What is Tom Ricketts' number?

As Carlos Marmol rolled through this week with an earned-run average under 1.70 in his previous 12 outings, manager Dale Sveum said he expects Marmol to be the Cubs closer next year.

Nope. Sorry. Not buying it.

Granted, 1.70 is a nice number number, but it’s not as stunning of a number as $49 million. More on that later, but first, here’s another number for you:

I’m making it a 1-10 favorite that Theo Epstein expects Marmol to be one of the best bargains on the trade market this offseason. If not a bargain at $9.8 million, then it’s at least a portable salary.

Spending $9.8 million on a closer for a Cubs team still trying to work through the carnage seems silly financially. But the chance to acquire a closer owed only $9.8 million might be attractive to a contender looking to strengthen its bullpen.

And the sooner that Epstein finds that sucker, er, that team, the better it will be. When he was in Boston, Epstein jokingly referred to himself as the “Jewish god of illegitmate closers,’’ winning one World Series with a well-traveled Keith Foulke and another with a young Jonathan Papelbon.

Closers are fungible and found everywhere. Some teams will spend all that money on Heath Bell while others will roll through a kiddie corps before hitting on Addison Reed’s terrific combination of talent and nerve.

Look, Marmol is a hood ornament on the Cubs. Ask yourself these two questions about an erratic pitcher who turns 30 in October:

Does Marmol fit Epstein’s profile of paying for players approaching their prime age of 27 to 32, and do you expect Marmol to contribute when the Cubs are ready to contend?

No and no.

What’s more, Epstein needs to slash payroll and start making money for his owner.

Epstein has done little except spend the Ricketts family fortune. He has spent millions to hire a new general manager, scouting director and manager, and don’t forget the number of scouts and other bodies in the baseball office.

Epstein has spent millions upon notable millions for the right to dump the likes of Carlos Zambrano and Marlon Byrd. He is trying to dump Alfonso Soriano, too, but that will cost Tom Ricketts millions upon more millions.

After firing player personnel director Oneri Fleita this week, Epstein’s housecleaning tab stands at $49 million, according to CSN Chicago, or something to close to what Soriano and Marmol are owed.

You know what they say: $49 million here, $49 million there, and pretty soon you’re talking real money.

At some point, Epstein has to justify his scorched Cubs policy. He has to justify it financially as well as competitively. You’d think that point is coming soon, at least as far as the money is concerned.

I mean, what is Tom Ricketts’ number? How many more millions will it take before he tells Epstein he’s had enough of the deadly double-play combination of bad and expensive baseball?

Is it $75 million? Is it $100 million? Think about this: $100 million is more than 10 percent of what the family paid for the franchise.

But that’s not the only thing that will cost Ricketts. When numbers like that get talked about, good luck getting politicians and the city to help you brainwash the public into believing you need government money to rehab Wrigley. That’s the real ballgame these days, and the Cubs are losing that one, too, of course.

Copyright © 2015, RedEye
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