What, you thought that a day off after winning eight of nine to claw back into the race would be a calm, peaceful day, one to bask in the good feelings of the last week? NAH.
The Chicago Cubs are closing in on a trade that would send Carlos Marmol to the Los Angeles Dodgers, according to two sources.
Marmol was designated for assignment on June 25, giving the Cubs a 10-day period to trade him or give him his unconditional release. He has a limited no-trade clause with six teams he could block, including the Dodgers.
It’s unknown which player or players the Dodgers would send to Chicago.
You know the Marmol story by now, I’m sure. He throws hard and collects whiffs — 703 in 542.1 career innings — but has just about no idea where the ball is going to go when it leaves his hand, walking 6.07 BB/9 for his career. This year he added “homer prone” to that mess, and lost his closer’s job — before losing his entire job — to Kevin Gregg.
In case you’re wondering how Cubs fans feel about this, here’s Bleed Cubbie Blue:
To which I say, does it matter which player or players the Dodgers would send? Just the fact that there is an actual trade in the works where the Cubs would get anything back would be a triumph for Theo & Co. It’s probably something along the lines of the Tony Campana deal, where the Cubs got back a couple of 17-year-old kid pitchers; if either one of those guys turns into anything, it’s a win for the Cubs.
So there’s that. As you can imagine, every Dodger fan with an Internet connection is all too happy to panic that this move is either going to end up with Joc Pederson or Zach Lee headed east, and if not that, then that Jose Dominguez or Chris Withrow is about to lose their jobs.
To which I say: let’s take a deep breath.
Yes, Marmol is awful. He’s always been kind of awful, but it wasn’t so long ago that he was at least less awful, at least the kind of awful that allows for a guy to have a big league career. Hell, in 2010 he had a 2.55 ERA / 2.01 FIP when he decided to stop allowing homers almost entirely. Last year, he was at 3.42 / 3.98. Even this year, he’s still striking guys out and walking a ton, he’s just allowing more homers in a small sample size. That’s not a guy I want in the ninth inning or anywhere near it, but can I objectively say he’s worse than Brandon League right now? Or Matt Guerrier? I cannot.
That’s not the same as saying I badly want him, because… well, you saw the joke above, and “being better than League” is a pretty low bar. I don’t really want him at all, and I’ll never get this fascination with busted relievers. But he was so bad that the Cubs just decided enough was enough, and this is not a team that is putting a lot of stock into wins and losses this year. They couldn’t even wait until July to try and trade him, and that should say a lot.
What that means is that the Dodgers almost certainly aren’t giving up anything to get him. Maybe they send Guerrier and the ~$2m he has left for Marmol and the ~$5m he has remaining, and the Cubs win out by saving some dollars and the Dodgers get a lottery ticket. Maybe they send a low-level non-prospect and the Cubs are happy just to save some money no matter what. Unless this is part of a larger deal, there’s just no way anything worth losing is headed back. (Look at me, putting confidence in Ned Colletti! I suppose the moves of the recent days really put a spring in my step. My downfall is near.)
So hopefully there’s no decent prospect going, and it’s just money on a team that doesn’t care about money. But that doesn’t answer the question of “why,” does it? Maybe there really is a DL stint for Brandon League coming. Maybe there’s something up with Ronald Belisario, and Colletti needs to fill his quota of “live-armed and unreliable righty relievers.” Maybe Colletti is a secret genius and has found a way to dump League or get Matt Garza, in which case this goes from “what the hell!?” to “brilliant!”, and then we’ll need to start worrying about the safety of Theo Epstein’s immediate family. We don’t know, and we can’t judge until we do, but there’d be better be something valid behind it, because this really seems like over-thinking it, like making a move for the sake of one when it’s not really necessary.
If Marmol does end up in Los Angeles, I won’t really like it, and neither will you. But I also can’t say that taking a flier on a DFA’d reliever is really that much more egregious than giving three-year deals to Guerrier and League in the first place, right? Unfortunately, “being better than something really dumb” isn’t the same thing as “actually being a good idea or worth the effort,” and that’s where I’m worried we end up here.