Joel Hanrahan. 31, and Carlos Marmol, 30, are comparable pitchers. Both have a power repertoire and strike hitters out with regularity -- but both walk a ton of hitters. Hanrahan was over 5 walks per 9 IP. Marmol was over seven.
Marmol is paid a bit more, but we know that really isn't a factor since the Cubs can take the salary portion of the deal out of the equation if they choose.
The problem is just dealing a relief pitcher who has little value to a bad team while his inconsistency finding the plate makes it risky for a win-now team to entrust him with the closer's role.
The same could be said of Hanrahan and we can get a quick look at the return here and see what Marmol can potentially bring to the Cubs.
The Pirates received:
- Jerry Sands (OF-1B): Put up nice minor league numbers and is a solid athlete who nevertheless projects best at 1B, defensively. He's a good hitter, but bat speed has always been a concern as to whether it translates to the big leagues. If he's at 1B, he would have no value to a team like the Cubs and his so-so defense and good but not great hitting potential makes him an average starter at best in LF.
- Stolmy Pimentel (RHP): A pitcher who can throw about 94-96 mph is enticing in terms of upside but Pimentel has yet to miss a whole lot of bats since reaching the AA level. His first season there was a disaster (0-9, 9.12 ERA) and his second season was better but nothing to scream about. He put up a 4.59 ERA (3.87 FIP) while putting up a strikeout/walk ratio of 6.69/3.27 per 9 IP. Perhaps the highest ceiling on this list, but his likelihood of reaching it isn't all that high. His breaking stuff has improved and the hope is that he winds up being a mid-rotation starter, but honestly, if he winds up being a solid reliever, I'd say the Pirates would be pretty pleased.
- Ivan DeJesus, Jr. (IF): DeJesus is a utility player who gives you decent, but not great defense and a questionable bat. The Cubs just picked up a couple of similar players in Edwin Maysonet and Alberto Gonzalez on minor league deals.
- Mark Melancon (RP): A good RP from Houston who closed some games there but had a disastrous season in Boston. He has decent stuff but is probably maxed out as a 7th or 8th inning guy. I think he'll rebound and he and Grilli could provide a useful late inning tandem, but it's a stretch to say he's much of a difference-maker.
Take note also that the Pirates also sent the Red Sox 24 year old 2B Brock Holt, and while he may only be a utility player, he's a better one than DeJesus and may end up as a starter sometime in his career.
This is not to say it was a bad deal for the Pirates, but if the Cubs were to get a similar return for Marmol and a young player with starter potential, I'd probably shrug my shoulders. I don't think this is the kind of deal that either would help much in the present, nor would it give them impact talent for the future. It just speaks to how difficult it is to get upside in return for a shaky closer these days. The Pirates did well to get some useful players with cost control, but the bigger market Cubs don't have as big a pressing need to get that type of low cost/modest impact value in return.
That said, it's hard to say whether the Cubs would structure a deal in the same way. My guess is they would prefer to reduce quantity in favor of quality. That is, get themselves one prospect, perhaps two, with a better chance of making an impact.
However, if they are receiving similar offers, then I prefer they hang on to Marmol and see if he can build on his second half next season. Maybe by then that a team has a desperate need for a closer and will be willing to overpay.
I think the downside to waiting is low here. The Cubs can probably get similar value by holding on to Marmol and trading him at the deadline. The one wildcard in play is that dealing Marmol now, even if it's less than an exciting return, gives the Cubs an opportunity to try a different closer (i.e. Kyuji Fujikawa), add value to that player, and then pick up additional young talent in a separate trade down the road.