It’s not too surprising to hear that Cubs players are going to be more than willing to get out of Chicago, but Carlos Zambrano had been insistent in the past in his desire to stay with the Cubs. Not so anymore.
“If they come to me and want to trade me, obviously it’s because they don’t want me here anymore,” Zambrano told the website. “I always say that. I’ll be here until the Cubs decide to trade me.”
“I won’t be like other players with no-trade clauses and say, ‘No, I want to stay here, I want to stay here,’” Zambrano said, according to the website. “I’ve heard rumors. I’ve already talked to my family. They said, ‘It’s OK. If you think it’s good for you, if you feel you want to be traded, do it.’” — Carlos Zambrano
Now seems a good time to look at Zambrano’s trade value, which isn’t going to be much of anything. What we want to know is how much we can expect the Cubs to pay throughout the remainder of Z’s contract.
While Zambrano’s ERA isn’t all that impressive, his FIP is in line with his career average at 3.83 and ZiPS projects 3.66 the remainder of the season. As we’ve done with the other players, we’re assuming he’s traded on July 31st. This means Zambano will have $6 million left on his contract this season and $18 million next year. We could expect him to pitch 65 innings the final two months of the season.
At a 3.66 FIP and 65 innings pitched, Zambrano is worth 1.2 WAR and $6.25 million the final two months. Next year he’d be projected at about 3.4 WAR or about $16.8 million. The total $WAR is $23.1 mllion. Z is owed $24 million over the final two months this year and next season so the difference really isn’t as large as you’d think. It’s definitely not as much as I was thinking.
Let’s say that Z’s value drops a bit because of his inconsistency and or clubhouse issues. Both are real concerns and any team that trades for him is likely going to consider that. So let’s drop his $WAR by $5 million and take it down $18.1 million. That seems reasonable.
If he’s a type B free agent that adds $2.5 million so he’s worth $20.6 million in a trade. To a desperate team, that discount probably doesn’t exist so he may be worth as much as $25.6 million. Either way, the Cubs aren’t going to get much in return and that’s not really the point. The point of trading Zambrano is to get salary relief.
The Cubs are looking at a trade in which they get maybe a low level prospect in return who is too old for his level or send along about $3 to $5 million. Another option is to send even more and get a better prospect, but I’m not sure that’s worth it. If I’m the Cubs, I’m trying to send as little as possible and couldn’t care less what I get in return.
If Zambrano is traded, I’m going to miss him. I’ve loved watching him pitch since he moved into the rotation in 2002 and have enjoyed him since. I like the energy. I like that he wears his emotions on his sleeve. I like that he cares so much about winning baseball games. I also like that he’s fallible. What I like most, though, is that he admits his mistakes and has apologized when he steps over the line. A lot of people as good as he’s been wouldn’t even consider doing that, but Zambrano has.
I doubt he’s always been a great teammate. I’m sure some will enjoy their time with the Cubs more without him. I don’t doubt for a moment that he was difficult to coach. I imagine any player who shows the energy he does and wears the emotions on his sleeve like he does is a difficult person to be coached. I also have no doubt whatsoever that Zambrano has gotten the most out of his talent. Here’s a guy who wasn’t really a top prospect. All he’s done is become one of the best pitchers in Chicago Cubs history and he’s done so with remarkably little support from the fans.
I haven’t enjoyed watching a player more than Zambrano since Greg Maddux. I watched Maddux pitch for the Braves when he was traded and I’ll watch Zambrano pitch for whatever team he goes to next. He’s not as good as he once was, but it’s must-see TV for me. Every once in awhile, much like Maddux his second time around with the Cubs, you’d get a glimpse at what he once was and at his best, he was damn good.
h/t to Rice Cube