If you're Theo Epstein, what do you do with Carlos Marmol?
That could be one of the biggest questions the Cubs' front office faces in its first full offseason at the helm once the season ends in two weeks, considering the winter figures to once again include more tinkering-level moves than pursuit of a pennant.
Marmol makes $9.8 million next year in the final year of his contract. That's more than a quarter of the roughly $38 million committed to the four players already under contract for next year (also Alfonso Soriano, Starlin Castro and David DeJesus).
Does a team one year into a radical rebuilding process need a $10 million closer? Obviously not.
But what is Marmol's trade value this winter - even after 19 straight converted saves and a 1.52 second-half ERA so far? And how will that compare to next July, when the market for back-end bullpen guys tends to get hot? And what might Marmol's numbers look like at that point next season.
For his part, ``I'm going to be honest with you man,'' Marmol said, ``I'm going to try to stay here in Chicago and do the best I can to stay here and see what happens. That's what I'm doing right now.''
Marmol has become a new pitcher for manager Dale Sveum and pitching coach Chris Bosio since an early season demotion out of the closer role and strict orders since then to throw what the catcher calls. It's meant using his fastball more and -- with occasional characteristic exceptions - has resulted in much better command than he had when the season opened.
The irony for Marmol is that the production that helps justify his contract and has contributed to some of the few wins the Cubs have cobbled together is also what has turned him into an intriguing offseason question.
``I hope they give me a couple more years,'' he said.