In 2013, Carlos Zambrano will be taking his talents to…
Well, not South Beach, that’s for sure. In fact, the former Miami Marlins pitcher is still looking for a job after imploding as a starter at the end of May, and finishing the 2012 season having been demoted to the bullpen.
And now, as camps around the league have opened for Spring Training, the 31-year old has nary a minor league contract coming to him. According to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, this continued trend could see the mercurial pitcher leave North American for different, if not greener pastures:
Source says Big Z may sign in Japan or Taiwan if he can’t get major league deal. #Cra-Z
— Paul Sullivan (@PWSullivan) February 12, 2013
It may soon get to that point, because Zambrano simply hasn’t shown MLB teams very many good reasons to take a chance on him.
Big Z should technically still in his prime at 31, but it’s clear that the near 2000 innings in 12 years of work has taken quite a toll on the former workhorse. Whether it’s health, ineffectiveness or temper tantrums, various issues have led to Zambrano pitching less than 150 innings in each of the last three years, with a fastball velocity the has dropped to a 90 mph average in 2012.
His 5.10 BB/9 walk rate last year did not help his case either, and it’s quite likely that the perfect combination of declining skills and a known attitude issue is causing teams to stay away from Zambrano, who might otherwise be a potential comeback candidate.
That’s what the Marlins thought they could be getting when they traded for the long-time member Chicago Cubs, but the change of scenery did not provide the spark to Zambrano’s flagging career.
But will a move to Asia give him that? It’s very possible, considering that we’ve seen pitchers like Colby Lewis, who was pitching in Japan for years, then returned to be a very effective starter for the Texas Rangers. More recently, the Oakland Athletics signed Hideki Okajima for the upcoming season, after the veteran reliever spent a year in his home country putting up solid numbers.
The slight dip in the level of play overseas could help Zambrano put up numbers that are closer to his best with with Cubs; and, a year or two of taking the out of sight, out of mind approach from his MLB troubles could go a long way to rebuilding the value of his name to teams in the bigs.
I’d imagine Big Z would probably rather it not have come to that, but he’s left with little choice at this point, and perhaps a sabbatical from MLB baseball is exactly what he needs to get back on track.