Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Bullpen Turnover

As Kurt pointed out yesterday, it appears that The Shark is going to get first shot at the fifth (or fourth) starter spot. Assuming he wins the position, it’s pretty simple to see what the bullpen might look like on Opening Day...

Sean Marshall
Luis Vizcaino
Neal Cotts
Aaron Heilman
Chad Gaudin
Kevin Gregg
Carlos Marmol

Some of the roles will need to be sorted out over the coming weeks in Arizona, but these seem to be the favorites to start the year as the relievers.

I’m not sure how people feel about this ‘pen, but I’m unsettled by it if only because of all the new names.

On Opening Day 2008, the Cubs bullpen looked like this...

Kevin Hart
Jon Lieber
Kerry Wood
Michael Wuertz
Scott Erye (15-day DL)
Bob Howry
Carlos Marmol
Carmen Pignatiello

There is only one name on the 2008 list that is going to be on the 2009 roster for the first game: Carlos Marmol. Of course Gaudin, Cotts and Marshall all saw time with the Cubs at some point throughout the season, but Marmol was the only one who was in the bullpen for the entirety of ‘08.

Something about this is very unsettling to me. During spring training last year, I felt very comfortable with the bullpen because it was mainly the same structure as it was in 2007 (except Kerry Wood was the closer and Dempster was in the rotation), but now there are so many unknowns going into this season that I feel like the situation is very unbalanced.

I’ve never spent time in a bullpen (or even pitched a game of baseball in my life for that matter), but I feel that there is a hierarchical structure for relievers that is comforting to fans and players alike. When the players know their roles, they can adjust their mindset properly. Right now though, the roles are unclear...but I guess that’s what spring training is for.

Anyway, as Paul Sullivan of the Trib pointed out a few weeks ago, turnover hasn’t been a bad thing for the Cubs...but this bullpen situation just seems like too big of a question mark to ignore.

As Rob wrote today, there hasn’t been much news coming out of Mesa so far, but I think we are going to be hearing a lot about this bullpen in the coming weeks. Mark my words readers, there will be news.

And maybe the news will be good,  and maybe it won’t. I just think it’s ridiculous to sit here an be comfortable with the reliever situation.

I don't like the bullpen

I don't like it because there are two guys who think they are closers; three guys who think they are starters, and two guys who suck. Plus I think Mike Stanton is going to be the LOOGY, not Cotts.

I can't see them breaking camp with Heilman AND Gaudin in the pen. Neither one impresses me by the job they do in the pen, plus at least one or both is gonna bitch about their role.

Hendry cannot seriously consider standing pat with this....wad of mangoo.

Rob, I would point out that

Rob, I would point out that teams almost never go an entire season with just five starters. I would guess the number for the Cubs would be closer to 8 than 5. In that case, keeping Heilman and Gaudin around could be a good thing for the Cubs in the future.

Also, both Heilman and Gaudin have shown success as a reliever. Even if they don't get to start, they'll contribute.

Lastly, specific note for Heilman's case was the fact that he was never really even given a chance to compete for a starting role. If he gets rocked in the spring, I think he'll be content with the 7th inning until a switch is needed.


I'm also concerned about the bullpen, but not because of the turnover from the beginning of 2008. I'm mostly concerned that there isn't a single guy slated for the bullpen that can get LH hitters out, other than Marmol and Gregg. Heilman, Gaudin, and Vizcaino are all solid against righties, but will likely struggle against lefties as they have done thruout their careers. Since Heilman is the best of the three and he and Gaudin are both candidates as starters in the event of injuries, Vizcaino seems like a no-brainer trade candidate. The Cubs would probably have to eat half of his contract to get rid of him, but it needs to be done. Cotts can't get lefties out either, in fact he is terrible. He's only had one decent year in his entire career. The question is, would other teams have an interest in him? Well, he's a lefty reliever, and did have that one good year. If nothing else, Hendry needs to sign Dennys Reyes or Joe Beimel quickly before they sign elsewhere, and then deal Vizcaino. That would leave Marmol, Gregg, Heilman, Gaudin, Reyes/Beimel, Marshall, and either Stanton, Guzman, Hart, Samardzija, or one of the other kids. That pen would make me much more comfortable that the present alignment.


There is no way Marshall is not the fifth starter when the team breaks camp, unless they acquire another top-ranked starter.

People love Beimel, but I'm

People love Beimel, but I'm really not sold on the guy. Look at his hits per nine innings numbers. The only reason he doesn't completely suck is because he doesn't give up ANY home runs. I can PROMISE you, Beimel would give up HRs in Wrigley.


I don't know about you guys, but as long as I've been a Cubs fan (20+ yrs now) I am never very comfortable with the bullpen going into a season. I can only imagine what the Field Management and Suits worry about. Who will be the first to go on the 15-day DL? 60-day? Who's the one who's all-of-a-sudden lost the ability to find the plate? Will Marmol choke in the 9th inning? If so, will Gregg be reliable? On, and on, and on... That having been said, I'm probably as comfortable with this pen as any other, though I must wonder why there's not been any talk about bringing Cruz back into the fold.

Good point. This time last

Good point. This time last year, we were thinking Bob Howry might be the closer.

I would love to see Juan

I would love to see Juan Cruz back on the team but there are a couple of reasons that we probably won't. First if the team signs him outright, then they lose a draft pick (if they have any remaining to lose) to the Diamondbacks. Second if the team worked out a sign-and-trade deal with Arizona, then the cubs have to trade something of a relatively equal value to that draft pick the D'Backs were expecting. I'm not saying it can' happen or won't happen, as I hope it does, but there are certainly some obstacles standing in the way keeping it from happening.

Angel Guzman??

Are we assuming that Angel Guzman gets traded, released, injured, or put on waivers here? I simply think that putting Samardzija into the rotation to start the season is a terrible idea. For one, the chances of him being able to pitch a full season in his first year as a starter and first full season in the big leagues are not very good. The team can't win anything of importance in the first month to two months of the season, and they aren't likely to lose anything by having Marshall/Gaudin/Heilman start the season in the rotation either. If Samardzija is the best option for the rotation, then you want him there in July/August/September and beyond, not April/May/June. The chances of the Shark being healthy, effective, and strong for the entire season all decrease exponentially the earlier he is put into the big league rotation. It really makes a lot of sense to take a step back and let the pitching staff shake-out for the early part of the season, where guys fall into/out of roles, while Samardzija is fine tuning his game as a starter in AAA. Samardzija has only started in a little over 50 games in his minor league career, so it would be a lot to ask of the kid to have him start in half as many games over the course of one season as he has so far in his career. The Shark would be one hell of a shot in the arm for the rotation or the bullpen in late May or early June though, where by that point roles will have been defined and the team will have a clearer picture of what they need from the Shark. Samardzija has the talent to do whatever he or the team wants from him on the pitching mound, so I see no need to rush him given the depth of the pitching staff and his remaining options.

The bullpen situation is a bit up in the air still. Its difficult to anticipate what you're going to get from any reliever, but having a bullpen comprised mostly of new faces makes it even more difficult. Add to that the fact that the cubs pitching staff has many moving parts with very few roles defined at this point, and a cause for concern is well justified. Anytime a team pulls players from a familiar role and ask them to do something different uncertainty is alive. Heilman, Gaudin, Marshall, and Guzman must all be prepared to contribute as a reliever if they don't make the rotation. Kevin Gregg spent two seasons as the Marlins closer, but he can be used effectively as a set-up man if necessary. The one true lights-out reliever on the team, Carlos Marmol, doesn't even have a defined role yet; as he could potentially close or be left in his usual set-up role. The names and faces in the bullpen outside of Marmol aren't going to blow anyone away, but that doesn't mean the guys in the pen can't be solid. A bullpen doesn't need big names, it needs big arms. Look at who was in the bullpen at the start of last season, who out of that group is the team going to miss? The two best names on the list are Marmol and Kevin Hart, both of which are still with the organization, and looking at the two lists side-by-side I would much rather take my chances with what they've got now.

Kerry Wood?

Kerry Wood?

Kerry Wood

He is a big loss, but overall looking at those two lists of names for the bullpens I still have to take the 2009 version. Marmol, hopefully, can do what K-Wood did at 1/20th of the cost it would have taken to retain Wood. Beyond that the team still has Marmol, and Kevin Hart will be in AAA ready to call up when needed. Marshall/Cotts is potentially a better 1-2 lefty punch than Pignatiello/Eyre. And Gregg-Gaudin-Heilman-Guzman are all much better options from the right side than Lieber/Weurtz. I like Wood, but he is only one arm, and an expensive one that carries a risk for injury. I'll take the depth personally. Currently the team has 5+ guys battling for the last spot in the rotation and even more than that battling for spots in the bullpen, where those that don't land those roles can provide insurance or be used in a trade to fill a need. Outside of Z, Lilly, Demp, Harden, & Marmol - everyone else represents a large ball of poop, and when that large ball of poop is thrown at the wall one would have to think that at least a few should be able to stick.

I was talking more about

I was talking more about this:

"Look at who was in the bullpen at the start of last season, who out of that group is the team going to miss? The two best names on the list are Marmol and Kevin Hart."

Ah yes, you are correct I

Ah yes, you are correct I completely overlooked K-Wood when I made that statement.

It happens! Don't worry, I

It happens!

Don't worry, I won't tell Beemer.

Hilarious my friend, I

Hilarious my friend, I appreciate that.

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