going to balance out? We’re not 100 percent sure yet. But he’s pretty darned good.”