How Much Of Zambrano Is Left For Miami?

The dream NotGraphs roster has officially been assembled. On top of Logan Morrison and Ozzie Guillen together in the same clubhouse and on the same Twitter, Miami will now house the other noted Chicago fireball, Carlos Zambrano. The Cubs ate $15 million of Zambrano’s $18 million salary for the privilege to ship him down to Florida in exchange for former top prospect and current disappointment Chris Volstad.

With Miami building a contender this offseason through the acquisitions of Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle but still ostensibly looking up at Philadelphia and Atlanta for the NL East, the addition of Zambrano on the cheap could be what pushes the Marlins into the playoffs — that is, if he has anything left in the tank.

We often hear the narrative of a player quitting on his team. Rarely do we ever see it actually happen, but Carlos Zambrano literally quit on the Cubs, packing up his locker and leaving after a rough start on August 12th. That particular last-straw start saw Zambrano yield a whopping five home runs, an especially uncharacteristic game for a player like Zambrano who so specialized in keeping the ball in the ballpark. From 2002 through 2010 — his official rookie season onward — Zambrano had never allowed more than 1.0 HR/9 until 2011, and specifically never until that final start. Without those 4.1 innings and five home runs, Zambrano allowed 14 home runs in 141.1 innings, or 0.89 per nine innings.

Although Zambrano has been something of a poster boy for why the Cubs franchise has failed over the past few years, he hasn’t been a failure on the level of a Barry Zito (bad) or Mike Hampton (constantly injured). He simply hasn’t been good enough to justify the massive five-year, $91.5 million contract extension he received in 2008, and honestly, very few pitchers have been worth the roughly 4.5 WAR per season the contract called for. Until 2011, Zambrano’s performance was still good enough to make him a top-half-of-the-rotation starter for most teams. From 2008 through 2010 Zambrano was good for at least 2.0 WAR per season and consistently outperformed his peripherals, keeping his ERA below 4.00 (ERA- below 90) in every season despite K/BB ratios under 2.0 and ground ball rates in the mid-40s.

It’s possible these mediocre peripherals or aging or his well-documented volatile mentality finally got to Zambrano in 2011, his age-30 season. Maybe he can’t do whatever it is that has allowed him to induce such weak contact over the course of his career any more. But the upside here is tremendous. Any sort of rediscovery of his previous talents could give the Marlins yet another above-average pitcher to go with Josh Johnson, Anibal Sanchez, Mark Buehrle and Ricky Nolasco. It’s no Four Aces and a Blanton (or Worley), but it’s a very competitive, very good starting rotation.

Of course, Zambrano is no guarantee. As much as the opportunity to play with Ozzie Guillen may excite him, the intense environment could lead to another meltdown for Big Z, or he simply may not rediscover what made him so good in his 20s. Still, at a mere $3 million and at the cost of a struggling young pitcher in Chris Volstad who may not yet be ready to contribute to a winning team, the logistics make sense for Florida. This is the kind of risk teams who are close to the playoffs need to make, and if it pays off we could very well see some October baseball in Jeffrey Loria’s fancy new digs.

Print This Post

Jack Moore's work can be seen at VICE Sports and anywhere else you're willing to pay him to write. Buy his e-book.

35 Responses to “How Much Of Zambrano Is Left For Miami?”

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.
  1. DavidCEisen says:

    Worth noting Zambrano’s career ERA is significantly below his FIP, which you allude to but don’t quite spell out.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  2. Crazy Benny says:

    Speaking as a Cub fan, I’ll honestly miss him. Sure, he could be a jerk, but (a) he seemed like a good guy at heart, and (b) he was OUR jerk.

    Plus he was one of the most entertaining players I’ve seen – fiery competitor, epic meltdowns, pinch-hit appearances, first Cub no-hitter since forever…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • James says:

      “Lovable Losers”

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Franklin Stubbs says:


        +11 Vote -1 Vote +1

      • James says:

        Classic stereotypical Cubs fan response(s)… An unmotivated underachieving cancer who probably ruined a couple of the recent seasons, and people are sad to see him go. As a White Sox fan (anti-Ken Williams division), I can’t be expected to not comment on it.

        Kudos to JDanger, at least he gets it.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

      • James says:

        Seriously, I’m happy for the Cubs, they have an owner who cares and will spend money and a front office that gets it… I just question whether most Cubs fans who’ve been shelling out serious coin to support the Sosas, Zambranos, Sorianos, Ramirezes and the like for all these years deserve it.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JDanger says:

      This sort of sentiment is what always seems to alienate me from the rest of cubs fandom. I never once thought of the guy who was punching his own catcher as MY jerk. He was just some d-bag I wanted off MY team is all.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Oasis says:

        Looks like James is racist along with being a cub hater. He only hates Latino players getting paid. See I can paint with a broad brush too. I hate “loveable losers”. That’s why James is what Franklin called him.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Crazy Benny says:

      Just to clarify how I feel:

      From a baseball perspective, getting rid of him is absolutely the right thing to do and should have been done long ago.

      But I found him likeable, entertaining, and engaging, unlike other notable Cub jerks such as Milton Bradley and Todd Hundley…

      Vote -1 Vote +1

  3. Adam W says:

    While it’s typically only 50-60 PAs each season, Zambrano is still a great hitter relative to other NL pitchers. There is some fringe value in that.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Ricky B. says:

      Has anyone ever figured out what that ‘value’ is in terms of either WAR or dollars?

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • Yinka Double Dare says:

        Sure, they don’t include it in the WAR totals you see on their main pitching page of the player page, but there’s a Batting tab on the player pages for pitchers too. Zambrano on average adds about a win of value with his bat.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  4. JWO says:

    I’m waiting for the inevitable Zambrano / Guillien confrontation. It should be epic.

    +8 Vote -1 Vote +1

  5. Pinella doesn’t get the “quit on the team” label, but he pretty much did.

    Zambrano’s “No Mas” game reminded me of Roy’s last game in Montreal to a lesser degree. They left him in to suffer and he responded how emotional players do.

    Zambrano was involved with the Cubs when they were good. The organization has pretty much reverted to clustercuss form recently and the frustration boils over.

    No doubt we’ll be reading a “best shape of his life” article about Big Z in a couple months.

    Said this in the other thread, but Z returning to Wrigley to pitch against the Cubs is going to be one of the most exciting events in Chicago in 12. That they’ll be essentially paying him to pitch against them just adds to it.

    I think Ozzie and Z are moving to less stressful situations. Nothing is more stressful than losing. Competing for playoffs is what athletes live for.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  6. bstar says:

    Brand new New Year’s resolutions:

    1. Learn Spanish
    2. Become a 43-year-old overweight batboy for the Marlins so I can catch the first Guillen/Zambrano cussing contest first hand.

    +13 Vote -1 Vote +1

  7. Brian says:

    Makes a lot of sense over Miami to me. Definitely seems like somewhat of an upgrade over Volstad.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  8. Eric says:

    I love this deal for the marlins. Plus he can mentor hanley :-)

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  9. Crazy says:

    I can’t believe that Zambrano is *only* 30 years old! It feels like he’s been secretly good while being a nutcase for so much longer than that.

    I like this deal for the Marlins a lot. Zambrano has a track record of a very good pitcher, and it’s not like he’s turning 35 this year where we expect huge regression.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  10. Ender says:

    There is nothing lovable about Zambrano, he is just a spoiled little brat.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  11. Hurtlockertwo says:

    I hate the comparison to Zito in terms of causing a team to fail. The Giants won the World Series in 2010 with Zito so he didn’t sink the ship. As a Giants fan it hurts to pay the guy for bad pitching, but he is a great clubhouse guy, generous to charities, active in the community and comes out to pitch when asked. Zambrano is a nut case that will explode again and again, not exactly the type of player to build a winning team with. Maybe they should sign Milton Bradley too and have a WWF fight after every game?

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  12. Sour Bob says:

    The Zambrano trade reminds me of the John Rocker to Cleveland trade in 2001.

    One team thinks they’re getting a plus performer on the cheap who just needs a change of scenery. The other thinks that mediocrity was just one more stop on a never-ending spiral downward. They figure they may as well pawn him, even if it’s for a guy who doesn’t have the same resume, but isn’t so volatile.

    Anyone who has been watching Chicago baseball these last three or four years probably has a strong opinion on that…

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  13. buddy says:

    The Royals should get Zambrano as a DH.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  14. shel says:

    anyone listening to chicago sports talk radio the past couple of years knows about the histotrical revisionism that has made Jim Hendry an un-person, and Zambrano is exhibit A in Hendry’s indictment. Yes, Z’s contract is a slight overpay, and yes, Hendry was pretty liberal with the no-trade clauses. But you didn’t hear many complaints when Z signed the 5 year 92 mil contract. At the time, this was a guy who had no-hit stuff almost every day, he pitched one no-hitter, was never injured, and was one of the best hitting pitchers in the game -he was like having an extra #6 hitter. Hendry gave the cubs 3 division winners and a near miss in 7 seasons – name another Cubs GM that did that. Zambrano was 17-8 in the last half of ’10 and first half of ’11 combined – that his 50 cent brain couldn’t be contained is not just his fault, but a failure of leadership and authority on the Cubs’ part. Anyone who thought a rookie, no-name manager like Quade (or Sveum) could control an ego like Z is delusional.

    As much as I wanted to see the head case gone, the return of Chris Volstad is pretty disappointing, and given that, I’d just as soon Zambrano had stayed.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • JohnnyComeLately says:

      Pinella didn’t really do a good job of controlling him either.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

    • Rick b says:

      Talk about revisionist history. Piniella is pretty strong and it didn’t matter. You fail to mention they sent him for anger/management counseling. The Cubs did alot(maybe late) to try and help him. Ultimately, it’s on him. Every explosion came when HE was having a bad outing. Something you fail to mention. Zambrano is immature. He can’t handle adversity. It’s a character flaw. If things go well in Florida he’ll be fine. If they don’t, he’ll be looking for someone else to blame. That’s what he does. That’s who he is.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • shel says:

        piniella? strong? sorry, gotta disagree. If wrigley had a front porch, Piniella would have been on it drinking a hard lemonade.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  15. shel says:

    they needed Girardi

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  16. ezb230 says:

    Z induced such weak contact in the past because he was mid-90s with sink and tail. now he’s 88 with less movement. he’s a 3-4 starter unless the velo comes back.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

  17. Joey B says:

    “anyone listening to chicago sports talk radio the past couple of years knows about the histotrical revisionism that has made Jim Hendry an un-person, and Zambrano is exhibit A in Hendry‚Äôs indictment. ”

    If Z was his only mistake, it could be overlooked. But in addition to Z, it was Soriano, Fukudome, Bradley, ARam, Dempster. Soriano had a huge year with Washington, so Hendry signed him based on 2006, not 2004-2005. Fukudome I guess they didn’t realize that he couldn’t hit lefties. Bradley I guess they didn’t read up that he was a psycho, and again bought off of a career year. ARam, signed after a career high in HRs. Dempster had a fairly inconsequential career, had a big 2008, which shockingly his walk year, and got a big contract.

    He just signed too many guys coming off of career years, or real close to career years, whose ages indicated that they’d be going downhill. It wasn’t so much that they turned out to be bad signings as the predictibility that they’d turn out to be bad signings.

    Vote -1 Vote +1

    • shel says:

      Soriano is exhibit B, granted, a head scratching decision. But the Bradley signing is no different from what Theo is repeatedly doing and what every GM does – taking on a guy who was good 2 years ago and hoping a change of scenery brings back the old performance. And don’t forget that when Bradley was toxic waste, Hendry found a trading partner for him, got a guy who gave the team pretty good value for a year, and who would have given some value in ’11 if they had handled his demotion to the pen better. In retrospect, who would you rather have seen filling in for Cashner: Doug Davis, or Carlos Silva? Fukudome – did you predict that his performance in MLB would be that much worse than in the Japanese league? Overpaid, but not disastrous. Demp – again, overpaid, but a pretty decent performer. A-Ram – we’ve just read multiple articles about how he was the best 3rd baseman FA available this year. A steal from Pitt at the time.

      I’m not a huge fan of Hendry, I just get irritated by people with 20/20 hindsight who now make him out to be the cause of every problem the Cubs have.

      Vote -1 Vote +1

      • ezb230 says:

        hendry’s biggest problem was failing to recognize that the window closed after 09. instead of tearing things down, he kept trying to rebuild on the fly, and while some of the moves were relatively harmless (e.g., marlon byrd), some were disastrous (e.g., the garza deal). theo is doing what hendry should have done two years ago, but with a much weaker hand because of hendry. hendry set the rebuilding back significantly.

        Vote -1 Vote +1

  18. Sabean Wannabe says:

    There goes my dream of getting rid of Zito……..Zito plus cash to Chi……Zambrano plus cash (from the Giants) to Miami…..Nolasco to SF…..on to unrealistic trading Zito fantasy #127….

    Vote -1 Vote +1

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>