Cubs give Carlos Marmol his walking papers

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As expected the Cubs just released Ian Stewart from Triple-A, but they also made an even bigger move by designating Carlos Marmol for assignment.

Marmol has been awful this season, making it easy to forget that not so long ago he was one of the most dominant relievers in baseball and his career ERA in 542 innings with the Cubs is 3.50. He’s posted a strikeout rate of at least 10.0 per nine innings every year since 2007, including 10.4 this season, but Marmol’s inability to consistently throw the ball over the plate made watching him agonizing all too often.

Among all active pitchers with at least 500 career innings Marmol has highest strikeout rate at 11.7 per nine innings, the highest walk rate at 6.1 per nine innings, and the lowest opponents’ batting average at .185. Unhittable when he threw strikes, unwatchable when he didn’t.

Marmol is owed about $5 million for the remainder of this season, so he’s likely to pass through waivers unclaimed and could remain with the Cubs in the minors if they don’t find a taker for him via trade. They’d obviously have to eat a bunch of that money, but Marmol is still only 30 years old and still incredibly tough to hit, so no doubt quite a few teams think “if we could just get him to throw strikes …” Chicago almost had Marmol traded to the Angels for Dan Haren this winter before Haren’s health issues nixed the deal and both pitchers have been a mess this season.

Cubs won’t make Kyle Schwarber available in trade talks

Kyle Schwarber
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Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the Cubs won’t deal Kyle Schwarber this winter, despite multiple inquires from teams around the league. Schwarber is approaching his first year of arbitration and will remain under team control for another three seasons before reaching free agency in 2022.

The decision comes on the heels of one of the strongest seasons of the 25-year-old outfielder’s short career. Over 137 games and 510 PA for the Cubs, he proved a passable defender in left field and batted .238/.356/.467 with 26 home runs, an .823 OPS, and 3.2 fWAR in 2018. He also led the National League in intentional walks, with 20, and bumped up his total walks from 59 in 2017 to 78.

Despite his marked improvements from previous years, Schwarber’s performance still left something to be desired — specifically against left-handed pitchers, who held the slugger to a paltry .224/.352/.303 with four extra-base hits across 91 PA. Still, it’s evident the Cubs feel Schwarber is capable of strengthening his splits in the years to come, and they might stand to get more value from him on the field than they would in a trade this offseason.

Of course, that’s not to say the Cubs intend to pass the Winter Meetings in total silence, especially as they’ll be seeking bullpen and catching depth in advance of their 2019 run at the division title. As club president Theo Epstein remarked last week, “We’re certainly open and active in trade talks with a lot of deals that usually don’t come to fruition. So, we may make some trades. We could make big ones that transform the roster. We may make smaller complementary ones. But there’s certain things we’d like to accomplish.”