Wednesday, January 4, 2012

So long Big Z, you were my boy, but the Cubs had no choice but to put you down like Old Yeller

According to reports, the Cubs have traded former star pitcher Carlos Zambrano, better known as the Big Z, to the Miami Marlins. The Cubs will absorb $15.5 million of the $18 million owed to Zambrano for the 2012 season. In return the Cubs receive 25-year-old Chris Volstad, a former first round pick who is arbitration eligible and under team control through 2014.

Yes, it would have been nice to receive a larger amount of salary relief in this deal. In fact, that seemed to be the whole point of trading Big Z. However, the Cubs made their current and future team better by receiving a major league quality starter in return who has his best years ahead of him.

Sadly, Z's best days are well in the rear view mirror. Volstad, on the other hand, has shown signs of improvement over the past three seasons despite what his bloated 4.59 career ERA may suggest. In addition to posting a career best xFIP of 3.64 in 2011, Volstad has steadily dropped his walks per nine innings after debuting with the Marlins in 2008:

  • 2008 - 3.84 BB/9
  • 2009 - 3.34 BB/9
  • 2010 - 3.09 BB/9
  • 2011 - 2.66 BB/9
Volstad's improved control is paired with a high rate of ground balls and a strikeout rate that has hovered around 6 K/9 but peaked at 6.36 k/9 in 2011. His ground ball profile fits quaint Wrigley Field nicely and Volstad's progressively improving K/BB ratio bodes well for his future.

Incredibly, Volstad is an even bigger dude than Zambrano, sporting a 6' 8" 233 lb frame. It seems a player with that kind of height may take a few years to perfect his delivery and improve his command. This is exactly what the Cubs witnessed with 6' 7" Sean Marshall who developed into the best left handed reliever in the league after struggling initially in the majors.

I loved the Big Z. I still do love Z and wish him well with Ozzie Guillen in Miami. From his incredible 2003 rookie season nearly powering the Cubs to their first World Series in decades, to the Gatorade cooler desolation and finally the epic moment when Zambrano threw the home plate umpire out of the game. There never was a dull moment with Carlos Zambrano and I will still proudly wear his jersey. However, this trade was necessary and improves the Cubs both in 2012 and moving forward.

Theo, you've done it again. I will sit back and enjoy the rest of your tenure with the Cubs. This is going to be fun.

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