Carlos Zambrano is 29, has 28.7 career WAR and has been the ace of the Cubs for a good part of this decade. He is also an undisciplined, petulant nutcase who has one career quality start in the playoffs. If the Dodgers were to get Zambrano, the Cubs would have to pick up a good part of the remaining contract that dictates Big Z be paid $17.85 million this and next year and $18 million in 2012.
The great part about baseball is that it is a sport of individual performances which lends the game and its players to statistical analysis. Most players lend themselves to discussions where if a player went from Team A where he put up a set of numbers to Team B, he would reasonably put up similar numbers and provide x value to this team. There are a few players that are exceptions and what makes them exceptions are the things they do that are extraneous to baseball. Milton Bradley is the first example that comes to mind. Carlos Zambrano is not far behind.
In Carlos Zambrano's career FanGraphs has his career dollar value at $104.1 million dollars. Since he signed the contract he is currently under, he has been worth $28.9 million dollars before this season and he has been paid $32.75 million. This year, he has been in the bullpen and on the restricted list, so we will ignore the lower output that was imposed by the team. Carlos Zambrano has shown that he is worth close to what his contract states. Why doubt what he can do?
As somebody who grew up and went to college in Illinois, I have followed the Cubs nearly as closely as I have followed the Dodgers. It's hard not to as a fan of baseball in Illinois. I have heard countless times these complaints about Carlos Zambrano:
1) Lack of discipline and responsibility: He has made a lot of trips to the DL and has had a lot of minor injury problems which is excusable but he has consistently failed to do the things like self-rehab and self-maintenance to minimize those injuries and minimize the time away from the game. It takes a club and/or a manager to ride his ass about doing these responsible things that baseball players are supposed to do. Otherwise, he will do things like take batting practice on rehab starts.
2) Blow-ups: Every year, there is at least one blow-up on the mound. He has a temper, he will blame teammates, he will get in fights with players and he will keep himself in a mood that is counterproductive to winning the game at hand. With every blow-up, there is a press conference afterwards where he apologizes and says that he will change. It never does.
3) Poor big-game pitcher: He has only one quality start in his playoff career and he is prone to, as said previously, getting in a funk on the mound and a pitcher of his caliber should be able to take the ball in the midst of trouble and overcome mistakes.
4) Hydration: This should go under discipline but it is worth isolating. He has a reputation for drinking energy drinks and coffee while failing to drink water. He has been held from starts or pulled early from cramps due to poor hydration.
5) Bad teammate: I don't like making exceptions because of the nature of the game. I think most guys can join a team, do his job and make a run at the playoffs and the World Series. It's just not true with everyone. Whether it's, yelling at Derrek Lee, punching Michael Barrett, breaking bats over his knee and arguing with umpires.
The Cubs signed Zambrano to this contract and it may pay off for them by dollar value but what they are not getting is a pitcher that has the ability to be a true ace. He has been the Cubs "ace" but true ace pitchers do not exist on every team and there hasn't been one on the Cubs for a while. Leave this mess in Chicago and let them worry about it. He may make the Dodgers better but he won't make the Dodgers a winner. Big Z is a constant issue and a high-maintenance liability. He is a loser. Ned: look elsewhere for a player that can help the Dodgers win the World Series.