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