Tuesday, May 22, 2007

What To Do About Z?

Former MLB pitcher Carlos Gomez has some interesting observations about Carlos Zambrano’s mechanics. In a nutshell, Gomez points out that Z’s arm angle is significantly lower this year than it was in 2005, his velocity is down, and he speculates that the changes are due to an injury to Z’s shoulder. It makes for interesting reading.

In my mind, the question now becomes, what to do about Zambrano? He and the Cubs were on the verge of signing a big, multi-year contract. The only thing that stood in the way of the contract was the pending sale of the team. Now, Z has had a bad start to the 2007 season (4-4, 5.61 ERA) and he is exhibiting signs that he may be injured. Should the Cubs still sign him to a multi-year deal or should they cut their losses and get what they can in a trade?

I know that it is borderline sacrilege to talk about trading Z, but I’m starting to think it may be the best thing for the team. Even when he was healthy, his velocity was up, and he was a Cy Young candidate, Z was prone to emotional implosions. Considering his youth, it was easy to write off these outbursts to immaturity. But over the past few years, the outbursts really haven’t gotten any better. In many peoples’ eyes, Z has gone from an emotional young man to a head case.

Now, add in questions about his health and his ability to pitch effectively into the future and it starts to make sense that Z is worth more long term to the team as trade bait than as the supposed ace of the staff. Even with the question marks surrounding Z, there are teams out there that would be willing to take a chance on him.

Three teams that come to mind are the Yankees, Mets, and Braves. The Yankees are in desperate need of starting pitching. Even with the addition of Roger Clemens, the Yankees are still two or three starting pitchers short.

The Mets pitching has been pretty good this year, but they will likely lose Tom Glavine at the end of the year. Z could be viewed by the Mets as a replacement for their ace. Plus, although their young pitchers have pitched well this year, I’ve got to believe that the Mets brass is just waiting for these pitchers to come back down to earth. Adding Z could solidify their rotation this year and into the future.

At the moment, the Braves have John Smoltz, Tim Hudson, and some other guys. They want another proven pitcher and they have some nice parts to trade in exchange for said pitcher.

I don’t know what is going to happen. The fear is always if you hang on to the struggling player (in this case, Z), he’s never going to recover. On the other hand, if you trade him, he’ll not only recover, but he’ll come back and kill you in the future. But looking at the situation objectively (or at least as objectively as I can), I think the Cubs may be better off trading Z than signing him and hoping for the best.


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