Theo Epstein and the rest of the brain trust trying to rebuild the Chicago Cubs arrived pretty much wholesale from the Boston Red Sox. As such, it’s not surprising that they’re thinking hard about acquiring some of the players they’d brought to Boston to become part of the Cubs’ future.
Apparently, one such player is center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury. According to the Chicago Tribune, the Cubs “are expected to make a strong push” to sign the one-time All-Star, provided that he digs out of the slump in which he’s begun the 2013 season.
Ellsbury’s overwhelming potential was shown off best in 2011, when he hit .321 with 32 HRs, 105 RBIs and 39 stolen bases. That performance is all but guaranteed to earn him a big-money contract somewhere when he becomes a free agent this offseason.
In mid-May, every major league team is supposed to believe it’s still a playoff contender, but realistically, the Chicago Cubs are playing for the future rather than the present. Given that harsh reality, the Cubs’ admittedly welcome victories over Washington and Colorado pale in comparison to the importance of Sunday’s off-the-field accomplishments.
As reported by Fox Sports, the Cubs locked up first baseman Anthony Rizzo through at least 2019 with a massive contract extension. Factoring in various incentives and a pair of team-option years, the deal could be worth as much as $73 million.
Considering that Rizzo had been making less than $500,000 for the 2013 season—a bargain-basement figure that’s now increased as part of the extension—the new contract represents a titanic commitment to a player who's appeared in just over one season's worth of major league games. It also shows that Theo Epstein and the rest of the front office understand what they’re up against in trying to turn the Cubs into winners.
Among many problems in the Chicago Cubs’ rough start, the closer situation has been one of the most obvious. Carlos Marmol allowed at least one earned run in each of his first three appearances before losing the job, and newcomer Kyuji Fujikawa got injured almost immediately upon taking Marmol’s place.
Now, with the Cubs still scrambling for a solution, the Chicago Tribune reports that Marmol is likely back in the mix. Manager Dale Sveum is going with the dreaded “committee” approach, and his pool of candidates includes the mercurial righthander.
Although it’s understandable that Sveum wants to keep his options open during Fujikawa’s injury, the worst thing Chicago can do with Marmol is keep yo-yoing him in and out of the closer’s spot. It won’t help him, and it won’t help the team.
As he is wont to do from time to time, Pete Rose found his way back into the news last week in a wide-ranging interview with the good people at Grantland. While Rose touched on a number of topics, the one comment in particular that got me thinking was his assertion that one of the main reasons baseball has seen a proliferation of home runs is because we have made the ballparks smaller than they were doing his playing days.
Rose is hardly the first old-timer to make this assertion, as it is a particularly common sentiment among baseball players of his generation. However, I have to wonder if it is one of those things that is accepted as truth only because it gets repeated over and over again, as I have yet to see a definitive study that demonstrates that this is the case.
So to examine this idea, I ran a comparison of the dimensions of all 30 of today’s ballparks against the 24 that existed in 1973. I chose 1973 for three primary reasons.
Ever since the Chicago Cubs signed Japanese closer Kyuji Fujikawa, the fate of 2012 closer Carlos Marmol has been a topic of rampant speculation. Marmol is still a Cub, but that situation may not hold for much longer.
According to ESPN, the trade market for Marmol is a solid one, with the Detroit Tigers among multiple teams who have expressed interest. Marmol has a limited no-trade clause, but it’s expected that he would waive even that with the provision that he was heading to a contending team.
In fact, a potential trade is apparently close enough that the righthander may not make it to the end of spring training in a Chicago uniform.
It’s no secret that the Cubs are looking to increase financial flexibility and add long-term prospects. Dealing Marmol and his not-quite-$10 million contract—assuming they can get a reasonable package for him—would serve both purposes admirably.
Marmol’s trade value is never going to be higher than it is right now. He’s coming off a stellar second half in 2012, but his chances of maintaining that level of play this season are slim.