I guess I saw it coming after reports bombarded MLB rumor sites yesterday, but the Marlins’ trade for Carlos Zambrano still angers and confuses me. It’s great to know that my blog has absolutely no influence on the Marlins, which is no surprise; however, there does seem to be a reason why the Marlins made puzzling a trade for a liability they are regarding as a “number five,” or “back of the rotation” starter.
Regardless, it is time to asses Zambrano for the positive qualities he has, rather than the negative accessories he is likely to possess. “Big Z” has a career ERA under 4, 3.60 exactly , always a good quality for a starting pitcher. And in his prime, between 2004 and 2008, Zambrano averaged around 15 wins per season, not bad for a Cub, topping out at 18 in 2007. He was always an asset to Chicago’s rotation, not having a losing season after 2002. By stringing together five consecutive seasons with at least 200 innings pitched (2003-07), he has proven to be durable.
So wherever Zambrano lands in the rotation, barring injuries or behavioral problems, a 180-200 inning season should be on his radar for Miami in 2012. The main argument of opposition to the Zambrano trade has been the clear evidence of his anger management and various other behavioral problems. He has always been the type to explode at umpires and bash in water coolers with 32 oz. bats after being pulled from a troublesome inning. But out of the spotlight in Chicago, and maybe hidden in the shadow of the back end of a rotation, Zambrano might now be able to focus on his pitching, get back on track, and be a valuable piece for the Miami Marlins.
If all this fails, the Marlins do have a sturdy fallback. Miami is only paying $2.5 million of Zambrano’s $18 million contract for 2012. If he fails, they are not held financially responsible for him, meaning the Marlins could bring in a starter from the minors. Possible replacements are Sean West, Alex Sanabia, Brad Hand, and Wade LeBlanc, four guys with major league experience and higher potential than most realize.