Last night the Cubs traded Carlos Zambrano for Chris Volstad which seems like a normal move but it means much more than just what is on the surface. Carlos Zambrano has been one of my favorite players to watch the past years because of his fire and passion and lets face it his theatrics. But until recently I chalked those things up to being just him and showing fire (now I know there are issues there). So when I heard the news last night about the trade it immediately go my attention and caused me to ponder the direction of the Cubs and what this move means below the surface.
First I want to give the details and my take on the deal. The Cubs sent Zambrano to the Miami Marlins for Chris Volstad. The Cubs are also paying $15.5M of the $18M left on Big Z contract. The Cubs are responsible for the arbitration case of Chris Volstad in which he is expected to make $2.6M so the deal is not really saving the Cubs any cash unless Z obtains his vesting option for 2013 which includes placing first or second in CY Young voting and being healthy at the end of 2012. If he does obtain that then he will be paid $19.25M for 2013.
So we already know about Zambrano so let’s take a look at Chris Volstad. Volstad is a 25 year old right handed pitcher who was 16th overall pick in the 2005 draft. Volstad stands at a tall 6 foot 8 230lbs but by no means is a power/K pitcher. Volstad has a career 32-39 record in 4 ML seasons; he has not pitched over 175 innings but has made at least 29 starts the past 3 years. Volstad is prone to giving up the homer but does not walk too many guys. He is a nice young option for the back-end of the rotation. He actually reminds me of a young Jeff Weaver.
The trade in its self on the surface looks like a standard salary dump and taking on a player that does not have a further career in Miami but I think it goes much deeper than that. The Cubs are going in the right direction by selling on guys that are not going to help them this year or the next few years. They have traded Sean Marshall with incredible value, they are dangling their star pitcher (Garza) but will not “settle” on a mediocre package for him, and now they have traded a headache not to mention a overpriced pitcher for a young 25 year old that best years still maybe ahead of him. The Cubs completed the Z/Volstad trade by not losing any cash or taking on another bad contract which is a nice change. This trade signifies much like the Marshall deal details the direction Epstein and Co. are going. They are cutting the fat that is the Chicago Cubs and replacing it with athletic players and youth with high ceilings. They are adding good clubhouse guys, leaders, and young prospects. They are cutting cash and not jeopardizing the future; not to mention brings in their guys. Yes they have done some moves that look questionable on the surface but now all the moves together they make sense on a whole. David DeJesus and Reed Johnson are both “baseball players” in every sense of the word, good leaders, and athletic. Trading Tyler Colvin and DJ for Stewart is sending two prospects that they feel did not fit the mold of the new movement and acquire a guy that had a down year but high ceiling that could bounce back and have a great year. Trading 1 year of Sean Marshall for a young, cheap, left-handed starter in Travis Wood, two potential solid ML player prospects, and not to mention saving money. Most of all trading a headache in the Cubs system named Zambrano for a 25 year old righty who is a solid back of the rotation starter for the Cubs this year and maybe beyond. The Cubs direction is simple and straight forward; get younger, get more athletic, cut salary, cut players that don’t fit the mold or won’t contribute down the line, get the highest trade value possible for those players, get a nice supporting cast, add leadership to the clubhouse, and build on that foundation never loosing site of the main objective.
Because of this direction the Cubs trade talk about Marlon Byrd should increase as well as Garza, Marmol, Wells, Soriano, Dempster, Baker, DeWitt, Soto, and others. Am I saying all of those players will be traded by Opening Day probably not but I have faith in Theo that he will try and not settle on an average return for any of them (with maybe exception of Soriano who is now gaining interest for 3 AL clubs according to George Ofman). Theo, Jed, and the Cubs now have a clear direction and I now can say it is about time. Cub fans you can finally get excited about the direction of your team because you have the Theo formula; the winning formula.
Until Next Time….