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What Should The Cubs Do With Carlos Marmol?

Carlos Marmol has not pitched well this season. His trade value is almost nil, and his contract is up at the end of this year. Should the Cubs make a move with him now?

Brian Kersey

During Sunday's WGN telecast, Jim Deshaies pointed out that before Carlos Marmol's awful outing Saturday, he had not allowed a run in 18 of his previous 20 appearances.

That sounds pretty good, but let's delve a bit further into those 20 appearances. While the numbers JD gave are correct, see if you can guess the number of games in those 20 in which Marmol did not allow a baserunner.

I'll eliminate the suspense for you. The answer is "two". Yes, that's right: even in two appearances during the 20 JD refers to in which Marmol threw less than one inning, he allowed baserunners. Marmol has made 25 appearances this year and has exactly two 1-2-3 innings. He's allowed at least one hit in 16 of the 25 and walked at least one in 13 of the 25.

Let's walk this back to previous years. In 2012, Marmol had 14 appearances out of 61 in which he did not allow a baserunner (12 1-2-3 innings, two others of less than an inning). In 2011, 20 out of 75 (17 1-2-3 innings, three others of less than an inning). You have to go back to 2010, the year when Marmol was nearly unhittable, to find better results: 29 out of 77 (23 1-2-3 innings, six others of less than an inning).

How does this compare to other similar pitchers? First, look at Kevin Gregg's 2013 season for the Cubs: eight 1-2-3 innings out of 16. Jason Grilli of the Pirates, who's been the surprise best closer of 2013: 18 appearances out of 26 with no baserunners (16 1-2-3 innings, two others of less than an inning). The great Mariano Rivera, 2013: nine no-baserunner appearances out of 22, and just two walks in 20⅓ innings.

It's been clear to big-league hitters for quite some time that Carlos Marmol doesn't throw strikes. So they wait, and wait, and wait; much of the time they walk, and when Marmol does wind up having to lay a pitch in the strike zone because he's behind the hitter, he gets pounded, as he did Saturday. Scouts see this, too; Marmol's trade value at this time has to be pretty much zero, even if the Cubs pay the entire contract.

I don't think a "mental health" stint on the DL, as suggested in some comments to Sunday's recap, is the answer. This is not a new problem; it's been going on for the better part of three years. It was happening even in the second half of 2012, when Marmol did nail down all but one save opportunity; from June 1 to the end of last year, he had just eight 1-2-3 innings in 45 appearances.

About one-third of this season is gone; of Marmol's $9.8 million contract for 2013, about $6.5 million is still owed. I say, pay the man -- it's a sunk cost, the Cubs have to pay it whether he's on the roster or not -- and release him. By all accounts he's a good person and a good teammate, but the constant roller-coaster ride every single time he comes into the game has to be wearing on the team on the field. Give Eduardo Sanchez a chance. Heck, give Trey McNutt a chance, despite his poor results this year at Double-A. How much worse could it be?

It's time to move on from Carlos Marmol, in my view. He is the longest-tenured Cub, having debuted June 4, 2006, almost exactly seven years ago. Have a look at that boxscore. In that game, Marmol threw two innings, issued no walks and allowed one single, throwing 19 strikes in 28 pitches. That's a far cry from the 30-plus-pitch single innings of the last two days.

Thanks for the memories of some good years, Carlos. But it's time for you to go.