Marmol was designated for assignment back on June 25, opening a 10-day window in which the Cubs must trade or release him. In the final year of a three-year contract, Marmol has limited no-trade protection and is able to block a trade to six teams, including the Dodgers.
Before you say, "Aw, the Dodgers were doing so well, going 9-3 over their last dozen games, just in time for the Diamondbacks to come back to the pack in a big way. Surely one of the keys to that was Don Mattingly wising up and getting Brandon '20,000 Leagues Under the Lead' League the hell out of the late innings and making Kenley Jansen the closer. Why would they want to risk all of that progress by messing with a noted firestarter like Marmol?" just remember that there's a lot we don't yet know like:
- If the Dodgers will even be able to get around Marmol's no-trade rights,
- If so, what the Dodgers are giving up,
- What role they intend Marmol to occupy,
- Does anybody really know what time it is, and,
- Does anybody really care?
As well as the Dodgers have been doing lately, even with Yasiel Puig outhitting a young Joe DiMaggio, they are short a few Steve Garveys and Don Suttons of being a lock to overtake the competition. If you want to see a sobering number, it's this: During the 12-game stretch that has been so encouraging, the Dodgers have scored 50 runs and allowed 45. That's a recipe for going 7-5, not 9-3, and given the hole they've dug and how many teams are in front of them, 7-5 (equivalent to a 95-win pace over a full season) might not be good enough -- with 81 games to go, if the Dodgers played at a 7-5/95-win pace the rest of the way, they would finish with around 85 wins. The way the NL West is going, that might be enough to win it, but then again it might not. You'd rather slant the equation in your favor a bit more than that, especially when Messrs. Ramirez and Puig are not likely to hit like Honus Wagner 1908 and Tris Speaker 1912 the rest of the way.
Parenthetically, you might be tempted to toss out the 16-1 drubbing at the hands of the Phillies that took place on June 28, but (a) that really happened, (b) it's indicative of one of this club's shortages, be it a weakness in the run-scoring department or in the run-prevention department, or both, and (c) there is no (c) -- we could pretend that instead of a 16-1 loss it was more like an 8-2 loss, but then the Dodgers would have scored 51 runs and allowed 37 and we should really see them as playing at a 106-win pace, but then we would be distorting what was already a small sample. It's a bit like calling a bird a squab when it's really just a pigeon with delusions of grandeur.
Speaking of delusions, Carlos Marmol is baseball's original hot mess. He's always struck out a lot of hitters, but walked far too many for comfort. His career rate of 6.1 walks per nine innings is the sixth-highest all time (500 innings or more), trailing only Mitch Williams, Tommy Byrne, Dohn D'Acquisto, Mark Clear, and Rex Barney. If you think watching that as a fan is debilitating, try imagining what it does to one's teammates, who are standing out there in the hot sun watching the pitcher pass the bases loaded. I spoke to some of Tommy Byrne's teammates about what it was like to stand behind him for 190 innings a year while he walked six or eight guys in an afternoon and 50 years later some of them still sounded borderline suicidal.
The Cubs' original decision to make Marmol a closer was the correct one at the time. He was their most effective reliever at a time when they were trying to get by with Kevin Gregg (Mk I) as a closer. Those days are gone -- he's lost enough on his fastball without making any progress in other areas -- and he still walks as many hitters as ever, but the strikeouts are down and the home-run rate is up.
Still, he was good enough recently enough that he might be worth trying to fix rather than going back to Peter Moylan or Javy Guerra again, or praying that Chris Withrow has conquered his own command problems. Assuming the Dodgers don't give up all that much, this should be one of those controlled gambles that might work out in the end.
Heck, it might even be a better gamble than trading for Ricky Nolasco.