By Andy Behrens
June 4, 2007
Let's begin with an email. It poses a question that lots of fantasy owners have been asking. More accurately, it poses four questions:
"What does one do about Carlos Zambrano? Bench him? Trade him? For who?" – Scott C., Sandy, Utah.
First of all, whatever else you do with Carlos Zambrano, don't tease him. That's not going to end well. I've heard that Zambrano was actually going to eat Michael Barrett on Friday if his teammates hadn't intervened. He was cooking him in the training room whirlpool. Apparently Mike Defelice met a similar end in 2004.
Somewhat amazingly, the Cubs are going to let Zambrano pitch against Milwaukee on Wednesday. You might have assumed they had team rules that discouraged savage beatings, but no. They don't. So on Wednesday night, Zambrano owners are going to have to decide whether to use him against the Brewers, a team that's second in the National League in HR (73) and first in slugging percentage (.439). Even though he was likely your third- or fourth-round draft pick – Zambrano's average Yahoo! draft position was 37.8 – thousands of you will bench him. It's the safe move this week.
Benching Zambrano indefinitely isn't a reasonable long-term strategy, though. In a non-keeper league, you can't carry a player on your roster if you refuse to start him. Thus Scott's question: What does one do about Carlos Zambrano?
I'd keep him. The returns in recent trades simply haven't been that good. In one-for-one deals in Yahoo! leagues on Sunday, Zambrano fetched the following players: Ken Griffey Jr., Troy Glaus, Randy Wolf, Cliff Lee, Matt Holliday, and Randy Johnson. Holliday aside, it's not an impressive list. There's simply no way I'd trade Zambrano for a starter with less upside like Lee. While it's true that Zambrano's velocity has been off, it's not as if he's suddenly Paul Byrd. He reached 95 mph on the in-stadium radar at Wrigley on Friday. (And yes, I was there. But we left in the sixth inning to watch post-fight coverage). More often, of course, he's been in the low-90s.
Many of you have seen Hardball Times' excellent side-by-side comparison of Zambrano's delivery this season versus 2005. It's clear that things have changed. The important question is why? I'm not buying speculation that he's hurt, not yet. Nothing in the sequence of unrestrained punches Zambrano threw at his catcher suggested that the right-hander is injured. Typically, when a Cub pitcher has a shoulder or elbow problem, the team will acknowledge an injury, but lie about its location. If we eventually hear that Zambrano has a quad or triceps strain, look out.
We haven't heard that, though.
Instead, Zambrano really seems like a pitcher in desperate need of coaching. Of course recent history tells us that once a Cubs starter begins to deteriorate, there are few reasons to be hopeful. The Cubs seem to be institutionally incapable of correcting bad habits and maximizing talent, so the pessimism of fantasy owners is understandable. Still, Zambrano very likely lost himself tens of millions of dollars in future earnings on Friday, and he's pitching now to earn it back. The guy has motivation, prior success, and a history of slow starts – not this slow, true. I'd park him on my bench until next week when he should have two starts (vs. Houston, vs. San Diego). The Cubs may not have suspended him, but you can. I wouldn't look to trade Zambrano for a fraction of his preseason value, though.
The Chicago Sun-Times reports that a Jermaine Dye/Bobby Abreu trade might be in the works. There must be more pieces involved than that. Otherwise, it's simply a rearrange-the-deck-chairs move. Abreu has actually strung together three consecutive multi-hit games, and he made a game-saving catch against the Red Sox on Sunday night, so the timing here is strange.
That game-saving catch by Abreu? It was on a line drive that Dustin Pedroia hit to the right field gap. Pedroia is as hot as any hitter in baseball. He's 14-for-23 over the last week, and hitting second for Boston. Pedroia qualifies at 2B and SS. He should certainly be owned in leagues with a middle infield requirement.
Homer Bailey will likely start for Cincinnati on Saturday against Cleveland. Bailey is a top-tier prospect who should be a speculative add in most leagues, but I wouldn't start him against the Indians. They're second in baseball in runs scored, on-base percentage, and slugging. Bailey's Triple-A stats have been great (6-1, 2.31 ERA, 51 K and 24 BB in 58.1 IP), but they haven't matched Yovani Gallardo's (8-1, 2.15 ERA, 95 K and 21 BB in 67.1 IP). If I only had room for one of them on my roster, I'd take Gallardo.
Those of you scrounging for saves should add Jonathan Broxton until Takashi Saito recovers from his hamstring injury.
Andy Behrens has written for ESPN.com, the Chicago Sports Review, NBA.com, the Chicago Reader and various other publications. In all likelihood, Andy owns more Artis Gilmore memorabilia than you. Follow him on Twitter. Send Andy a question or comment for potential use in a future column or webcast.
Updated on Monday, Jun 4, 2007 11:01 am, EDT
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