The Chicago Cubs have finally cut ties with two of their most frustrating players. Third baseman Ian Stewart, who went on a ridiculous Twitter tirade two weeks ago, has been released, and closer Carlos Marmol has been designated for assignment.
We'll start with Stewart, who has been a disappointment since joining the Cubs in a trade with the Rockies prior to the 2012 season. Stewart played in just 55 games with Chicago last year, hitting .201/.295/.335. The Cubs nontendered him after the season and ended up re-signing him to a $2 million, one year deal. Stewart hasn't played in the majors at all this season, playing 40 games for AAA Iowa and hitting a paltry .168/.286/.372.
Marmol is the more frustrating player for Cubs fans. Chicago signed him to a three year, $20 million deal before the 2011 season, and he's been awful ever since. This year, Marmol has a 5.86 ERA in 27 2/3 innings while making $9.8 million, striking out 32 and walking 21. The hard throwing 30-year old righthander has always collected both strikeouts and walks by the bucketload, but this season, he's added a lot of home runs to his ledger too, destroying what little value he had. Chicago nearly dealt him to the Angels in the offseason for starting pitcher Dan Haren, but eventually nixed the deal due to issues with Haren's medicals (which looks like a wise idea in hindsight, considering how awful Haren has been this season for the Nationals).
Marmol has just pitched once in the last week, throwing a scoreless inning in St Louis on Thursday. Marmol blew the save for a brilliant Matt Garza last Sunday, allowing four runs in the ninth inning to the Mets. This year, he's blown more saves (three) than he's converted (two). Marmol has blown 28 saves over his career, and his 16 blown saves since the start of the 2011 are tied with Heath Bell for the most in baseball. In fact, Brandon League has 15, meaning that the three pitchers with the most blown saves over the last three years were due over $50 million in salary at the start of this season. That's a little depressing, all things considered.
The Cubs have ten days to either trade, release, or demote Marmol. I'd bet on one of the first two options, though the Cubs will likely end up eating nearly all of Marmol's remaining salary for this season. As for Stewart, his future is probably a little brighter than Marmol's. I wouldn't be surprised to see a team take a flyer on him on a minor league deal (perhaps the Yankees?).
It's good to see the Cubs moving on from a pair of frustrating players and look towards the future. There hasn't been a lot to cheer in Wrigleyville this season, but the banishment of Marmol could enthuse the Cubs faithful more than last night's Blackhawks Stanley Cup victory. OK, probably not, but you get the point.