Over the course of the past month or so, the belief has been that starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano will return to the team in 2012 in spite of comments made by Cubs’ chairman Tom Ricketts during the later days of last season in light of Zambrano being suspended for the rest of the season for his actions against the Atlanta Braves in August. As the season was drawing to a conclusion, the sentiment among current Cubs’ players was that Zambrano would not be welcomed back as a teammate. On the off chance that he was, many of Zambrano’s teammates felt that the temperamental starting pitcher would have to once again earn their respect.
New president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer shared a similar belief when it came to Zambrano. While the pair of executives admitted that their only knowledge of Zambrano was from afar, they told the starting pitcher that he must earn his way back on the team for the 2012 season. With those comments, in addition to the lack of Zambrano trade rumors, many fans have come to grip with that fact that Zambrano’s return to the team in 2012 is looking like a real possibility. Not so fast.
The one thing that is widely known about the new Cubs’ regime and how they operate is the fact they keep all their cards close to the vest. Meaning the mere fact that Epstein and Hoyer told Zambrano that he had an opportunity to return to the team does not preclude the starting pitcher from being traded. Tyler Colvin had an opportunity to return to the Cubs in 2012 before the team traded him to the Colorado Rockies as part of a trade that netted the Cubs third baseman Ian Stewart. It does not benefit the Cubs’ front office for them to be open in their willingness to trade Zambrano, that would put the team at a greater disadvantage than they are currently at. With Zambrano being owed $18 million for the 2012 season, and having negative trade value, Epstein and Hoyer are faced with a difficult task if they want to trade the pitcher whose nine lives may finally be up.
The Miami Marlins have already signed starting pitcher Mark Buehrle to a four year contract this off-season, but that has not stopped manager Ozzie Guillen from hinting that the Marlins remain interested in Zambrano. When Guillen was the manager of the Chicago White Sox, the belief was that Zambrano would wind up on the South Side of Chicago. Now with Guillen in Miami, the belief is that come Opening Day, Zambrano will be a member of the Marlins’ starting rotation. The Marlins and Cubs have had continued trade discussions about Zambrano, and Bruce Levine reported on his radio show, “Talking Baseball”, on Saturday morning that Marlins’ starting pitcher Chris Volstad is one of the names that could come to the Cubs in a Zambrano trade.
If that is the case, that would be a very good trade for the Cubs to make. The 25 year old Volstad went 5-13 for the Marlins last season posting an ERA of 4.89 (FIP of 4.32) to go along with a WHIP 1.42 in 165.2 innings of work. Volstad is under team control through the 2015 season. The idea would be that Volstad is the type of pitcher that the Cubs can get when his stock is low with the hopes of him progressing into main-stay in the Cubs’ rotation. Assuming Volstad’s pitching skills improve as he matures, it seems likely that he could be viewed as respectable #3 or #4 option in the Cubs’ rotation. Nothing appears to be imminent and talks between the Cubs and Marlins may have moved passed Volstad, but if Volstad is still on the table, the Cubs should be more than willing to make that deal.