Marmols the final piece to Cubs offseason

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Marmols the final piece to Cubs offseason

Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011
Posted: 7:30 PM

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

Win or lose, the Cubs say Carlos Marmol is the same person the next day. Hes about to become exponentially richer. Its just a matter of how much.

The Cubs did not reach an agreement with Marmol on Tuesday the day to exchange salary arbitration figures but they are discussing options for a one-year deal or multi-year extension with his representative. They do not expect to bring this to a hearing.

The Cubs came to terms on Tuesday with their other remaining arbitration-eligible players pitchers Matt Garza, Tom Gorzelanny and Sean Marshall.

Garza received a one-year deal worth 5.95 million and his acquisition essentially forced out Gorzelanny. The ice storm that shut down Washington is expected to delay Gorzelannys physical until Wednesday. Once completed, the Cubs will obtain three prospects and the Nationals will take on Gorzelannys 2.1 million contract for 2011.

Marshall who many around the Cubs considered to be the teams MVP last season agreed to the security of a two-year deal. The left-handed reliever has settled in the Chicago suburbs and will be due 1.6 million this season and 3.1 million in 2012.

Marshall went 7-5 with a 2.65 ERA in 80 games last year, becoming such a vital part of the bullpen that its almost impossible to move him back into the rotation.

The end game with Marmol is basically the last major offseason item remaining for Jim Hendry. The general manager and his staff were able to structure the contracts in a way that they will pay Garza, first baseman Carlos Pena and reliever Kerry Wood less than 11 million in 2011 dollars.

The bill to address those three needs will ultimately be closer to 17.5 million Pena accepted a signing bonus and deferred money plus the cost of prospects and Woods understood future role somewhere in the organization.

Those economic gymnastics were needed to hit budget. The major-league payroll will be less than the approximately 145 million committed for Opening Day 2010, probably closer to 130-135 million.

Marmol dominated in his first full season as closer while earning 2.125 million. The right-hander with the wicked slider saved 38 of his teams 75 victories. He did not allow a run after Aug. 25, finishing with a 2.55 ERA.

Marmols agent, Barry Praver, would have liked just one more strikeout, because then he could have pointed to an even 16 strikeouts per nine innings pitched. As it stands, Marmols 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings pitched last season was the highest for a reliever in major-league history.

Yes, Marmol is wild at times, but a band appears to be forming for closers. David Aardsma settled for 4.5 million with the Mariners on Tuesday, while the Red Sox gave 12 million to Jonathan Papelbon.

Until last year with Ryan Theriot, Hendry had never taken a player to arbitration in more than a decade as a Cubs executive.

The Cubs like Marmols makeup and how the 28-year-old easily forgets a bad game. They recognize the value of being able to close in front of 40,000 screaming fans at Wrigley Field. Its just a question of what price the two sides put on that extraordinary ability.

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

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

Cubs: Ben Zobrist's path back to October and a possible three-peat

MESA, Ariz. – Ben Zobrist is focused on a personal three-peat, not worrying about a changing of the guard or any awkward moments with Javier Baez. Cubs manager Joe Maddon has repeatedly said that Zobrist will be the primary second baseman and another "Javy Being Javy" highlight reel from the World Baseball Classic won't change that thinking right now.

Zobrist sees the big picture better than almost anyone else in the clubhouse after going undrafted out of Eureka High School in downstate Illinois, perfecting the super-utility role Maddon envisioned with the Tampa Bay Rays and helping transform the 2015 Kansas City Royals into World Series champions.

While Baez started all 17 playoff games at second base last year, bursting onto the scene as the National League Championship co-MVP, Zobrist became the World Series MVP with his clutch hitting and still has three seasons left on his $56 million contract.

Maddon didn't spare anyone's feelings during the playoffs, turning $184 million outfielder Jason Heyward into a part-time player, giving a quick hook to major-league ERA leader Kyle Hendricks and shunning relievers not named Aroldis Chapman.

"We haven't had an extended conversation about it," Zobrist said. "But at the beginning of spring, we talked about it. I think his words were: ‘I really think rest is the next improvement in player performance.' Learning what rest means, what good rest is for players and what kind of rest certain players need versus others.

"That doesn't necessarily mean just because you're 35. It could mean you're 25 and you still got to take care of yourself and make sure you're getting the proper rest. Because we have such a deep team, he's able to do that at any given point in time and still feel confident about the team we have on the field.

"It's a good problem to have when you have really good players not playing and sitting on the bench. We had that all last year and we had guys accept their role and just buy into the team concept.

"The makeup of this team is the same, basically. We've got a few new guys and they've got the same mindset, so I anticipate more of the same."

Injuries are one variable that prevents Maddon from getting too stressed out about dividing the playing time over 162 games while the NCAA tournament is still going. Zobrist's stiff neck felt good enough to hit leadoff and play right field in Tuesday afternoon's 10-7 loss to the San Francisco Giants, seeing his first Cactus League action since March 19.

Zobrist plans to play again on Wednesday in Mesa and catch up with more at-bats on the minor-league side of the complex. Assuming Zobrist and All-Star shortstop Addison Russell (stiff back) are ready for Opening Night, Baez will be an NLCS MVP, all-WBC talent waiting for the right matchup or break in the schedule or to sub in as a defensive replacement.

"It's pretty impressive, looking around at the young talent in this clubhouse," Zobrist said. "All throughout spring training, we've seen there's definitely other talent coming, so this team is poised to have a good, long run of success. If everybody stays healthy and we stay together, this is a very good team.

"The biggest thing that I go into the season with this year is we have to be healthy and we have to make sure that we don't relax too much. That's the temptation for teams that just won, to go: OK, well, we're tired, because we had a long season last year and you kind of just assume things are going to go as well as they did.

"You can't assume anything. No matter how good this team is, we have to still go out and execute and perform – and that's going to determine where we are in the standings."

In real time, as the Cubs experienced their lowest moments during last year's regular season, Zobrist correctly pointed out the exhaustion factor while the team played 24 days in a row, losing 15 of their last 21 games before the All-Star break.

What looks like overwhelming depth on paper should help the 2017 Cubs survive and advance into October.

"It's huge," Zobrist said. "It's up and down the lineup on offense. It's all throughout the pitching staff and on the defensive side. It's so deep that you can absorb a little bit of injury here and there.

"With that being said, there are certain guys that you just don't want to lose. So we got to protect everybody. We got to protect our horses – both on the mound and in the lineup – and just make sure that we have our key cogs in there. And if we do, we're as good, if not better, than anybody out there."

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

Cubs return Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to Yankees as roster comes into focus

MESA, Ariz. - Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella - and a combination of right/left, outfield/infield and contractual considerations - appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

The Cubs returned Rule 5 lefty Caleb Smith to the New York Yankees on Tuesday and assigned injured non-roster players Jemile Weeks and Chris Dominguez to minor-league camp. That left 27 players still technically in the mix, though depth catcher Carlos Corporan isn't really part of that conversation.

The projected eight-man bullpen would look like this: Wade Davis; Koji Uehara; Pedro Strop; Hector Rondon; Carl Edwards Jr.; Justin Grimm; and lefties Mike Montgomery and Brian Duensing.

Szczur, who is out of minor-league options, could be a good fourth outfielder on a team that didn't have so much depth and World Series expectations, making him a potential trade chip for pitching. La Stella offers infield insurance and a left-handed bat off the bench.