Tampa reached the World Series in 2008 largely on the strength of young players who came through their system, and most of these were young. Maddon has tried out a closer-by-committee approach, and every other approach one can imagine for the handling of a bullpen, many by necessity. The Rays received Baseball America's Organization of the Year Award for 2008, based on their playoff success and on their pipeline of Minor League talent.For all the differences, though, the Rays and Cubs enter the off-season with a common problem. Chicago tried Kevin Gregg at closer, which was an abject failure. The Rays built a bullpen as sturdy as a house of cards, relying on Troy Percival and Jason Isringhausen to shoulder the closer load early, before turning to a fistful of other options as the season wore on and the two veterans collapsed into ineffectiveness and injury.Moreover, each team signed outfield bats last off-season, anticipating injections of power and on-base percentage into their respective lineups. Milton Bradley and Pat Burrell have each been profound disappointments, however, due to injury (Burrell) and lack of power production (Bradley). The Cubs must now move the disgruntled right fielder, to solve problems with their outfield defense.
The Rays can only hope Burrell will stay healthy and robust next season as their DH.It is the paradoxical combination of these major differences, and the notable commonality, that make the two natural trading partners. The Cubs, who lack for many things but not for money, can take whichever of those two Hendry judges better. Then, armed with a surplus of right-handed pitchers with nasty stuff, Hendry can turn around and trade Carlos Marmol, the Cubs' 2009 closer Plan B, to Tampa.Marmol has lost all concept of the strike zone this season, with 61 walks in 67 2/3 innings. But he also has a career batting average against of .180, and has not been over .169 in any of his three seasons as a reliever in Chicago. And Marmol has take to the closer's role: He has eight saves in eight opportunities since earning the job in mid-August. He strikes out about 11.5 batters per nine innings pitched, an astronomical number.
He is not the best option available, but he is Tampa's best option.In return, the Cubs could try to acquire Tampa Bay outfielder Carl Crawford. Crawford is also economical in his way, from the Cubs' perspective anyway: although an assignment bonus would escalate Crawford's option for next season to $10.5 million, the Cubs could see a one-year commitment at that price as less risky than a five-year, $40-50 million deal with Chone Figgins. And Crawford fits the bill for the Cubs, who will need a top-of-the-order hitter with the speed to play center field once they find a new home for Bradley.Of course, the Cubs would have to sweeten such a deal. Sean Marshall, their left-handed swingman who has both started and relieved in his career, will qualify for arbitration for the first time in 2010, and the Cubs may choose to include him or infielder Mike Fontenot as the extra piece in a deal involving Crawford and Marmol.If this deal were pulled off, and the Rays' coaching staff could correct the problems with Marmol's arm slot mechanics that have led to his wildness, both teams could substantially benefit from it.