Carlos Zambrano Carlos Zambrano

Chicago Cubs Trade Carlos Zambrano

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The Chicago Cubs trade temperamental starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano. That is a sentence that many Cubs’ have been waiting for quite some time to say. Zambrano’s tenure with the Chicago Cubs can best be compared to cat with nine lives. Whether it was Zambrano’s altercation with catcher Michael Barrett in 2007, his altercation with first baseman Derrek Lee in 2010, or his most recent tantrum that saw the starting pitcher walk out on his team during an August game against the Atlanta Braves; the starting pitcher always found a way to remain with the organization that–at times–fed into his chaotic behavior.

Before president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer joined the Cubs’ front office, the belief was that Zambrano had pitched his last game with the Cubs’ organization. However, Epstein and Hoyer offered a different opinion on Zambrano. Rather than conceding to the notion that Zambrano’s time with the Cubs was coming to an end, Epstein told reporters that the volatile starting pitcher had an opportunity to earn his way back on the team.

That right there is another reason why Epstein has the greatest poker face in all of baseball.

Throughout the entire off-season, Epstein has stood behind the idea that Zambrano can earn his spot back on the 25 man roster. Little did we know that Epstein was using the same strategy with Zambrano that he used with reliever Sean Marshall. Epstein praised Marshall as the best left handed reliever in baseball in the days leading up to the trade that sent Marshall to the Cincinnati Reds for starting pitcher Travis Wood. Nonetheless, like Marshall, Zambrano is no longer a part of the Cubs’ organization.

Sources confirmed reports on Wednesday night that the Cubs and Miami Marlins have agreed on a trade that will send Zambrano and $15 million to the Marlins in exchange for starting pitcher Chris Volstad. The $15 million will go towards the $18 million that is owed to Zambrano for the 2012 season. A potential Zambrano for Volstad was first mentioned last month.

Volstad, 25, is under contract through the 2015 season. On the surface–while the departure of Zambrano has much more symbolic meaning than any other departure–this is another trade that demonstrates Epstein’s prime motive when making trades. In any trade that he makes, it is Epstein’s goal to turn a short-term asset into a long-term asset. Zambrano was a year away from free agency, rather than letting Zambrano walk after the season, Epstein received a young starting pitcher who is under team control for the next four seasons.

Volstad’s coming out party came in 2008,his rookie season, when the pitcher posted a record of 6-4 with an ERA of 2.88 in 14 starts for the Marlins. The problem is that it is 2o12 and Volstad has yet to match his 2008 numbers. Last season with the Marlins, Volstad made 29 starts for the Marlins posting a record of 5-13 to go along with an ERA of 4.89. Volstad’s 2011 season, however, was not as bad as his record and ERA make it out to be. Volstad’s WAR of 1.3 was only .2 points lower than his rookie season WAR of 1.5. In addition, Volstad’s 2011 xFIP of 3.64 was better than the xFIP of 4.55 he had in 2oo8. Volstad will likely slide into the back end of the Cubs’ starting rotation.

Though, lets not forget what this trade means for the Cubs going forward. With Zambrano no longer a member of the Cubs’ organization, the book has finally closed on the Cubs’ teams of the past decade. Epstein and Hoyer brought with them a culture change to Wrigley Field. The change would only be interfered with if Zambrano remained with the team. But with Zambrano now a part of the past, Cubs’ fans should prepare to see a team mentality that they have never seen before from the 25 men that call Wrigley Field home during the baseball season.