MESA, Ariz. -- Since the days of Bruce Sutter and then Lee Smith, the Cubs haven't been able to develop a homegrown closer.
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The Cubs and Carlos Marmol agreed Monday on a three-year, $20 million contract, avoiding salary arbitration and taking Marmol through what would have been his first year of free-agent eligibility.
The 28-year-old Marmol gets $3.2 million this year, $7 million in 2012 and $9.8 million in 2013. Marmol, who made $2.125 million last year, was seeking $5.65 for 2011 in arbitration while the Cubs were offering $4.1 million.
"Very good day for the Cubs," said general manager Jim Hendry, who finalized the deal Monday morning at Fitch Park with Marmol's agent, Barry Praver.
Since Sutter and Smith took care of the back end of the Cubs bullpen for most of the time from the late 1970s through the mid-1980s, the Cubs have gone with a parade of expensive closers they've brought in from the outside.
Pitchers such as Dave Smith, Randy Myers, Doug Jones, Mel Rojas, Rod Beck, Rick Aguilera, Tom Gordon and Kevin Gregg had varying degrees of success.
A couple of homegrown pitchers -- Terry Adams and Turk Wendell -- had brief runs at the closer's spot, but now the Cubs have committed to one of their own, and a converted catcher to boot.
"That's huge," Hendry said of developing a high-profile position from within. "Great ones are hard to find. Obviously, the numbers the kid puts up, the year he had last year was starting to approach the upper echelon of the game.
"It's a good story. It's a great story for our player-development department, too. Oneri (farm director Fleita) had to talk him into trying to pitch. I remember, that must have been Double-A in '05 or '06. We were getting near the (trading) deadline, and I had the guys in the office. You always go through, 'Who aren't we trading?' The first guy out of Fleita's mouth was Marmol. Really, we were in uncharted water."
Marmol took over the full-time closer's role from Gregg in August 2009 after a stellar run as a setup man. Last season, he saved 38 games in 43 chances. On top of that, he struck out 15.99 batters per 9 innings, setting a major-league record. He was 2-3 with a 2.55 ERA and a tidy WHIP (walks plus hits per 1 inning pitched) of 1.18.
The big concern with Marmol is that he walked 52 batters and hit eight.
"I never worry about my control," he said. "I worry about (getting) three outs before they score on me. You work hard. That's what you're looking for: work hard and get better every day. You never stop learning."
The Cubs and Marmol probably would have settled at about $4.75 million for one year. Marmol no doubt left money on the table by opting for security now with the long-term deal.
"I wanted to secure my life, my family, my career," he said. "Hopefully, I can sign a 10-year deal."
"Hope I'm here to do it," Hendry joked.
Cubs manager Mike Quade managed the organization's Class AAA Iowa farm club from 2003-06, crossing paths with Marmol. As a longtime minor-league manager, Quade said he was proud the Cubs had done well by one of their own.
"Is that a Valentine's Day gift or what?" he said. "I didn't want flowers. I'll take that for sure… Being an organizational guy and having been with a lot of organizations in smaller markets, I always have a little bit of extra pleasure when you do something from within."
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