Chicago Cubs to Put Carlos Zambrano on Restricted List and Other MLB Notes

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Chicago Cubs to Put Carlos Zambrano on Restricted List and Other MLB Notes
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I saw a report on mlbtraderumors.com today that the Cubs have decided to place Carlos Zambrano on the Restricted List the way they did with Milton Bradley late last season.  Zambrano will reportedly not be back in a Cubs’ uniform until at least the All-Star Break, because the Cubs want Zambrano to get anger-management counseling.

I can’t help but notice that within a day or two of Zambrano blowing up in the dugout, because he apparently felt first baseman Derrek Lee hadn’t made enough effort on a ground ball by Juan Pierre that went for a double, the Rays’ Evan Longoria got in B. J. Upton’s face in the dugout about Upton’s perceived lack of hustle in center field and was praised by Buster Olney as providing much-needed leadership.

Context is everything, I guess.  Zambrano has a well-earned reputation for being a hot-head, Upton has a reputation for not always hustling, and both Longoria and Lee have generally good reputations.  Still, you have what amounts to the basically the same conduct and the same circumstances (player on under-performing team starts argument over perceived lack of hustle by a teammate), but Longoria comes out a hero while Zambrano is placed on the Restricted List.

Something doesn’t seem quite right about the two diametrically opposed outcomes.

I also saw a report that next year’s arbitration eligible super-two players (i.e. 17 percent of players with less than three but more than two years who have the most service time are arbitration eligible under MLB’s collective bargaining agreement) are expected to have the lowest cutoff for service time that will make them arbitration eligible.

To be eligible for arbitration last offseason, super-two's needed at least two years and 139 days of major league service time, and the cutoff has never been below two years and 130 days.  However, it looks like only two years and 123 to 125 days will be needed for the coming offseason.

No surprise there.  Teams are keeping young players in the minors longer to limit their service time for purposes of arbitration and free-agent eligibility.  Since the formula is a strict percentage (17 percent) of all players between two and three years of service time, less service time for more players means a lower super-two cutoff.  I don’t see this trend abating any time soon, as teams work harder and harder to prevent potential young stars from obtaining super-two status.

The Giants are reported to have significant interest in Royals David DeJesus and Jose Guillen.  I can’t say I’m particularly excited by the idea of the Giants obtaining either player.

Jose Guillen has 13 HRs and 47 RBIs so far this year, but he’s always been way overrated as an offensive player.  Specifically, in only two of his eleven seasons with at least 300 plate appearances, he has had an OPS above .825, and those two seasons were more than five years ago (2003 & 2004) when he was 27 and 28, exactly the age at which you would expect a player of his type to peak and then decline.

Guillen does not look like any kind of an improvement over what the Giants already have in Aubrey Huff and Pat Burrell.  There’s a possibility that in jumping leagues Guillen could get hot like Randy Winn did in 2005.  However, I think the odds are far better that Guillen could go cold, like Ryan Garko last year or Shea Hillenbrand in 2006.

In fact, Guillen reminds me an awful lot of Hillenbrand.  They’re the same age (both 34 this year), and while Guillen has had a much longer major league career (Hillenbrand appears to be out of professional baseball already), Guillen’s career .764 OPS looks an awful lot like Hillenbrand’s career .761.

The only thing that might make Guillen attractive to a team with more money than sense is that the Royals are reportedly willing to eat a good portion of Guillen's remaining contract and expect mediocre prospects in return.

David DeJesus is having a fine season (.332 batting average and .880 OPS at present), and while he doesn’t have the power the Giants are looking for, they would certainly benefit from his ability to get on base and not hit into a lot of double-plays.  However, the Royals are looking for a top-flight prospect package in return.

If the Giants are going to give up a top-flight prospect package, I’d sure prefer it if they received someone like Prince Fielder, a genuine top-flight offensive player, in return.

In a final note of all’s well that ends well, Casey Fien, a 26-year-old right-handed relief pitcher, was just called up to the Tigers after posting a 2.27 ERA in 26 games and 39.1 IP at AAA Toledo.

Fien got burned by the waiver rules last spring.  After two strong seasons in the high minors in 2008 and 2009, he was just good enough to get claimed when the Tigers tried to slip him through waivers, but not good enough to stick with the teams claiming him.

The Red Sox initially claimed him and then put him back on waivers, when they needed a space on their 40-man roster for another player.  Then the Blue Jays did essentially the same thing.

Fien ended up signing a minor league deal with the Tigers, just as the Tigers had hoped to accomplish when they first put Fien on waivers.  All the bouncing around between fickle organizations interfered with Fien’s ability to pitch in Spring Training and possibly make a major league club opening the season.

He’s now earned another opportunity, and I hope he makes the best of it.  At 26, Fien’s chances of a successful major league career aren’t great, but he looks like a major league pitcher right now, and he’s going to get his shot, since the Tigers are going to have to use everyone in their bullpen going forward as they battle the Twins in the AL Central.

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