Monday, April 26, 2010

I'm Not Stupid Stupid, But I'm Pretty Stupid

My willingness to support the move of Carlos Zambrano to the set-up role was based on the assumption that all parties were on board with the decision.  Obviously, pissing off one of the franchise's best pitchers of all-time should not be a viable option to fix a problem in the 8th inning of baseball games.

Last night, in a discussion in the comments section at Another Cubs Blog, there were allusions made by (forgive me if I am not attributing this correctly, but I'm rushing this post) Mercurial Outfielder and MB21 that they had heard rumors that Zambrano was, in fact, none to happy with the move.

MB goes on to post today about exactly why Zambrano has every right to be pissed off, and he is correct.  Zambrano has every right to be pissed off if this is a move that was made without his endorsement and buy-in.  My assumption was that Zambrano was putting the needs of the team ahead of his own personal needs on a temporary basis.  While that reaction would not necessarily have been logical, as MB points out, it was a possibility.  After all, Zambrano has 2 more years after this one to re-establish himself as a premiere starter.

Baseball executives have a short memory.  As long as Zambrano is a good starting pitcher in the last year of his contract with the Cubs, he will get paid, and probably get a bump because he will suddenly be renowned (and his agents will remind everyone in case they forget) for his sacrifices in the name of team and winning in 2010.

Unfortunately, the Cubs appear to have made this move without Zambrano's consent, which does essentially make it a demotion and a slap in the face.

Dave Kaplan tweeted earlier in the day that Zambrano is not happy with the move:

Shockingly, Paul Sullivan tweeted and linked to his story about Carlos not being happy happy with the move, but he is happy.  That wasn't a typo.  Carlos is not happy times two, happy squared, or happy about being happy, but he is happy (now).

The story goes on to say that Carlos was not happy initially.

"Zambrano said the reason he didn't talk Saturday was he knew he would "say something wrong" and decided to wait until he calmed down.

He didn't say what was bothering him.

"I'm a guy that whatever happened in the past is in the past," he said. "I live my days like that. The next day when I wake up, I don't remember what happened the night before. Today is a new day. I get to pitch today and I'm going to have to do my job. The Cubs are paying me to pitch -- starting, relieving, closing, whatever they want me to do here. I'm better for it."

Zambrano insisted he's fine with the move and conceded he was the starter with the 'worst numbers.'"

So now we have two members of the media backing up the rumors MB and MO had heard before.  It also makes clear that the Cubs actually are stupid is as stupid does.  They stumbled ahead with an incredibly risky and unconventional move that had a huge impact on the livelihood of their longest tenured player (and career long Cub) without his agreeing to the move.

Whether the stupidity is stemming from arrogance from being really good at character assassination now when a large contract player doesn't do exactly as they want, or from horrible understanding of common human decency when dealing with their employees, or just plain incompetence, they have managed to position themselves on the precipice of disaster over a lack of a set-up man.

I probably shouldn't even be calling the Cubs stupid since I was the one who originally thought they had gotten all their ducks in a row before moving a top starter into the 8th inning.  That kind of assumption is probably the definition of stupid.


mb21 said...

I like how Kaplan says the Cubs are trying to deal with it privately. Nothing they did was private. It's Zambrano who is trying to deal with it privately. He's said the right things to the media because he knows things could get ugly and it would hurt his future value if he said dumb things right now. So he's acting like an adult and handling things behind closed doors. It's very likely his agent was called the moment he heard about it and is actively pursuing a trade for Zambrano. That's often how those things work. When a player like Z demands a trade, the organization will often leave it to the agent to find a partner. I'll bet that's what is happening here.

Anonymous said...

i hate to say this, but i hope mb is right about a trade. z doesn't deserve this and honestly if the cubs could get out from under most of his contract that wouldn't be too bad either. maybe in this case the best thing for everyone involved is a divorce. it's a shame because z has been a great cub. he and maddux really kept the cubs afloat during the prior and wood injury years.

i actually saw z pitch years ago for the lansing lugnuts.

Aisle 424 said...

I hope to God MB is wrong. Trading Zambrano now would never bring back any kind of value. The Cubs are in a terrible negotiating position because and Zambrano's stock is as low as it has ever been.

The way out of this is to find someone to take Sean Marshall. His stock is high because he has been effective, a good teammate, he is young, and he can probably join someone's rotation pretty quickly. Then Gorzelanny moves to the bullpen in Marshall's role and Zambrano back to the rotation. Hopefully the result of that trade will also bring back someone they can slot into the bullpen to replace either Berg or Gray.

Again, if moving Zambrano is the goal here, the Cubs have essentially highlighted every negative aspect of Carlos for the world to see.

I swear to God, they let their PR people run the team. The team never gets any better, but everybody loves when the Cubs get rid of good players for absolutely no return.

Anonymous said...

that's the only way the cubs know how to operate. it's bush league crap like this that makes you realize why this club doesn't win championships.

mb21 said...

424, I have to disagree about the Zambrano and Marshall stock comments. This assumes that 29 other teams are unwilling to look further than what has happened in 2010 and that's not true. It's why the whole "the team is showcasing this guy" is never right. There is nothing about any player that any team isn't aware of at this point. Every team is looking at the same data that the fans are and every team is far less reactionary than the fans are. Carlos Zambrano's rest of season FIP is right around 4. That's good. He could have an 85.75 ERA right now and he'd have no less value. He could also have a 0.00 ERA and he'd have the same value.

While some teams may make stupid decisions based on small samples (see Zambrano to the bullpen), they aren't going to spend millions by looking at them.

The same thing is true with Javier Vazquez of the Yankees. They won't sell low on him because they don't have to. He's a really good pitcher and there are at least 28 non-Cubs teams that would look much further than the very small sample of 2010. It's also why the Yankees won't trade him.

The stock being high and low or the showcasing of young talent is something for fans to talk about. It doesn't really exist. If it did, every team in baseball is just plain dumb and I think it's safe to say with all of the sabermetricians in the game today that that is not correct.

In fact, look no further than Andruw Jones' contract after his miserable season prior to free agency. People kept saying he wouldn't get that much after that terrible season. Teams don't pay as much attention to that stuff as the fans think. They can't. They have to look at the big picture. Well, 29 teams do anyway.

Aisle 424 said...

Whether the stock aspect is valid or not, the real problem is the Cubs have no leverage in a deal of Zambrano, so they would get screwed with their pants on.

They have a nasty habit of pulling this crap and being stuck in terrible negotiating positions. They back themselves into a corner and end up getting Mike Fontenot and Jerry Hairston for a guy who hit 600 HRs. The fact that they are getting anything at all out of Carlos Silva in exchange for Milton Bradley is a miracle.

Now Zambrano. No team is going to give anywhere close to fair value because the other teams will wait around for Carlos to get tired of putting on a happy face and then watch as the Cubs implode and get truly desperate.

mb21 said...

Depends on what you mean by leverage. The Cubs don't have to trade him so they definitely have leverage. Unfortunately, Zambrano makes a lot of money so the return won't be all that much. That's just how it goes.

Zambrano's trade value is -$7.1 million. If they wait until the end of the season it decreases to -$10.4 million. If they leave him in relief for that entire season, it's roughly -$17 million.

So the question is this: do you want to trade Zambrano when he has maximum value or wait until his value is less? His maximum trade value would have been after the 2004 season, but that passed many years ago. Until we figure out a time machine, all we should be concerned about his maximum value from this point forward. That is right now. And it doesn't matter if they put him back in the rotation today. If they leave him in the rotation for the rest of the year, then they have no leverage.

That trade value includes $5 million in value the Cubs would get for offering arbitration at the end of the 2012 season, which they would be very unlikely to do.

Zambrano is on the wrong side of the aging curve. His value only gets lower.

If you kick in about $15 million in a trade, you could get a nice prospect in return. He'd then have about a $8 million trade value. That's 2 top picks in the draft or a top prospect. Wait until the end of the year and you have to kick in $20 million of the remaining $36 just to get a decent prospect.

The Cubs made their decision. Zambrano's future with the Cubs is over and it needs to be over right now. Every day they go without trading him is value they are losing.

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