Carlos Zambrano: The Most Overpaid Player in Baseball?

Josh LevittSenior Analyst IAugust 11, 2009

CHICAGO - MAY 27: Home plate umpire Mark Carlson #48 ejects starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs after an arguement over a play at the plate between Zambrano and Nyjer Morgan of the Pittsburgh Pirates on May 27, 2009 at Wrigley Field in Chicago, Illinois. The Cubs defeated the Pirates 5-2.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Sometimes you run across an article that is so ludicrous that it makes your head spin. This was one of them.

Sometimes you run across an article that you can tell will be terrible just from the headline. This was one of them.

As soon as I saw this headline, I knew I was in trouble:

"Zambrano May Be the Most Overpaid Player in the Game "

Oh, boy. Here we go. This guy has obviously never heard of Barry Zito or Vernon Wells:

The facts don't lie. The Cubs are paying for top flight performance from a
pitcher who has the skills to be a big winner. However, Zambrano's performance does not warrant such a big contract and his 18 million dollar annual salary is one of the deals that is limiting financial flexibility for the front office. Talk to the scouts that attend every game the Cubs play and they all bemoan his incredible physical talents and lack of productivity for a guy whose reputation is that of a superstar.

Zambrano has won all of seven games this season. That's it. He has had incidents with a Gatorade machine, been suspended for his outburst towards a home plate umpire, and has had two stints on the disabled list. Seven wins for 18 million dollars and enough headaches for management to drive them crazy.

Check out Zambrano's contract terms and you will see that the Cubs have done their part in paying him to be a star. He has not lived up to his end of the bargain though and he has no one to blame but himself. He cannot control his temper and those who observe his antics on a day to day basis know he is far from the superstar pitcher that some believe he is.

Now look, I understand that this season hasn't been exactly easy for Cubs fans. I'm a Met fan, so in many ways, I feel your pain. So many guys who the Cubs depended on to come through big this season have been disappointments, and as a result, the Cubs have not pulled away from the rest of the pack like they should have.

And blaming Carlos Zambrano is a very easy thing to do. Kaplan mentions all of Zambrano's transgressions this season: the stints on the DL, the incident with the Gatorade cooler, and the eruption towards the home plate umpire. Obviously, this has been a rough season for Zambrano for a multitude of reasons.

However, is Carlos Zambrano the most overpaid player in baseball? Absolutely not. We all know that...all of us besides Kaplan.

We can all admit that Zambrano's 2009 season has been a disappointment. But at the same time, if you look at the numbers, you'll see that when Zambrano has been on the field, he's been quite good this season. Sure Zambrano only has seven wins this season, but his ERA is a very respectable 3.35, his strikeout rate his up, and his ERA+ is a solid 131. The downside with Zambrano is clear: his WHIP is up, he's walking too many, and most importantly, he's not staying on the field.

But the bottom line: his performance has been good. If you don't think his performance is "ace caliber" that's fine, but Zambrano's 2009 numbers still make him one of the Cubs' best pitchers this season.

Would Kaplan consider Jake Peavy one of the most overpaid players in baseball because he's dealt with injuries this season? I don't think so.

Or how about Roy Oswalt? Here is a guy who is getting paid more than $15 million this season and only has six wins? Absolutely not.

The bottom line is that you cannot say the Carlos Zambrano is the most overpaid player in baseball because his performance is still well above average. It's frustrating that Zambrano's been unable to stay healthy this season, but calling him "the most overpaid" based on wins and other incidents is foolish.