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02/14/11 4:59 PM EST

Cubs lock up Marmol with three-year deal

MESA, Ariz. -- Carlos Marmol has come a long way from his days as a Minor League catcher who was reluctant to convert to pitching.

The Cubs signed their closer to a three-year, $20 million contract on Monday.

"It's a good day -- is that a Valentine's Day gift or what?" Cubs manager Mike Quade said. "I didn't want flowers. I'll take that, that's for sure."

Marmol, 28, had been the team's only arbitration-eligible player still unsigned. The two sides had exchanged arbitration figures, with the Cubs submitting an offer of $4.1 million, while Marmol was seeking $5.65 million. A hearing had been scheduled for Tuesday, but Marmol told his agent, Barry Praver, that he didn't want to go to arbitration.

"I want to secure my life, my family, my career," Marmol said. "It's not about money, it's about security. I feel good in Chicago. Hopefully, I can sign a 10-year deal."

The new deal will pay Marmol $3.2 million in 2011, $7 million in '12, and $9.8 million in '13. By agreeing to a three-year deal, Marmol will be giving up his first year of free agency.

"Carlos is rewarded with well-deserved security," said Cubs general manager Jim Hendry, who met with Praver on Sunday and again Monday to finalize the details. The two have been talking about a multiyear deal since the Cubs Convention in January.

"I grew up in this organization, and Oneri [Fleita, player development director] and Jim have been here for me," Marmol said.

When Marmol signed with the Cubs in 1999, he was a catcher, but in 2002, Fleita and the Cubs' Minor League staff decided to convert him to a pitcher. His first full season on the mound was in 2003, and in '04, he went 14-8 with a 3.20 ERA at Class A Lansing.

"You never know what's going to happen," Marmol said.

Hendry recalled how Fleita lobbied to keep Marmol in the Cubs' organization when he was still getting used to pitching.

"You don't build a winning organization and you don't win championships without the bulk of the group coming from within," Quade said. "People talk all day long about big-market clubs being able to afford people. Derek Jeter was not purchased from somewhere else. It's nice to have the core group of people come from within."

Marmol converted 38 of 43 save opportunities last season and averaged a Major League record 15.99 strikeouts per nine innings.

"The great ones are hard to find," Hendry said. "Obviously, the numbers the kid puts up and the year he had last year were starting to approach the upper echelon of the game. At 28, he's never had any health issues. Hopefully, he can keep getting better and stay healthy and you have one of the better guys in the business. He's obviously handled the big market, handled the big stage and he's a good teammate."

Marmol was the top setup pitcher in the game in 2008 and took over the closer duties in August '09 from Kevin Gregg. Quade was happy to not have to worry about that job in his first spring camp.

"To have somebody you can count on to finish a game is huge," Quade said. "It's been talked about a bunch of times about how devastating late-inning losses can be. 'Marm' has been good, he's going to be better. That's good stuff and good for 'Marm' and his agent for putting that [deal] together."

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.