Chicago Cubs

Mooney: Cubs, Marmol agree to three-year deal

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Mooney: Cubs, Marmol agree to three-year deal

Monday, Feb. 14, 2011
Posted 1:36 p.m. Updated 4:35 p.m.

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

MESA, Ariz The Cubs signed Carlos Marmol as a 16-year-old out of the Dominican Republic. It took three seasons before he was talked into converting from catcher. If they didnt know what they had then, they certainly do now.

Marmol signed a three-year, 20 million deal on Monday that avoids arbitration and buys out his first year of free agency. The 28-year-old closer could barely contain a huge smile at the beginning of a Fitch Park news conference.

I grew up in this organization. (Theyre) always here for me, Marmol said. When you trust yourself, you never know what youre going to be.

With his unpredictable slider, Marmol has emerged as a dominant force. He might have saved 50 games last year if he wasnt stuck on a sub-.500 team. He closed out 38 during his first full season on the job, posting a 15.99 strikeout ratio thats higher than any other pitcher in major-league history.

Marmol will be rewarded with an extension that breaks down like this: 3.2 million this season; 7 million the year after that; and 9.8 million in 2013.

It contains a limited no-trade clause and represents an upfront savings from the figure general manager Jim Hendry and agent Barry Praver would have otherwise settled on (4.7 million) before Tuesdays scheduled arbitration hearing.

Hendry values a closer who can handle Wrigley Fields big stage and withstand the pressures of playing in a large market.

It can be demoralizing if you blow a lot of games late, Hendry said. Hes certainly not afraid. Hes proven that. He can get out of jams, which most great closers have that ability. Hes approaching one of the best in the game. You can only go by asking the hitters in the National League who they like to face the least. And Id say a high percentage would probably start with him.

Marmols durable enough to have appeared in 238 games across the past three seasons. He can be wild hes walked 158 batters and hit 26 more during that time but also has the personality to be a closer.

The guys got very big you-know-what, Ted Lilly once said of Marmol.

Marmol loves playing in Chicago, and has put himself in position to become a free agent at the age of 31. If he continues to perform like an elite closer, he will receive an even bigger payday.

Hopefully I can sign a 10-year deal with Jim, Marmol said, sitting at a table next to the Cubs general manager. To which Hendry couldnt resist responding: Hope Im here to do it.

The bridge to Marmol

To get toward their closer, the Cubs will need left-handed reliever John Grabow, who will wear a knee brace as a precaution this season but doesnt have any limitations during camp.

Grabow pushed himself trying to live up to his contract, a two-year, 7.5 million deal that will expire at seasons end. His left knee didnt feel right, and an MRI ultimately revealed an MCL tear last August. He was shut down with a 7.36 ERA.

When theyre paying you to go out and pitch, you want (to) perform, Grabow said. After we started off so slow, youre just trying to catch up. Youre trying to pitch through an injury and things just got worse. If I look back now, I can probably learn from that. I have to listen to my body a little more.
Etc.

As insurance against an injury to Carlos Pena, manager Mike Quade said Tyler Colvin will get an extended look at first base this spring. The Cubs are thin at the position, and theres no better time to see whether the 25-year-old outfielder can handle it. Carlos Silva had a 103-degree fever and missed Mondays workout. Angel Guzman, who is recovering from a serious shoulder surgery, threw off the mound Monday. The Cubs are hopeful that the reliever will be able to throw a simulated game by the middle of March.

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

Once again, Javier Baez will be a huge X-factor for Cubs down the stretch

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USA TODAY

Once again, Javier Baez will be a huge X-factor for Cubs down the stretch

Javier Baez flicked his bat and watched the ball rocket in the direction of Waveland Avenue, the last of the back-to-back-to-back homers against Cincinnati Reds starter/Cubs trivia answer Scott Feldman.

That quick strike came during a four-homer fourth inning on Thursday afternoon at Wrigley Field, where the offense looked explosive and the pitching looked combustible in a 13-10 loss that left the Milwaukee Brewers one game out of first place, the St. Louis Cardinals right behind them and the Cubs awaiting a diagnosis on Jon Lester’s lat injury.

“I know the talent we got,” Baez said. “When they come to play a team like us, we know they’re going to come play hard and obviously play good baseball. They’re going to come to compete, and that’s what we got to do.”

Whatever happens from here – the Cubs are 2-2 so far during a 13-game stretch against last-place teams – you know Baez will be in the middle of the action as the No. 8 hitter with 19 homers this season and a power source with Willson Contreras (strained right hamstring) injured.

This is the starting shortstop until Addison Russell (strained right foot/plantar fasciitis) comes off the disabled list and the unique talent you couldn’t take your eyes off during last year’s playoffs.

“He’s not afraid of anything,” manager Joe Maddon said. “So I don’t care how big or small the game is, he’s going to play the same way. He’s going to do everything pretty much full gorilla all the time.

“Sometimes, he’s going to make a mistake. And that’s OK, because with certain people – with all of us – you got to take the bad with the good. Everybody wants perfection. He’s going to make some mistakes. But most of the time, he’s going to pull off events.”

The night before against the Reds, Baez led off the ninth inning with a line-drive double and scored the game-winning run on a wild pitch. Last week, Statcast clocked him at 16.11 seconds for his inside-the-park homer off the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park. Over the weekend, he launched another home-run ball 463 feet against the Arizona Diamondbacks at Chase Field.

There are so many different ways Baez can help the Cubs win a game at a time when they don’t have anywhere close to the same margin for error that they did during last season’s joyride into the playoffs.

“I know we often talk about the strikeouts or the big swings,” Maddon said. “But look at his two-strike numbers. Look at his OPS (.808). Look at the run production in general (his 55 RBI match Kris Bryant). It’s been outstanding. And you combine that with first-rate defense.

“Now he’s going to make some mistakes. I’ve talked about that. That’s going to go away with just experience. As he gets older, plays more often, he’s going to make less of those routine mistakes. And the game’s going to get really clean and sharp.”

Until then, Baez will keep taking huge swings, making spectacular plays and trying to cut down on the errors (10 in 334 innings at shortstop, or one less than Russell through 729 innings), because he knows what he means to this team.  

“Javy’s very important,” pitcher Jake Arrieta said. “He’s one of our best defensive players, one of our most athletic players on the team.

“Javy’s got a really big swing, but he’s got a great eye and he handles the bat really well. For as big as his swing is, he still manages to make really good contact. I don’t want him to approach the game any other way than he does right now.”

Should the Cubs pursue Justin Verlander after Jon Lester's injury, and what would they have to give up?

Should the Cubs pursue Justin Verlander after Jon Lester's injury, and what would they have to give up?

The Cubs may be in some trouble, with the injury bug hitting them at an inopportune time.

First it was Addison Russell (strained right foot), then it was Willson Contreras, arguably the best catcher in baseball and one of the hottest hitters on the planet before going down with a hamstring injury, and now it's Jon Lester who may be on his way to the disabled list after suffering a strained left lat muscle in Thursday's 13-10 loss to Cincinnati.

All of this occurring during a time Joe Maddon's club is looking to pull away from the pack in the National League Central and capture their second straight division crown, which appears to be the only way the North Siders can control their own destiny.

So what should the Cubs do if Lester is sidelined for an extended period of time?

One option could be re-opening trade discussions surrounding Justin Verlander, who cleared revocable waivers in early August. But what would it take to get him, and how much salary would they have to take on for it to happen?

The SportsTalk Live panel weighed in on that possibility in the video above.