2013 Dodgers in Review #41: RP Carlos Marmol

90topps_carlosmarmol2.53 ERA / 3.94 FIP 21.1 IP 11.39 K/9  8.02 BB/9 (C+)

2013 in brief: I’m trying to figure out a nice way to say “not quite as awful as we expected”.

2014 status: Free agent.

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Everyone thank Paul for pitching in with a great job on reviewing Marmol. Thanks, Paul!

The fact that Mike was willing to hand this review off to me probably tells you most of what you need to know about Carlos Marmol’s time as a Dodger. But let’s not forget that there was once a time when waking up to “Dodgers acquire Carlos Marmol” would have been a big deal. The type of deal where you’d expect a top prospect headed to Chicago and an argument about the relative value of “closers” to ensue. Of course, those are no longer the circumstances, and here we are trying to make some sense of the enigma that is Carlos Marmol.

When the rumors started to surface that the Dodgers may have a trade for Marmol in the works, the consensus response seemed to go something like, “Oh God, why?!?!?” and with good reason. He was no longer considered a dominant closer– or even an effective major league pitcher really. He had become something of a poster boy for the ill-advised, long term, big money contract to an eminently replaceable relief pitcher. The only explanation seemed to be that Ned Colletti was involved in an elaborate scheme to get all of baseball’s washed up closers in one room for a group photo. Who was next? Was Dennis Eckersley coming out of retirement? (No.) Brian Wilson? (Yes.)

However, through either uncanny foresight or some inside information, Mike cautioned us to wait for the details before making our final judgments, insisting that we weren’t going to hate it as much as we might think. When we learned that the player headed out the door was Matt Guerrier, we all breathed a collective sigh of a relief. When we found out that Marmol had agreed to spend some time in the minor leagues and that we would also receive international cap space along with some cash, we were actually sort of happy about the whole thing.

The temptation here is to turn this review into an exploration of just how useless Guerrier and his awful contract turned out (useless enough that Marmol was seen as a marginal improvement), but that’s a discussion for another day. The fact is that Colletti had managed to turn a seat-filler into a lottery ticket, the type of trade that GMs rarely get any credit for but sometimes pays dividends.

The next step was to figure out what exactly we were getting back. We knew that Marmol boasted ungodly strikeout numbers– along with the requisite “control issues,” and we knew that he had managed a 2.8 WAR season as recently as 2010, so there was at least a sliver of hope that he may provide some value.

Chad Moriyama took note of some glaring mechanical flaws and the almost comical inconsistency in his release point, wondering if it might be the sort of issue where Rick Honeycutt could work a miracle. Of course, the term “mechanical flaw” almost seems a little tongue in cheek in this context considering that even at its best Marmol’s entire delivery is essentially one giant mechanical flaw. It’s the sort of delivery that causes pitching coaches to retire early and makes Tim Lincecum say “that can’t be healthy.” When he starts throwing in the bullpen the broadcast immediately flashes a “viewer discretion advised” warning across the screen.

In any case, we knew that he would be on a short leash, and his debut with the big club was less than reassuring. In 1.2 innings of mop-up work against Toronto he gave up 3 runs on 4 hits and a walk, and to be completely honest, even most of the outs weren’t particularly convincing.

But something strange happened as the season went on. Curb your expectations; this isn’t a Cinderella story or anything close to one. What happened was Marmol became a “somewhat useful if less than reliable” cog in the bullpen, which is about the best we could have reasonably hoped for. I stand by my use of the word enigma because he ended up posting an 11.4 K/9 rate as a Dodger. That’s approaching Kenley Jansen territory. The punch line, of course, is that despite the elite strikeout rate, his K/BB ratio was an atrocious 1.42. Walking 8 men per 9 innings will do that to you. All in all, he pitched 21.1 innings for the Dodgers with a 2.53 ERA, which is something. He even hit a ball to the warning track in an extra inning game that momentarily Steinered Yasiel Puig. I’m sure there’s a gif of it somewhere.

The point here isn’t that Marmol was good. It’s that he was something. And sometimes “something” is enough to make you a worthwhile addition to a playoff roster. If on June 15 you had placed money on “Carlos Marmol will pitch 3.2 scoreless innings for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the NLCS,” please come forward to claim your fortune.

Marmol is now a free agent, and trying to assess whether or not he has any value in this market is above my pay grade. If it were up to me I’d hand him a non-roster invite to spring training just because he’s a warm body who used to be good, though something tells me there are enough teams desperate for bullpen help that he’ll talk his way into a guaranteed major league deal somewhere.

So long, Carlos. Thanks for not being Matt Guerrier!

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Next! How many of you remember that Josh Wall pitched for the Dodgers in 2013?

Carlos Marmol is a Dodger, and I Don’t Hate This

Have you been on the internet in the last 24 hours? You have? Good. Then you’ve seen people freaking out left and right about the prospect of the Dodgers acquiring Carlos Marmol from the Cubs. (Hell, even Bailey, the mascot of the Kings, had to weigh in with his opinion.) We haven’t been immune to that here, either, because when news first came out about the possibility yesterday I was far from thrilled about the idea, though I urged caution until we had the details.

Well, now the details are here, and I have to say — I can’t really complain about this all that much.

Headed to Chicago, unsurprisingly, is Matt Guerrier, DFA’d by the Dodgers over the weekend. That’s it. No prospects, no one on the active roster. No one here shed any tears when he was cut, and so that’s the definition of getting something for nothing. From the Chicago point of view, they shed the heartburn of Marmol and get someone just a bit more reliable — if not nearly as exciting — in Guerrier. They also save some money in the ~$3m difference between the two contracts, though not all that much, since Tim Brown reports they’re kicking in $2m of Marmol’s salary. If Cubs fans dislike it, I suppose we can feel good about that. (Dylan Hernandez reports this adds only $500k to the Dodger payroll.)

In addition to Marmol, the Dodgers get $209,700 in slot money to sign international free agents, and that’s the real value here. Long story short, one of the reasons Yasiel Puig signed for so much last year is because the new CBA strongly limited the amount that players can spend on young, international free agents; after giving Puig $42m last year, the Dodgers had just $2.112m to spend on everyone this year. Per Baseball America, that’s just the 18th most room available in baseball. (Players like Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are exempt due to age and experience.) I renew my objections to this ludicrously inefficient new system.

So basically what you’ve done here is turn Guerrier, who we all wanted gone anyway ,into additional budget to sign young players. You’ve also picked up a lottery ticket in Marmol — do read Chad Moriyama’s piece on whether he’s fixable — and here’s the kicker: I have heard, but cannot confirm right now, that when Marmol agreed to come to the Dodgers, he also agreed to spend some time in the minors with an opt-out date. If that’s true, which I’m working to verify, then the issue of him taking someone’s roster spot right now is moot. (Update: confirmed.)

There’s a good chance Marmol never contributes to the Dodgers, and I’m with you all in worrying about Don Mattingly using him in high-pressure situations should Marmol ever get to town. But in exchange for someone none of us wanted, there’s the chance for value here, both in Marmol and international talent. I’m having a really hard time finding fault in that.

Report: It’s Getting All Carlos Marmol Up In Here

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.

ESPN Chicago:

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.

When Marmol was DFA’d on June 25, I joked “oh my god, Carlos Marmol is going to be a Dodger by the end of the day isn’t he.” Well, it took a little longer than we thought, but it sure looks that way.

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.