The last time Carlos Zambrano was an All-Star, most Americans hadn’t even been convinced that an African-American man could be in the White House.
And when the Miami Marlins picked him up in an offseason trade last January for former first-round draft pick Chris Volstad, Yahoo Sports went as far as to claim that the trade made little sense for the Marlins. I mean, Zambrano was thirty and petulant. He had to be washed up, right?
My, what a difference time makes.
Suddenly, the 12-year MLB veteran Zambrano is pitching like the young ace of old, and with an ERA of 1.88 and a 7.3 K per 9 ratio, he looks like a lock to be named to the NL All-Star team again this summer—and this time, in a new uniform.
Even better, the Cubs agreed to eat over 80 percent of the $18 million dollar salary Zambrano is owed for 2012. Isn’t that great? The Marlins get an All-Star pitcher on their staff, and they get him nearly for free!
Volstad, meanwhile, has failed to impress. What was all the hype about him again? After his rookie half-season, he never once managed to keep his ERA under 4.50. And he’s certainly not helping the Cubs compete.
There’s a lesson here, and frankly, it’s one that’s been played out time and time again: If you can sign or trade for an aging, stud pitcher on the cheap, do it (look how successful Jamie Moyer has been).
But there’s a corollary to this dictum: Avoid snapping up young pitchers in the free agent market! Especially when they’re just leaving the franchise that’s groomed them and stepping fresh into that wide and oh so carnivorous world of baseball.
Yes, in this neo-Zambrano era, teams in the hunt will likely reevaluate aging hurlers and try to trade young prospects for cagey vets when the playoff races heat up.
Since there are always rumors about which teams and players are looking to make moves—and lately, the same names keep coming up—let’s go around the horn and take a look at five much-talked about pitchers to see who’s likely to be shopped and who will be saved.
And while we’re at it, let’s identify the fool's gold in the ground where it lies. Because some guys, teams shouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole.