Chicago Cubs

Cubs Notes: Marmol deal nearly complete

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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.

Can Cubs count on Kyle Schwarber to be the hero again?

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USA TODAY

Can Cubs count on Kyle Schwarber to be the hero again?

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. – The Cubs had so much confidence in Kyle Schwarber last year that they made him their World Series designated hitter – less than seven months after major surgery on his left knee and with only two Arizona Fall League games as the warm-up – and expected him to deliver against Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber and a dynamic Cleveland Indians bullpen.

Now? Manager Joe Maddon isn’t quite ready to make that leap of faith with Schwarber, even as the October legend closes in on 30 home runs this season and puts up a .900-plus OPS since his reboot at Triple-A Iowa this summer.

“The thing you’ve got to be willing right now with Schwarbs is understanding that he’s going to do that,” Maddon said Wednesday, pointing toward the right-center field seats where Schwarber launched Chris Archer’s 96-mph fastball the night before at Tropicana Field. “And then he might strike out with a runner on third base. You have to accept both sides.

“You’re playing for that (home run) based on his ability against that pitcher, also knowing that you’re going to see the punch-out in there, too. It’s just part of who he is right now.”

That would appear to be a part-time player, as Maddon went with Jon Jay’s contact skills in the designated-hitter spot against Tampa Bay Rays lefty Blake Snell and continues to think about what will give the Cubs the best chance to win the final stages of the National League Central race.

Looking back on his time with Rays, Maddon explained some of the creative tension within a small-market operation constantly looking for ways to find an edge. Maddon called it buckets of information, how certain data points and sample sizes should be used in free agency and trades, while others informed the daily lineup/bullpen decisions and why you had to look inside the numbers.

How do you assess Schwarber in 2017? During the time of the year when he narrows his focus and becomes extremely calculating, Maddon started talking about Schwarber in terms of player development and the future, which didn’t exactly sound like a vote of confidence.

“Big bucket, everybody’s going to love this guy,” Maddon said. “And then I think the smaller buckets are going to get even more attractive. I do believe the more he plays in the years to come, you’re going to see the strikeouts come back down, a better adjustment when the count gets deeper.

“He’s already trying to choke up. I don’t know if you’ve noticed that from up top – he’s really trying to do different things in counts right now – and I’m starting to see some progress with that, too.

“But, God, the guy missed all of last season, and I still think that we all forget that sometimes. I thought he was a little bit better – when I first met him – at the ball with two strikes. I think that went away for a bit. Now I think he’s really trying to nurture that coming back.

“So I would say next year you’re going to see the same kind of power, but probably more contact when it’s needed. That’s the bucket he’s going to fall into.”

Coming off that dramatic World Series comeback, Schwarber fell into an offensive spiral that got him demoted to the minors three months ago. He’s still managed to blast 28 homers while striking out 31 percent of the time, struggling against left-handed pitching (.663 OPS) and batting .208 overall.

Schwarber also has the type of hard-charging personality that feeds off those doubts, loves the big-game pressure and creates energy for the rest of the team. There will be another chapter to his 2017.

“It is what it is,” Schwarber said. “That first whole part of the season was a wash for me. I was able to go down and just kind of get my head recollected and get some parts of my swing down.

“I can’t worry about the number up on the scoreboard. It’s just stupid to do that. So that’s all I’m worried about every time I go up to the plate – I want to put in a good team at-bat.”

Cubs lose Pierce Johnson on waivers

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Cubs lose Pierce Johnson on waivers

The Cubs have parted ways with the first pitcher drafted by Theo Epstein's front office.

The Cubs designated Pierce Johnson for assignment last week when they purchased the contract of Jen-Ho Tseng to make his first MLB start against the New York Mets.

Now Johnson is with a new organization.

The San Francisco Giants claimed Johnson off waivers Wednesday. He was initially selected in the supplemental first round in 2012 with the 43rd pick, 37 spots behind Albert Almora Jr.

Johnson is now 26 and just made his first — and only — big-league appearance May 19 this spring.

In Triple-A Iowa, Johnson had a 4.31 ERA in 43 games, including one start. He struck out 74 batters in 54.1 innings, but also walked 27 batters and had a 1.454 WHIP. 

Johnson spent six years in the Cubs minor-league system, going 29-21 with a 3.24 ERA, 1.305 WHIP and 9.3 K/9, working slightly more than half the time as a starter (74 starts, 56 relief appearances).

With the Cubs taking Johnson off their 40-man roster in mid-September as opposed to promoting him with expanded big-league rosters, it clearly shows he was not a part of their long-term pitching plans.