Cubs trade Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad

Cubs trade Carlos Zambrano to the Marlins for Chris Volstad

Shortly after saying he was skeptical Carlos Zambrano could change, Theo Epstein has dealt the embattled pitcher to the Miami Marlins in exchange for pitcher Chris Volstad (per ESPN Chicago via Twitter).  The Cubs had to pay a significant part of Zambrano's salary for the deal to happen -- $15M of the total $18M that he was owed for 2012.

I wrote about Volstad as a possible acquisition back in November when he was a non-tender candidate and he's been mentioned frequently on this site since then.

Volstad was the former #1 prospect of the Marlins but has quite lived up to expectations.  He hasn't been terrible, but he's been more of a back of the rotation type starter than the #3 type starter he was projected to be at that time.  He has a career ERA of 4.34 with roughly 6 strikeouts and 3 walks per 9 innings.  Last year he was 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA, although he had an xFIP of just 3.64. Here's an interesting analysis by Harry Pavlidis of Cubs F/X.  Perhaps the Cubs think a change of scenery will bring out his potential.  I expect him to fit somewhere in the 2012 Cubs rotation along with Ryan Dempster, Travis Wood, and possibly Matt Garza.

Zambrano waived his no-trade clause as it was clear he was no longer a fit under the new regime, but also because it will allow him to play under fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen.  While Zambrano will probably be remembered for his blow-ups, we should remember that he was a very good pitcher for the Cubs since making his debut in 2001.  He was an integral part of three playoff rotations, pitched the first Cubs no-hitter in over 30 years, and had 125 wins with a 3.60 ERA while striking out 1542 batters.

Zambrano, however, clearly isn't the same pitcher he was earlier in his career.  While he still has good velocity, his fastball isn't the feared pitch it once was and he has become more dependent on his secondary pitches.  It's difficult to consider him anything but a bottom of the rotation pitcher at this point in his career and that is a role that the Cubs would prefer to fill with younger, less expensive pitchers.

Zambrano returned to pitch in the Venezuelan League this winter where he fared pretty well posting a 3.29 ERA, perhaps convincing Marlins scouts that he can pitch like the old Carlos with a change of scenery.


Filed under: Pitching, Rebuilding, trades


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  • Good another young pritcher . Even though he has not pitched that
    well maybe being with a new team will work wonders.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    He has some talent. Never know what can happen with new team coaching, defense ,ballpark, etc.

  • Wow, someone out there said that Cubs chose Volstad OVER Matt Dominguez. I don't know too much about Dominguez, but heard he was a good 3B prospect.

    A little surprised Cubs took Volstad but it does fit with keeping the rotation build going.

  • In reply to Still Love the Cubs:

    Can't have enough young arms.

  • In reply to Still Love the Cubs:

    Phil Rogers suggested it because he had said Dominguez from the beginning. Not sure Dominguez gives you a better player than Stewart this year at 3B and the Cubs need pitching. Volstad probably made the financial aspect a little easier too.

  • What are the chances of the Cubs eating Sorianos contract now that they're eating big Z's? I guess the deal is ok and a culture change has to happen, but for all the headaches big Z provided I am going to miss watching him pitch when he's on and I'm gonna definitely miss watching him hit. Watching him get the final 3 outs for his no hitter was one of the best Cubs moments I've ever witnessed. Good luck Carlos, except when you play the Cubs.

  • In reply to Larry H:

    I'm a lot more optimistic now even though that's a lot more money. I agree with you too about missing the good Z. On his good days he was a much better pitcher than Volstad is or will be. Hope he does well.

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    Garza, Dempster, Wood, Volstad and Rusin is not a bad way to go.

    Any chance the Cubs turn around and.send Volstad to the Padres for Rizzo?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Volstad and at least 1 good prospect. Salary might be to much for SD

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I hope that when the season starts Volstad and Rusin are our #6 and 7 starters and not 4 and 5

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I love the idea of Rusin at the back of the rotation but the Cubs need to create a roster spot for him come April. That shouldn't be a problem if he pitches well. No chance on a Volstad/Rizzo deal though.

  • I thought Volstad wasn't arb eligible but I guess this is year 1..MLBTR put his projected salry at $2.5mil-if so it's essentially eating all of Z's contract considering that Volstad was considered a possible non-tender candidate a little while ago..if we had saved just a small amount of payroll then it is a good deal, but with no payroll savings it's kind of a dud.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    He's under team control for three seasons, so the Cubs gained that in the deal. Not that Volstad is any great shakes, but he's better than James Russel.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    Also, he finished last season at 5-13, 4.89 ERA. We know better than to lend credence to those statistics, but the arbitration system does not. Considering this is his first time through arb, his salary probably shouldn't break $2 mil with numbers like that.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    I think you get an equal but younger pitcher who has the potential to get a bit better than he is now. He pitched really well early in his career so the Cubs are hoping they see that Volstad again. If he does well, he could be a future piece, whereas Zambrano was not. At worst, he gives you innings on a staff that badly needs it.

  • Kind of wish that the Cubs didn't have to eat quite so much of the salary, but I'm glad they were able to get something for him in return. They could have waited to see if he pitched well enough to increase his value, but there are no guarantees that it would have happened.

    I'm okay with moving him. I wish he had come closer to fulfilling his potential as a Cub, but he did provide a pretty awesome birthday present for me on 9/14/08 with a no-hitter, and helped the team to 3 playoff births. I wish him good luck, but am glad to be moving on.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    He had some great years so I'll definitely miss that. Not a bad guy, just had trouble reining in his emotions. But there's no doubt it's a different time and situation. I wish him well with the Marlins.

  • Good riddance. Volstead had more K's and fewer walks than Z last season (granted in 20 more innings) but is not nuts. (thats the key!)
    I live in Milwaukee and saw the no hitter game in person. Sadly, thats not the first thing I think of when I think of Carlos.
    Its quitting on his team and acting like a 100 million dollar child.
    Love the site. Long time reader. First time poster.

  • In reply to e wood:

    Thanks e wood! You're not alone as far as Cubs fans who will remember him for his behavior, and that's fair, I suppose. It wasn't acceptable and it alienated his own teammates. Hoping sometime soon we get another guy who could pitch like he could, though!

  • Yeah I remember you targeting Volstad as a potential pick up, good call John. The Cubs made a good deal it seems. They were going to have to eat most of the salary anyways and we got back another serviceable young pitcher with some room to improve hopefully. Good news.

  • In reply to draco:

    Thanks! I think "serviceable young pitcher with some room to improve" sums it up really well. One person noted that the Cubs have now picked up 6 years of cost controlled SPs for a year of a reliever plus a SP they didn't want -- not to mention Sappelt and Torreyes

  • I like the deal. The team really could have justified just outright releasing him after last year so getting something for him is a bonus

  • In reply to Paris:

    Got some value out of it and Volstad has a chance to get a bit better. Not going to pretend he'll be a front line starter. But he could be a useful guy at the back end.

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    It's not a dud. Z was going to cost us $18 mil, period.

    Instead we're paying $15.5 mil or so to the Marlins to cover Z and we're spending $2.5 mil or so to pay Volstad. It's still $18 mil, but now we have a 25 yr old starting pitcher who can at least eat innings for us, or we could flip him for something else. But now at least we aren't slaves to a player who consistently has at least 1 meltdown a year (that fans are aware of), and his behavior has become more and more damaging. No business would tolerate that kind of behavior from an employee, a sports team shouldn't be any different.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Good point Just Win. That money was already spent. That we were able to get a younger pitcher who could essentially give us the same production has to be considered a win for the Cubs.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly John.

  • In reply to Just Win:

    Agreed Just Win. That money was a sunk cost. More than likely, now was the most tradeable (value wise) Big Z was going to be. To me, for the Cubs to get anything let alone a major league pitcher with a couple years of control left is great. Anything was possible, but I lost faith in his control over his emotions not just his talent. I could have seen more drama during the season and him taking up a valuable roster spot while "cooling off" and trying to find himself while being sheepishly placed on the D.L.

  • There goes the last unbroken link to the 2003 club. To the hateful enemies of that season no less. I like Z and will miss him. Agree it was time to move on, but I wish he wouldn't have gone to that team.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Nice couple of nuggets there...I didn't even realize that until you mentioned it.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    I agree with you, Eddie. It's one of those love/hate relationships. I liked him, too, even through his BS. But it was time to move on.

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    In reply to Eddie:

    We can exact our revenge on the Marlins when Ozzie and Z can't exist on the same team and watch the two implode.

  • Guess who comes to town mid July.........

  • In reply to e wood:

    Not much question as to what kind of reception he'll get from Cubs fans.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He should be cheered.

  • In reply to Eddie:

    Should be, but he won't, unfortunately -- at least that's my prediction. If I'm there I'll cheer. The good he did for the Cubs far outweighs the bad.

  • I am a little bit surprised they had to eat that much of the salary for getting back Volstad. I mean, he's got 3 years of control, but he has been pretty bad for the last 2 years.

    I thought they might be able to get Miami to eat 5-8 mil of Z's salary considering how Ozzie has pretty much guaranteed that he was going to win 15 games this year...

    My trust in Theo and Jed continues though so I'm sure they did the best that they could with the circumstances.

  • In reply to Still Love the Cubs:

    That last part was right on the money. Not much you can do under the circumstances...most "experts" were predicting the Cubs wouldn't get anything except salary relief.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm shocked we got Volstad. I love this deal. Zambrano had zero value....absolutely zero. Are we forgetting this guy not only didn't pitch well, but was sent home for quitting on his team. I'm very pleased with Theo/Jed trades thus far. I think we've clearly won all 3 deals.

  • In reply to dgedz27:

    Agreed. I still like the Marshall deal best, then this one, then the Stewart deal

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Same here. Hopefully we can get a nice haul for Garza, and can sign a couple of the Cuban stars.

  • Buena Suerte Carlos. After the no-hitter my son bought me a Zambrano jersey/t-shirt. I hope he can get his act together down there. A good guy who needs to grow up some.

    As for Volstad, another high draft pick who has not lived up to expectations. With right time machine this team will be projected to do great things.

  • In reply to bruno14:

    That's the key.. the right time machine. We want 2008 Volstad, not 2009. The low xFIP last year gives me some hope that he'll have a nice 2012.

  • Moving in the "right" direction...Keep it up! :)

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    I'm liking'll take some time but at least we're pointed the right way.

  • I would not boo him either. Silence from me.

  • Damn! Didn't think it would happen for another month. I would've preferred that Theo get more for him, (which we knew wouldn't happen) but it looks to be a good move for both sides. We eat $15.5M for 2012 and after that, done! Free up more cash and move on to adding more pieces for the run we make at the NL Championship in 2013. And WS in 2014. :D

  • In reply to lokeey:

    I didn't either but now I'm wondering if there will be more of these kinds of deals coming to trade off unwanted players, shave salary, and possibly clear roster space.

  • Bittersweet to say the least. I remember Z, Wood and Prior ... thinking we had our answer to the Braves big three... but of course that was just a dream (and a special thanks to Dusty who ruined Prior and Wood with 7 starts apiece at 130+ pitches in 2003, but I digress). We got a good deal, because Z is declining and unreliable and we got more than a bag of balls.

  • In reply to ccia:

    Yes! I thought the Cubs would be in year after year with that big 3 in the rotation...but yeah, don't get me started on Dusty.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    John, I live in Phoenix and back in 2005, I went with some friends down to Fitch Park to see an early Spring Training practice.. Dusty was talking to some of us and I told him, get us over the hump man, last Sept (2004..blew 3.5 game lead with 1 week left) almost killed me and thank God I was out of the country and missed watching those games..He retorted, "it's your fault we lost!!! You wasn;t watchin us??" I couldn't believe how arrogant that guy is..we lost cause you kept trotting LaToya out there on a daily basis and you've worn out Wood and Prior..He set the Cubs back 5 years easy

  • In reply to Luigi Ziccarelli:

    He really did wear down those arms. I understand he wanted to win and those pitchers gave him the best chance, but he never really understood the big picture.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Good story too!

  • Heard on the Score an hour ago that the move was made in part to go after 1 of the Cubans. They will be aggressive and try to land one of them.

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Have a feeling they'll get one of them. I'm betting on Concepcion but hoping for Soler.

  • I always liked Carlos but cannot be too sad about the deal given the circumstances, and at least they got someone who may turn out to be a real good asset (there are presently a lot of "may turn out to be" assets). I have to like the direction even if there has been little to outright cheer about.

    I just wish if they were going to eat a big contract it was the one out in left field.

  • In reply to bruno14:

    Me too...maybe that's next?

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    John, would Cespedes have to go on the 40 man roster if signed?

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    He will definitely want to sign a major league deal.

  • Finally, I am not going to lie, I'm glad he's gone . I am also glad a foolish team like the Marlins thinks they can turn him around , good like guys . The fact that they got a decent pitcher in Volstad speaks volumes about Hoyer and Epstein. It's cool to have the "smart" guys run our team for once. After this and Garza, watch for Soriano to be traded, probably right before or during spring training.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    It is good to have smart guys. For 4 guys who weren't expected to be starters (maybe Z), the Cubs got 2 25 year old rotation guys and a 27 year old starting 3B.

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    MLB radio is reporting that the Orioles and Cubs are in discussions about Soriano.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Cubs going to eat some major salary if that happens. Not sure we'll get anything on this one...but considering the Cubs have two 25 year old SPs who were once top 10 prospects for one year of Marshall and Z, I'm not putting anything past him.

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    The word is that Showalter is pushing for Soriano.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I think he might make a good DH. Just eat most of his salary
    and get whatever, if anything, we can.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Sounds good to me. Soriano just doesn't fit with this philosophy of playing good D and grinding out ABs.

  • The Cubs and Orioles have been frequent trading partners, but I always felt that was the McPhail connection. Kind of surprised to see them working again. I would look for a similar deal for Soriano, except that I think Soriano might actually have a little more value. We're still talking about a guy who can hit 25+ homers, and without the burden of playing him in the field every day, the Orioles won't have to remove him from the lineup as frequently as the Cubs.

  • In reply to TheSinisterUrge:

    Soriano should .have more value in the AL but he also has the worst contract in baseball right now. What they get back will depend on what they pay to a large extent, but even if they pay $40M or so, I expect to get back less than what we got for Z.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    For the record, Jason Werth has taken the reigns from Soriano for worst contract in baseball, but I do agree they would have to eat around $40M and won't get much in return. Cubs got better value for Z than I thought. While Volstad has been pretty awful, you're basically at same salary commitment as before the trade. If you think he's a lost cause, you non-tender him after the year to open up a roster spot. But if he figures it out, you get a cost-controlled through 2014 servicable pitcher.

  • In reply to Teddy KGB:

    It's a good gamble. The Cubs have picked up a few good young arms and you hope you catch lightning in a bottle with one or two of them.

  • If we could take both of them off our roster before spring training
    it make for a more focused camp.

  • Agree with you 100%. Wonder what the Orioles have that would fit well with the Cubs?

  • In reply to GoCubs:

    Any young promising prospect in the low minors

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed..I'm thinking A ball guy with upside, someone who doesn't have to be put on the 40 man roster.

  • Goodbye, Z, thanks for all you did. I'm sure your behavior got a lot of spin in Chicago, but as an out-of-state Cubs fan, what I saw was a hot-headed latino that wanted to win and got pissed with teammates who played like they didn't give a shit. I remember Dusty Baker saying during the 2003 playoffs, when everyone was focusing on Prior and Wood, that Zambrano might have the best stuff of all of them. At the time I thought he was crazy. Time's borne him out.

  • In reply to Carne Harris:

    I remember Baker saying that as well. He certainly was the most durable, but he had great stuff back then, upper 90s heat, sharp slider...just blew guys away

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Waxing nostalgic, but what a future it looked like we had with those three young arms. Four if you count Clement. And speaking of which, what's your opinion of Chris Bosio as pitching coach? You think he's a good guy to guide all these young pitchers we have coming in?

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    I loved Zambrano, but it was definitely time for him to go. We send an aging pitcher with an anger issue, and receive a relatively young pitcher that could benefit from a change of scenery? I'm really glad to have such smart guys in our front office. I think Volstad can become a solid pitcher.

  • In reply to Gabe Hauari:

    Time to move on...nothing persona for Z. In fact, he was my wife's favorite Cub. But I think both Zambrano and Soriano need to go if the Cubs really want to break with the past and create a new culture.

  • Good to see Z taking his tantrums to South Beach...he'll fit in with the big egos on the Heat, Ozzie and Reggie Bush.

    It will be a bonus if Volstad produces this season, but it was time for Z to go.

    Just like Aramis - thanks for the good years and wish it could have ended differently, but he won't be missed.

  • In reply to cowboy2024:

    I'm not sure he's going to find things any easier in Miami, but I wish him well. And like you said, we got a few good years from these guys and I hope Cubs fans remember and appreciate that, but at the same time there's a whole new direction and new way of thinking now.

  • Soriano would have been in the top 3 DH's last year for run production. If the O's get the Cubs to eat $13mil/yr and they come away paying just $5mil/yr for 3 years it's a very respectable signing for them. He has little value to a NL team or a rebuilding one, but as much as I can't stand him, I'll say this: he singlehandedly wins games for a team. Maybe not as many games as before, but there were plenty of games that he was the only offensive producer for the team last year. I really like Byrd as a player,but how many games did he actually win for us last year with his bat? Soriano has value at that price.

  • In reply to Cuyler:

    When Soriano gets hot, he can carry a team. He still showed flashes of his old self last year. He kept the team afloat in April. Really hard to say what the Cubs can get back. They may just want the roster space and ask for a minor league player.

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    Breaking News: Logan Morrison just tweeted that Zambrano has told the Marlins he would like to show Hanley Ramirez how to be a good team mate ny playing third base in between starts.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Come on Mike...Leave Z alone--he did waive his NTC so that this trade can take place.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    They'll certainly have a few strong personalities to deal with in Miami. Interested to see how Guillen handles them all.

  • I think Z would have had a good year if he were still with the Cubs, considering this is a contract year. But he had to go. There was no way you could bring him back into the clubhouse after the way he left last season.

    I love the fact that Z played with passion and hated to lose. It was the way he expressed himself that became his downfall. Anger is a choice. Hendry and the organization should have done a better job in reigning him in early in his career, but that ship has now sailed.

    I wish Z the best, but we move on.

  • In reply to Alex:

    Well said, Alex. Agree on all points there.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    OY.. I was reading some comments on another blog site. I can't believe that some Cub fans thought that Theo should have gotten MORE for Z.

    Were they watching the same guy over the last few seasons that we have?

  • In reply to Alex:

    I'm not sure what they thought they could get for a 5th starter type making 18M/yr. Glad to get at least equivalent production out of a 25 year old pitcher who still could improve. I'm very happy with the return on all the trades so far.

  • In reply to Alex:

    You should see the email thread I have going with a friend at the moment. The more he hears and reads, the more he is turned off.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I see that the Cubs picked up another minor league outfielder, Joe Mather.

    Don't know much about him other than he's been in AAA.

  • In reply to Alex:

    Older guy (29) who they're going to stash at AAA in case of an injury and they don't want to call up a prospect yet (i.e. BJax). Has a bit of pop in his bat, but nothing to get excited about.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Will say he was a decent prospect a few years back. Always had ability but never quite put it together.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Might as well keep BJax in AAA at least until midseason, so the Cubs get an extra year of control of his services.

    If it allows Theo/Jed to give BJax some more development time, I'm all for it.

    WOW.. Theo and Jed must really be down on the quality of players at the higher levels of the farm system. Can't say I blame them. Keep building those assets young men.

  • In reply to Alex:

    BJax could use time to work on his contact skills too. Theo is down on them, but I think he also knows that Castillo, Vitters, Lake, Szczur, and even BJax need some extra time. Has to build that depth and get guys to bring up so you don't rush their development to fill in for injuries.

  • I agree.

    It's nice to see that Theo and Jed are being patient with prospects. That wasn't something the previous front office was very good at.

  • Well I'll be the first voice of dissent on this move. I like what Theo has done thus far, but I really felt that the combination of a new GM, a new manager, and another year of maturity deserved one last look for Big Z. Maybe that's naive, or maybe the scouts saw something in Venezuela they didn't like, but I think this guy still has it and just needs a strong manager to succeed. Volstad is a #5. If you're going to shell out 15 or 18 mil, you might as well see what the more talented Z can give us. If it doesn't work out, the bench is plenty deep to find a Volstad-like replacement. Soriano is/was a much more pressing "sunk cost" ditch candidate.

  • In reply to Cubswin4harry:

    I'm not so sure Zambrano's not a a 5 these days. He's an 89-91 mph guy now as opposed to someone who could throw high 90s and average about 94-95. His slider doesn't have the same bite it used to have and he's never had good command.

    It's also just one year for Zambrano. There was no chance he was coming back. You get 3 years of Volstad and there is some possible upside left with him. He finished the year strong after tweaking his delivery. I think it was a shot worth taking.

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