“Big Z” is gone. The Chicago Cubs have traded Carlos Zambrano to the Miami Marlins for another starting pitcher, Chris Volstad, and will pay 15 of the remaining $18 million on Zambrano’s contract.
I always liked Carlos Zambrano for his fire and passion. He wanted to play well. And early in his career he pitched quite well. But a certain manager Dusty Baker rode him hard, with many, many pitches and innings, over 200 innings each season during 2003-07. He ERAs went 2.75 (04), 3.26 (05), 3.41 (06) and over 3.90 (in both 07 and 08). (It was 3.33 in 2010, but didn’t even manage 130 innings that season.) His WHIP was below 1.30 from 2004-06, but not since then. Carlos was also a pretty good hitter, a real good hitter “for a pitcher,” with 23 career home runs. He was signed by the Cubs as a Venezuelan teenager.
But his fire, his attitude, was also a detriment. There were multiple occasions of fighting—both literally as well as figuratively—with teammates. Zambrano’s attitude was usually “me” oriented, not team directed. He had become a divisive personality in the Cubs clubhouse. So it was time to go. That drama won’t be missed.
In the trade the Cubs get Chris Volstad. He will probably not be the pitcher the younger Zambrano was. But Volstad is younger (he’ll turn 26 during the season, Zambrano will turn 31) and will be under team control through 2014 whereas Zambrano has just 2012 left on his contract. Volstad has pitched at a relatively consistent level the past three seasons, though he had his most strike outs and fewest walks in a season last year. Zambrano, however, has gotten worse each of the past three years. Volstad has been an underachiever so far (he was a first-round pick in, 16th overall, in the 2005 draft), but perhaps the Cubs staff can help him develop. If Volstad can cut down on the number of home runs he allows (23 last year, also his average over the past three seasons) he’ll be just fine toward the back of the Cubs’ rotation.
* For just 2010-11, Zambrano’s WAR was 3.2 to Volstad’s 3.1.
+ Volstad’s 2009 ERA of 5.21 may wind up being an outlier level. It is 4.59 for his career (584 innings).
The change of scenery should be good for both pitchers. And uniting Zambrano with his new manager, Ozzie Guillen, should be entertaining.
Now, that still leaves another trade project—another bloated contract and a declining player—in Alfonso Soriano….