Extension Candidate: Sean Marshall

While Cubs closer Carlos Marmol grabbed attention the past couple years for his staggering strikeout rate and spectacularly excruciating blown saves, North Siders fans and fantasy owners in holds leagues alike will tell you that left-hander Sean Marshall was something of an underappreciated gem in Chicago's bullpen.

Indeed, after struggling as a starter early in his career, Marshall, 29, has settled in nicely as a reliever, serving as a dominant setup man in his two seasons spent exclusively in the bullpen. Last year was his finest, as the southpaw posted a 2.26 ERA, 9.40 K/9, 2.02 BB/9, 57.5% groundball rate and compiled 2.8 WAR. Apparently, the Cubs' division rivals took note, as Marshall changed uniforms within the NL Central in December, joining the Reds in a seemingly out-of-nowhere trade that sent Travis Wood back to the Cubs.

Marshall is set to earn $3.1MM in 2012 and is scheduled to hit free agency after the season, although Reds GM Walt Jocketty indicated that Marshall's foray into the open market may never come to fruition: "No guarantees, but we're going to try to sign him." Interestingly, Jocketty also said the Reds have not yet deterimed Marshall's role and left open the possibility of the left-hander closing, contingent upon whether they sign someone else to handle the ninth.

While we could debate the merits of strict bullpen distinctions such as "setup men" and "closers," the fact is that pitchers in those respective groups are usually compensated differently. So the uncertainty regarding Marshall's role and the Reds' interest in, or ability to, procure a so-called closer may be more than a minor footnote to the trade, at least with respect to Marshall's next contract.

If Marshall and his representatives at Meister Sports Management are amenable to signing an extension now – and reading the tea leaves from Jocketty's comments, they might be – they'll likely use the three-year, $15MM deal lefty Scott Downs signed with the Angels last offseason as a starting point in negotiations. And in light of the big contracts relievers have been securing this offseason, an annual average salary of $5MM is probably modest, so it could be bumped up from there.

The bird-in-hand philosophy could probably make Marshall a wealthy man before he even throws a pitch in 2012, but if he wants to leave open the possibility of getting paid like a closer, he could opt to play out his contract year. This would be an especially risky tack for a reliever, who are notoriously volatile from year to year, but could prove lucrative if Marshall is thrust into closing, approximates his 2011 numbers and hits free agency as a 30-year-old coming off a season in which he sewed up 35 or 40 saves.

While there are a few conditions that have to fall into place in that scenario for Marshall before we get ahead of ourselves, it's worth noting that Ryan Madson basically followed a similar arc and positioned himself for a windfall heading into this offseason.


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16 Comments on "Extension Candidate: Sean Marshall"


AFCFAN06
3 years 7 months ago

If the reds were smart they would try really hard to lock him up and I think he might be a interseting pick as closer always liked him been a really nice pen guy last 2 years for sure.

3 years 7 months ago

With another good year in 2012 he could be looking at as high as 18/3. Assuming he stays a set-up type.

Encarnacion's Parrot
3 years 7 months ago

Marshall would make a dominant closer, for whatever it’s worth. Insane FIP, insane SIERA, insane HR/9. K% is great, as is his BB%.

Lock him up!

JacksTigers
3 years 7 months ago

I’d wait until that five day time frame after the World Series to evaluate and sign him or release him. I would like to see how he does with the Reds before I give him $5MM per year. I don’t think its that good of an idea to give extentions to players who haven’t played a single game for their respective team.

vtadave
3 years 7 months ago

Disagree. As long as the proposal is reasonable (3/15ish), why not lock the guy up?  Is he suddenly going to turn into garbage wearing a Reds uniform (yes, I know Dusty is still there)?

3 years 7 months ago

Extend Marshall or don’t, just stay away from Cordero and take the draft pick.

johnsilver
3 years 7 months ago

He sill may wind up back in Cincy on a 1 year deal.

Nobody really out there going to give him that 2 year contract for an aging closer with every key stat dropping and really.. Anaheim will probably wait out Madson (the better closer) and Tampa? They may just as well go with Fahrnsworth or go with a by committee approach and get a backup type who would not take a precious pick as the Rays have little track record of giving up picks, nor paying…  Then there is Fernando Rodney. Shaky Gonzalez type the Rays could sign more than likely and not lose anything as a backup plan to Fahrnsworth.

Teams can also wait until..What is it? Right after the June draft? To sign FA offered arbitration and avoid the penalty of losing a 1st rounder and Cordero might be able to get more than a few million that way also, cause as it is, can’t see anyone willing to give up a 1st rounder and pay a premium for him, unless said team has already lost that pick for signing another FA ranked higher.

Not trying to go out there and hammer on the guy or anything.. it’s just that he is basically.. Well in a corner with that arbitration hanging over him, his age, almost all the open jobs filled and teams left either “in control” of the situation, or just flat out not looking at him with hardly any money.

Honestly? i would not be surprised to see him as a June signee now, just because of all those reasons. there is just nothing out there and the market was so flooded with relievers either better, or so much younger this past off season.

3 years 7 months ago

“Spectacularly excruciating” is the perfect way to describe Marmol’s blown saves.  When he does screw up, he screws up hard.

Lincecum_Dumpster
3 years 7 months ago

Dan, you are an excellent writer. Thanks for the efforts. You have a knack for taking mundane moves and turning them into interesting narratives. That might sound like a knock at you, but it’s not at all. As for the actual deal, I like it a lot for both sides. Seems like a win-win scenario.

3 years 7 months ago

I appreciate the kind words, truly. Thanks.

Fifthand
3 years 7 months ago

“it’s worth nothing that Ryan Madson basically followed a similar arc and positioned himself for a windfall heading into this offseason.”

I’m sure you meant “worth noting” instead of “worth nothing” but I’m not sure I don’t agree with you as written. In either case it is worth noting that Madson has yet to sign for big bucks coming off his lone year of successful closing.

3 years 7 months ago

Gah! Thanks for the heads up – this one has gotten me before.

Wrek305
3 years 7 months ago

Cubs should sign Madson they need a closer. Marmol can be middle relief. Madson can be like former Cub and should-be HOFer Lee Smith, if you don’t know your baseball history Lee was getting 2-3 inning saves every time and he is 3rd all time saves leader. Since teams like to baby pitchers these days, Madson would only pitch 3 days a week, not that it would matter. He would be on a team that probably will score less runs then the Giants per game.

jrodhard
3 years 7 months ago

why would you put Marmol in middle relief? If anything you trade him and try and get 2-3 pieces back.

Wrek305
3 years 7 months ago

The reason is very simple. Marmol would get maybe a minor league player or 2 back, and whether it’s one or two players they would not have a chance of making the ML at all. Honestly all Marmol needs is a good pitching coach. It doesn’t help at all when Larry Rothschild was his coach for most of his career. Anyone with a half a mind knows he’s the worst pitching coach of all time. If Dave Duncan wasn’t within the NL Central Marmol would be a perfect project for him.

Kingtide
3 years 7 months ago

He did not struggle to bad as a starter, More he did not get a chance to start.