Next Closer For Cubs?

We have reason to believe the Cubs will make a second attempt to trade Carlos Marmol after nearly doing so in a deal that collapsed for Angels starter Dan Haren on Friday night.

The tough part is selling Marmol’s actual value vs. his still owed 1-year, $9.8M contract. Another sticking point is Marmol’s no-trade clause. But seeing as how he waive it to join the Angels makes it seem he would do so again–at least to join a contender.

Where, when and how the Cubs trade Marmol, I don’t know. If and when they do, however, the Cubs will need to find itself another closer.

The in-house options are thin and not promising.

Rafael Dolis got a taste at closing last season, which came with a serving of humble pie: 4/6 in save situations and an overall 6.39 ERA. Still green, to say the least.

Jaye Chapman is another question mark having appeared in only 14-games during his rookie season. He did find success with the strikeout (12) but walked an unhealthy 10 batters in just 12.0 innings. Chapman, it seems, first needs to prove he’s a reliable reliever before the Cubs test his mettle in the closer’s role.

James Russell was arguably the best reliever the Cubs had last year. In fact, he was such a good situational pitcher you’d hate to see him limited to closing duties on a club expected to play below .500. Russell also lacks the repertoire of tradition ‘closer’s stuff.’

So it’s fairly obvious if the Cubs need to replace a departed Marmol the better options are outside the organization. Here’s a quick look at some free agent closers available this offseason—assuming the Cubs do not receive a candidate for closer in return for Marmol.

  • Joakim Soria, 27, has been a sensational closer for the Royals with the exception of his last season pitching in 2011: (5-5, 4.33) 28/35 in saves. He blew out his pitching elbow last April and missed all of 2012. That could play in the Cubs favor if Soria can be had for a 1-year, incentive-laden deal for $4M or less.
  • Jonathan Broxton, 28, brings a heavy fastball and a history of closing. In 8 seasons he has 111 career-saves, including an 82% save-percentage over his last four seasons spent with the Dodgers, Royals & Reds. Broxton will likely field multiple-year offers and a price tag around $5-6M, if not more. That’s probably more than what the Cubs are willing to pay, or would have to pay to entice him to join the lowly Cubs.
  • Matt Capps, 28, is coming off a shoulder injury that sidelined him from July to late September. He was limited to just 30-games with Minnesota last year. Capps has been a closer in 7 of his 8 big league seasons with a solid save-percentage above 80%. He could be an ideal option for the Cubs if they can land him for $3M or less. If Capps returns to his old form you’re looking at a valuable trade chip come July.
  • Ryan Madson, 32, is similar to Soria in the fact he’s also recovering from Tommy John surgery after suffering an elbow injury last spring. He missed all of 2012 after signing a 1-year, $6M deal with Cincinnati in the offseason. Where Madson differs from Soria, however, is his history of closing. In 9 seasons with Philadelphia he’s just 52/78 in save opportunities–a discouraging 67-percent success rate. If Madson can be had for half of what the Reds were willing to give him, Chicago could offer him the chance to close games immediately in addition to trading him to a contender, given his recovery goes smoothly.
  • Jose Valverde, 35, was nothing short of Marmolesque this October. Yet despite his poor showing in the postseason, there’s a reason the Tigers paid Papa Grande $9M big ones to close the door. His 93.2 save-percentage over the last three seasons is the best of any closer in baseball. That price is certain to drop this offseason, maybe enough the Cubs could get Valverde if they wanted him. If Papa Grande did bounce back, what a terrific trade piece Chicago would have next July. But like the above closer options, there’s considerable risk that comes with signing Valverde…maybe too much for the Cubs to bite.

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