Ding Dong, Z is Gone

Well the big bad Zambrano has finally been traded away from the Cubs. Paul Sullivan and far too many Cubs fans may bust a hip at the grave dancing party. While I understand the move from the Cubs perspective, it's unfortunate that a player with such a great Cubs career had to end his Cubbie days like this. He may have been off his mental rocker, but he was damn good on the pitching mound and at the plate over 11 seasons to a tune of 125-81, an ERA+ of 122 and 3 Silver Slugger awards. The more recent down years, injury hiccups and temper tantrums may burn the brightest in our memories, but Z was doing the heavy lifting all those years the Cubs were waiting for Prior and Wood to get healthy. Could he have been better these last few years? Maybe, but I'm not gonna preach from the safety of my Internet connection on how an adult should behave himself so that it satiates my moral compass. He was what he was and part of what infuriated us, may be the same parts that helped him be so good on a baseball field. I for one will greatly miss watching him play, because it was clear he was having a lot of fun out there.

But his time with the Cubs has passed, if for no other reason that JedStein wants to start fresh and it did seem that his last episode not only pissed off the fans, but even his teammates. His days of a 200 innings a season have faded with the memories of 2007 along with the velocity on his fastball. I certainly could see him still putting up some decent seasons, but a fresh start with a new club and a new manager is probably the best setting for a career rejuvenation at the moment.

So enough about the old Cubbie, meet the new Cubbie - Chris Volstad.

The towering 6-8" right hander will be playing his age 25 season next year. The Marlins 1st round pick in 2005 out of high school (16th overall), he rose to as high as the 40th best prospect in all of baseball before the 2007 season according to Baseball America. Kevin Goldstein had him as the Marlins #2 prospect(4-star) before the 2008 season behind Cameron Maybin.

The Good: Volstad paints the strike zone with outstanding command of a three-pitch mix. His fastball sits at 89-91 mph and features a little bit of sink and a heavy downward plane because of his big frame, which also allows him to maintain his stuff deep into games. Both his curveball and changeup are above-average pitches, and he approaches his craft with the maturity of a veteran.

The Bad: Volstad is a bit of a mismatch; a finesse pitcher in a power pitcher's body. As effective as he can be, he doesn't have a true swing-and-miss offering, and it's hard to project him as any kind of star because of it. He focuses a bit too much on throwing strikes at times, and some feel he could be more effective by occasionally mixing in chase pitches.

Perfect World Projection: A valuable pitcher who delivers 200+ innings annually with above-average productivity.

Volstad reached the majors that year at age 21 and went 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA...Hall of Fame, here we come! 

Instead reality hit, and Volstad has gone 26-35 with a 4.88 ERA over the last 3 years, which in the pitching friendly Joe Robbie Stadium or whatever it was last called, amounted to a pathetic 84 ERA+. For some perspective, Z and Dempster put up ERA+'s of 81 this last season. Gadzooks!

So obviously the Cubs are counting on his upside more than his recent performance. The aforementioned Goldstein had him as the Marlins 5th best player under the age of 25 the other day, accompanied with this promising sentence: Volstad is a fantastic sleeper selection for 2012 as he learns how to be a groundball pitcher. His ERA was up in 2011, but his walks were down, his strikeouts were up, and there is still a ceiling there.

A quick look at Fangraphs pitch values shows that hitters are teeing off his fastball, with his curveball having the most success. He throws that sinking fastball about 60% of the time and it must be pretty damn hittable. He'll either need to improve his offspeed stuff or hope for a much better defense behind him.

Overall, I can't say I like the deal, if for no other reason than Z was always entertaining to watch and it's hard to imagine Volstad will be any better over the next 3 years than Z would be next season, although it's certainly possible he could be as good considering his age and tools. The trade does seem to fit the plan of trading short term assets for long term assets and here's hoping the new Cubs brass is seeing something that can be fixed on Volstad that the Marlins weren't able to pinpoint. And to get anything for Z with teams knowing he was on the brink of being released, especially when that anything is young and still has potential brewing under the surface, is a trick in and of itself.

Hopefully for their next act, JedStein can tranform Soriano into a few prospects and save a few million.

UPDATE: As part of the deal, Z not only waived his no-trade clause but also the vesting option for 2013 if he finished in the top 4 of the Cy Young vote. He also got back 24 days of pay from his 30-day suspension last year, somewhere around the vicinity of $2.4M. The Marlins will pay him $100K if he wins Comeback Player of the Year in 2012.


ERA vs. FIP for 2011

Volstad - 4.89 vs. 4.32
T. Wood - 4.84 vs 4.06
Garza - 3.32. vs. 2.95
Dempster 4.80 vs. 3.91
Wells 4.99 vs. 5.11

Z was 4.82 vs 4.59

I agree to some extent. Zambrano was absolutely doing the heavy lifting in the Wood/Prior years, you couldn't have said that better, Rob. I never thought that made him a "True Ace", however.

I really hope he does great things with the Marlins, just not against us. And I also wish it would have ended better.

That said, the entire situation was of HIS DOING, things under his control. So ultimately, not a bad guy, but good riddance. It's almost like it's okay to root for him again, now that somebody else has to deal with his bullshit.

I hope Volstad ends up worth a shit, but also, whatever.

And yes, if they're willing to pay that much for some sort of upshot return, I would absolutely think they could pull off something for Sori, although now you're talking three years. Makes me think maybe that gets done next off-season...?

i'm kinda shocked how many people don't like this deal. a good number of people like it, but i thought it'd be more. hell, i'm more excited about this one than the wood one.

i love Z, gonna miss Z, but i like this gamble for 3 years of volstad club control.

he's got to get his slider clicking and keep the ball in the park. he was very much an experiment last year that's in transition from a fastball/curve guy to a fastball/slider guy (he's got a changeup, too, but yawn/meh). his slider, though late coming, was showing late season bite and control...add that to the fastball and curve, both with decent control...well, i like the future. if he can't keep the ball in the park, though...sigh.

i don't see him as anything more than a #3/4 type pitcher, but Z in a good year these days (when not injured or otherwise missing games) is a #2/#3 type who's going away after this season. i wish the cubs didn't actually have a use for cheap middle/end rotation pitcher gambles, but unfortunately they do. they should be full-up on that aspect of rebuilding with mlb-ready-now wood, volstad, wells, and cashner on board for 3+ years...plus whatever comes through the system to match them.

Rob--Don't call them "the Cubbies." Ever.

Amen. Living in San Diego, I feel like punching anybody in the face who mentions my "Cubbies" ... they can't understand the pain, and to relegate it to cartoon level with that nickname. Uggh.

So don't care either way, with 2 six year olds at home, I'm rather use to cartoonizing things. Since they're named after a baby bear in the first place, I'm not too worried about pussifying their name.

Good point. But I associate the use of "Cubbies" with the drunk bleachers crowd that never cared about the team or their performance and was proud of the equally annoying lovable losers badge.

I'm as excited for Volstad as for Stewart and Wood. Young guys with upside, but short on recent performance.

Completely agree Rob. Maybe I'm an idiot, but really excited about the new blood. I guess being an idiot and excited isn't mutually exclusive . . . Hmmm.

Well, I gave Milton Bradley, "A chance to be proven wrong."

I should have put excited in quotes. I'm honestly more skeptical than excited. They're decent moves, and I like the general direction. But at some point they'll need to find some superstars and besides Castro, I don't see one in the system that'll be playing for the Cubs in 2013 and 2014.

You mean he got his slider going towards the end of the season? His September was pretty good (I understand this is a small sample size):


1.16 WHIP
5.81 K/9
2.32 BB/9
2.5 K/BB
2.32 ERA

he spent a pretty frustrating 2011 working on the transition started in earlier seasons.

fwiw, i have no idea why he's not throwing his curve as much, but i have a feeling it's because of the load on his arm because it's a highly effective pitch for him.

he's had a slider, but he's crutched so much on the curve as his secondary that his slider never fully matured even though he's had one for a while.

it was late season last year when he got a consistent feel for it. i hope he has the muscle/mental memory to repeat it going into 2012.

...also hope he can keep the ball in the park because that will kill his ERA even if his whip drops to the 1.30's. he's going to have a bunch of hitters put the ball in the play whether they turn into hits or outs.

Just because, I looked as some CV splits...Looks like he should pitch more against the Brewers.

Volstad vs Cubs (career)

0-2 ERA 4.31 GS 7 IP 39.2 H38 R 19 HR 5 K31 BB10 WHIP 1.21

the rest of the central division:
Reds 1-2, 4.34, GS 3, IP 18.2, R10, HR2, BB9 K15, WHIP 1.39

Brewers 1-1, 1.71, GS 4, IP 26.1, R5, HR2, BB4 K15, WHIP 0.98

Cards 2-1, 5.11, GS 4, IP 24.2, R14, HR2, BB8 K5, WHIP 1.42

Pitt 2-2, 7.45, GS 4, IP 19.1, R16, HR3, BB7 K10, WHIP 1.29

Astros 3-0, 4.40, GS 5, IP 30.2, R15, HR 0, BB9 K19, WHIP 1.24

Nice find Cubster!

He may have been off his mental rocker, but he was damn good on the pitching mound and at the plate over 11 seasons to a tune of 125-81, an ERA+ of 122 and 3 Silver Slugger awards.

Although your numbers are, I assume, sound, we are ignoring the downward trend in his effectiveness in recent years, the inability for Z to come up in big games (probably due to the aforementioned mental issues), and a complete lack of consistency. So bad that at one point he was relegated to the bullpen.

At this point Zambrano is just another tier B pitcher with tons of potential. Tons of potential doesn't warrant large contracts. Hell, Charlie Morton has tons of potential, but you don't see him running around with $15 million per. Zambrano, as with so many other Cub players, is a victim of the Hendry Doctrine: Paying players more money than past performance has dictated under the premise that they will play UP to their contract. The Hendry Doctrine, it seems, is an abject failure.

Maybe I'm being nitpicky, but we all like Big Z- and that makes buying his stats as proof that he's a great pitcher an easy mistake to make.

Volstad... meh... okay, I guess. Seems more of a lateral move than trading talent up or down.

Meh, if you look at his league adjusted numbers, the only really bad year was 2011. His lowest Era+ since 2003 was 117, Garza led the staff last year at 118. His innings and velocity have gone down, but his peripherals jumped around more than showing a trend. He isn't quite the All-star, but he still probably has a few above average seasons in him.

I think we can all agree that moving Z to the pen was Lou's second dumbest move behind demanding a left-handed power bat after 2008.

Big Z WAR by year:

2002 = 1.3
2003 = 4.6
2004 = 5.5
2005 = 5.0
2006 = 4.2
2007 = 2.9
2008 = 3.2
2009 = 2.7
2010 = 2.7
2011 = 0.7

Sure he's declining, I think everyone agrees on that. But he'd not have declined so much without the bullpen shit and missing games due to suspension, etc, even if he is responsible for the time he missed.

I don't mind moving him. I wouldn't think we'd be able to do much better than what we got.

I'm not the biggest fan of WAR for pitchers, it's really just FIP x IP which is more theory than performance.

That being said, until last year he was still a 3 win pitcher essentially and since WAR is a cumulative stat, injuries and craziness have a lot to do with that. Garza was a 3 win pitcher his Tampa years (5 last year for Cubs, but once again that's more theory than performance imo).

But yes, Z was declining a bit, personally more due to his own personal issues and injury than his stuff, but still could be very, very useful pitcher.

My perception is that he was trying to compensate for decreasing velocity and couldn't figure out how to do it.

he was doing it just fine until last year, not like the decline in velocity just started last season.

he wasn't the $18M pitcher, but still very useful.

In announcing the Z trade yesterday, Levine then opined that the Garza talks would move to the back burner, waiting to see if anyone stepped up to meet the Cubs' asking price. The focus now is on moving Soriano to an AL team so he can DH, with the Cubs eating much the same level of salary in order to do it as they did with Z. Levine predicts the Orioles as a likely landing spot for Soriano, although as many as 8-9 teams are being approached.

no way in hell the O's take Soriano on for 3 years. Maybe the Mariners if they land Fielder and want some protection and power in their lineup. I can't think of another AL team that desperate for empty slugging that would want him for 3 years.

I wouldn't get hung up on the three years. At some point, if they haven't already, the Cubs will offer him at a price that the buyer will consider fair for one season. You're certainly right that nobody wants Soriano for three years at any price, but if they can just toss him away after 2012, why not?

How about Soriano for free to the Red Sox as compensation for Epstein? By "free" I mean with a check for $54 million pinned to his shirt pocket. That money's gone, gone, gone no matter what.

1 minute late on the Red Sox, see the last comment in this thread.

He's a free swinging power hitter that does most of his damage versus lefties. Any team with an ounce of sabermetric knowledge won't touch him because he makes their team worse and they know he won't be open to a platoon.

and it's still a 3-year burden and having to answer questions on why you released him that most GM's would prefer not to deal with.

In the end, it just takes one sucker, so I'll never say never, but I'm having a hard time finding a team that would be interested and willing to give up anything for him. I'm sure a few teams would take a flyer if he just got waived though.

run down of AL teams and DH needs
Yankees: nope, offense is built around guys that take pitches unless a slew of injuries hit them in spring training.
Red Sox: nope, David Ortiz is a bit of an obstacle
Blue Jays: Encarnacion and Lind, AA isn't going to pay for Soriano
Rays: never would give up anything for Soriano
Orioles: too far away from anything to bother with that burden.
White Sox: kenny is weird, so maybe they swap bad contracts, but they seem to be trying to get younger
Indians: maybe a platoon with Hafner, but doubt they'd want to pay that much for Soriano.
Royals: youth movement, not this year
Twins: can't see them giving up anything, again if he's completely free, maybe
Tigers: Victor Martinez
A's: operation 2016, not happening
Mariners: maybe, could use power if they are trying to be competitive, but more likely should rebuild and keep options open after what Angels and Rangers are doing
Angels: no money left at all, only if it's free and wouldn't cost them anybody, already a glut of DH options though.
Rangers: Napoli and Young

Cubs should have tried to trade him for the rights to sign Yu Darvish if that's even possible. His $54 million outstanding beats the Rangers' $51.7 .

And Soriano finishing up in Japan would have made for a symmetrical career.

Deal is official and according to some tweets, Z waived his NTC and the option next year if he finished in top 4 of Cy Young. He also settled grievance with Cubs and is getting back 24 of the 30 days of suspended pay, something close to $2.4M. Also will get $100K now from Marlins if he wins Comeback Player of the Year in 2012.

Sullivan Z Vendetta Machine gets cranked up:

PWSullivan Paul Sullivan
Beinfest says Z "hasn't lost his competitiveness." except of course when he quit on his teammates.

What would Paul Sullivan know about teammates?

Paul Sullivan is an annoying little dwarf that just needs to STFU. Why does Chicago always have such shitty sportswriters? Especially those on the Cubs beat?

anyone here part their hair down the middle like Sullivan does?

you need to stop it

Does ass count?

I lol'd

sound sent: applause

*takes a bow

a whole lot less than he knows about platform shoes

B. Jackson #34
J. Baez #65
M. Szczur #82


Hak-ju #20. Sigh.


thoughts on Fielder, says Cubs like Fielder but intend to limit all FA offers to 5 years which won't get it done.

Tango on Z vs. Volstad

not sure about $9M over 3 years for Volstad if he's due around $2.6M this year.


Bears requested permission from Ravens to interview director of player personnel Eric DeCosta...allegedly a decent coup if they can get him.

Reports here are they are looking to try and interview someone from the Packers and Falcons as well.

well there's a shock, Red Sox not interested in Soriano


How about Byrd to the BoSox for AA Of Jeremy Hazelbaker?


speculation on your part or a reported rumor?

Pure speculation on my part, based on the fact that the Red Sox should be looking for OF help with Kalish having shoulder surgery. And, they have reportedly shown interest in Byrd this offseason.

The Cubs need OF prospects and Hazelbaker fits their profile rather wel (as he should, being a Red Sox prospect)l. He isn't considered a top 10 prospect but still appears to have good upside, and at AA isn't too far away to provide some help in the forseeable future.

BA's list for the Red Sox' top prospects comes out tomorrow, and it should be an interesting read...

Byrd to the Red Sox would be the comp for Theo most likely, with Cubs possibly having to chip in some money, unless some other comp was agreed upon.

A distinct possibility, although the Cubs are quite thin in OF's (see Mather, Joe), and if we give up Byrd with no OF return, it a makes a signficant problem even worse (especially if we dump Soriano).

I'm sure we could take the salary savings and sign a FA OF to provide some filler, but we need real prospects, not retreads.

Even though Byrd is overpriced at $6.5 million, he is still a valuable asset and (IMHO) would be too much as compensation for Theo.


Damn, what a set of OFers

Not many good options... it's like the Republican primary out there.

Our OF isnt that bad!

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  • Nicely done! I think in my 10-14 games I went .500 or a little over. Strangely, I went to the Cards games they mostly lost (incl Saturday) and the one SF game they lost, plus a couple Brewers games they lost, too. I should have gone to just Reds games. But still - saw mostly very good baseball on the North Side this year. Regardless of what happens come October - the Cubs are positioned for some good times in the next 3-5 years.

    The E-Man 19 min 55 sec ago view
  • Attaboy!

    billybucks 1 hour 12 min ago view
  • First Cub victory at home this year for me!
    Saw all four starters this year

    jacos 2 hours 36 min ago view
  • RIP Arnie. We could use a lot more like you -- a man who succeeded and failed on his own terms, a true original, and, finally, a remarkable example of graciousness towards others.

    billybucks 10 hours 31 min ago view
  • Cubs finish 33 over at home. I was, personally, one game over at 3-2, which was one of my better years in a while.

    I do hope that's the last time we see the Cardinals this year. A lot of power, which is dangerous, particularly in a short series, and they have really shut down KB all year.

    Oh, and Jon Lester? Damn!

    billybucks 10 hours 43 min ago view
  • Yes. Boating accident at 3AM. Very sad, but stupid. Young men do stupid things.

    billybucks 11 hours 39 min ago view
  • lester puts 2 on and is taken out at 96 pitches. oh well.

    edwards in.

    crunch 12 hours 23 min ago view
  • 2 out in the 7th, lester at 84 pitches, ross taken out for the standing O.

    it's possible contreras will catch lester for another inning+.

    crunch 12 hours 30 min ago view
  • What a weird day.  Jose Fernandez and Arnold Palmer, but then Scully and, on a much more modest level, Ross....

    Transmission 13 hours 3 min ago view
  • d.ross gets his 2nd standing O on the night (last home game of the season)...hits HR #10...curtain call. baseball.

    crunch 13 hours 6 min ago view
  • as a fan, he only "owes" us the game on the field and not getting in the way of others on his team being ready to play (imo).

    it's exponentially worse to his family and friends, but this dude most likely had 15+ years of play left and even though he just turned 24 a couple months ago he had already established himself as a top guy in the game.

    crunch 16 hours 27 min ago view
  • Carrie Muskat [email protected]

    Updated #Cubs probs vs Pirates: Mon, Hendricks vs Kuhl; Tue, Lackey vs Vogelsong; Wed, Arrieta vs Taillon; Thu, Zastryzny vs Nova

    crunch 16 hours 50 min ago view
  • I know what you're trying to say, Charlie, that none of us feels what his loved ones must be feeling.

    On the other hand, what makes a death like this tragic is precisely the loss, based on Fernandez's youth and brilliance, to the baseball world.

    So, for example, we can say that Princess Diana's death meant more, in aggregate, to millions of admirers who didn't know her personally than to her loved ones.

    VirginiaPhil 16 hours 51 min ago view
  • boston pitching snags a couple of mlb team records...

    "Over nine innings of play, Boston's staff struck out 11 straight Tampa Bay Rays hitters Sunday, breaking the major-league record for most consecutive strikeouts in a game.

    The previous record was held by former New York Mets right-hander Tom Seaver, who struck out 10 straight hitters in 1970.

    Not only that, but with a strikeout to end the ninth, sending the game into extras, Boston's staff also struck out an MLB-record 21 batters over nine innings."

    crunch 17 hours 15 min ago view
  • What a loss to baseball, which I'm sure pales in comparison to the personal loss to his loved ones.

    Charlie 19 hours 3 sec ago view
  • Somehow I am sensing alcohol was involved. The highest number of boating accidents by a wide margin...

    The E-Man 19 hours 43 min ago view