Tuesday, August 25, 2009

So You Want to Trade Big Z?

Based on what I've been reading the past two weeks it has become clear that Cubs fans want to get rid of their ace Carlos Zambrano. I've already pointed out that Z is one of the best pitchers of his generation and historically relevant as well. He's also having one of his better seasons as a starting pitcher this year and is only 28 years old. 

With that in mind people still want to trade him (?). So for the sake of giving you all what you want lets see what kind of packages teams have gotten recently when they traded away their ace. Keep in mind that all these recent ace trades have come because of an expiring contract, or demand from the player himself. We will get the that point in a minute.

In January 2008 the Twins traded their ace Johan Santana to the New York Mets for outfielder Carlos Gomez and pitchers Phil Humber, Kevin Mulvey, and Deolis Guerra. At the time they were the 2,3,4 and 7 ranked prospects in the Mets system. The deal was made because the Twins couldn't afford a Santana extension.

In July 2008 the Indians traded CC Sabathia to the Brewers for outfielder Matt LaPorta, pitchers Zack Johnson  and Rob Bryson, and outfielder Michael Brantley. All were top prospects, though not as highly ranked as the Santana haul. Sabathia was moved because he was going to be a free agent and the stuggling Indians wanted to get something for him.

In July 2009 the Indians traded Cliff Lee to the Phillies for pitchers Jason Knapp and Carlos Carrasco along with catcher Lou Marson and shortstop Jason Donald. The Indians also gave up major league right fielder Ben Francisco. This deal was made for the same reason the Sabathia one was. The Indians would rather get a groups of prospects instead of losing Lee for nothing.

Also in July 2009 the Padres traded Jake Peavy to the White Sox for four pitchers Clayton Richard (already a big league guy), Aaron Poreda, Adam Russell, and Dexter Carter. Now the Peavy deal wasn't a way of getting something for a free agent, it was a salary dump by a team that needed to lose salary. 

So if you were to trade Zambrano a haul of two or three top pitching prospects and a hitting prospect would be the expected return. Would that be worth it? I think not. The nature of prospects is that they mostly fail to begin with. Zambrano is a known quantity and a very productive one. While his occasional outbursts may offend the old school baseball fans, he remains the best pitcher on the Cubs, is that something you want to give up, basically closing your championship window, just because his personality rubs you the wrong way?

It isn't an accident that Zambrano's DL stint and the Cubs fall in the standings went together. He's one of the best pitchers in baseball and certainly the most important to the Cubs rotation. Perhaps that is why the media went into a flat out panic when he got injured, but now that he's back I think it's important to remember how important Z is and just how good a pitcher he has been for the Cubs in his career. You can't trade him and try to keep a championship window open. I'm guessing the same people that want Z gone will be the same who will write about how good he is when he is winning games in Boston or New York. 

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