Cubs

Mooney: Cubs, Marmol agree to three-year deal

227751.jpg

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.

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

Behind a refined approach, Albert Almora Jr. is off to a hot start this spring

The Cubs have only played three spring training games, and it’s dangerous to use spring results to predict regular season successes/failures. Still, it’s okay to acknowledge Albert Almora Jr.’s hot start in camp.

In two games, Almora is 4-for-4 with a walk, double, home run, four RBIs, and four runs scored. That line is essentially equivalent to a single game in the regular season and could be turned upside down by the end of the week. But it’s a start for the 25-year-old who’s struggled immensely at the plate for the last season-and-a-half at the plate.

In his last 177 games (dating back to the second half of 2018), Almora holds a .235/.270/.347 slash line. The advanced stats paint an uglier picture: 58 wRC+, .261 wOBA and 52.2 percent groundball rate.

Last season was the most challenging of Almora’s young career. He hit .236/.271/.381 in 130 games with a 64 wRC+, .271 wOBA, -0.7 fWAR (all career worsts). On top of that, he was involved in a heartbreaking moment early in the season; an Almora foul ball struck a young girl at Minute Maid Park during a Cubs-Astros game in May.

Almora recently refused to blame his 2019 offensive woes on that incident, though it obviously played a part. He did admit he was in a bad place mentally and used this winter to decompress. Almora also used it to make some adjustments to his swing and the changes are clear as day:

Pre-2020:

2020:

As MLB.com’s Jordan Bastian notes, Almora is now more upright in the box and his stance is more closed. His leg kick is less defined, and he’s rotating his front leg far less than previous seasons. In short, he’s more direct to his swing and has more time to react in the box because he cut out a lot of his pre-swing movements.

Almora said Monday he’s far from where he wants to be, pointing out the MLB season is a 200-day marathon. It’s too early to tell whether his simplified approach leads to sustainable success.

Small sample size be damned, Almora’s made noticeable adjustments. That’s the first step in his mission to get back on track offensively.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of the Chicago Cubs easily on your device.

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

brailynmarquezmilb.jpg
USA Today

Two of the Cubs' best prospects made Keith Law's annual Top 100 list

For those who follow such things, Keith Law's yearly Top 100 prospect rankings is always a highly anticipated read. What would baseball twitter even do with their time if they couldn't spend it vocally disagreeing with subjective lists? Having a handful of Top 100 guys is always a shot in the arm for franchises that maybe aren't doing a whole lot of winning at the major league level; when you know you're not winning a World Series, the debuts of these prospects are high points of the summer. 

There wasn't a whole lot of Cubs' representation this season, which isn't a surprise by any means. Only guys two made Law's list: Brennen Davis at 55, and Brailyn Marquez at 80.  

Law claims Davis has the highest upside of any Cubs' prospect, but isn't necessarily close to a debut: 

Davis is lanky and has barely begun to fill out, so there’s likely to be more power to come, while he’s already shown he can manage at-bats and use the middle of the field to get himself on base. Despite his 6′4″ frame he already has a very balanced swing, and the Cubs will just have to tighten up some mechanical things since he’s got such long levers. A former shortstop, he’s adapted quickly to center field; he projects to stay there and add value with his range. 

He also loves Marquez's stuff – comparing it to Aroldis Chapman's – and says it's the reason why he's team's best pitching prospect since Dylan Cease. You can see the entire rankings, which go pretty in-depth, right here.