Chicago Cubs: Carlos Zambrano to Marlins, Chris Volstad to Cubs

Jay FloydContributor IIJanuary 4, 2012

CHICAGO, IL - JULY 22:  Starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs stands on the mound during the second inning against the Houston Astros at Wrigley Field on July 22, 2011 in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs won 4-2.  (Photo by Brian Kersey/Getty Images)
Brian Kersey/Getty Images

According to Bruce Levine, the Cubs will send Carlos Zambrano (and $15 million) to Miami in exchange for Chris Volstad.

Home run, Team Epstein. Well done, sirs. Bravo, nod and a tip of the cap. All that stuff.

Because what the Cubs got in return for Carlos Zambrano was more than anyone could have imagined: Something

That something includes $3 million in savings, a pitcher with a pulse and the freedom and peace of mind that only $15 million buys.

Namely, knowing that Mt. Zambrano is not going to turn Chicago into Pompeii, and the Cubs no longer need to fear a Zambranic eruption every fifth day.

At first glance, the fact that Chris Volstad returned in the deal is of little consequence. His career numbers indicate he might be a decent fifth starter, particularly if the Cubs want to continue putting batters on-base at his alarming .337 career rate.

And according to Baseball Reference, his net WAR the last three seasons was exactly 1. So he's almost the definition of a replacement level player.

Over that same span, Meltdown Carlos managed a WAR of 6.1 but just 0.7 last season.

In 2011, Zambrano went 9-7, with 145.2 IP, 154 HA, 56 BB, 101 SO, a 4.82 ERA and WHIP of 1.442.

Meanwhile, Volstad was 5-13, with 165.2 IP, 187 HA, 49 BB, 117 SO, a 4.89 ERA and WHIP of 1.425

So if Volstad pitches even a little above average (and his 5-13 record is screaming for a regression toward the mean), the Cubs will get production similar to what Carlos gave them last year.

The win totals are concerning. But over the past three years, Chris has 26 wins, to Carlos' 29.

Frankly, if he barely retains a hold on the fifth spot in the rotation the Cubs will be thrilled.

One bright spot, Volstad's walk ratio (percentage of plate appearances ending in a base on balls) has declined four straight seasons. That means his control is improving.

His problem isn't throwing strikes, it's missing bats and giving up dingers. And that's a sign his "stuff" doesn't have much movement.

But maybe the Cubs feel a 25-year-old with decent control is something to work with, especially if he can find a way to translate that control into inducing more grounders.

Besides, Volstad is still better than a 50/50 shot to notch a quality start. And he's the perfect kind of low-risk gamble Team Epstein likes: nothing but upside. 

Sure, when Zambrano isn't crazy, he's the better pitcher. And his numbers will probably look good with the Marlins, who should give him solid run support. 15 wins this season is a legitimate possibility if he's healthy, or doesn't miss time due to angry displays of disaffection.

Even so, Cubs fans know it's OK to watch Carlos play well in Miami.

It sure beats watching him blow up in Chicago.