The New York Yankees came into the 2011 season with just one big question mark on their roster: after CC Sabathia, how reliable are the rest of the Yankee starting pitchers? However that question has been answered to this point, one this is certain: the Yankees are considering adding more pitching, including Chicago Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano.
Almost three months into the season, the Yankee staff has been something of a mixed bag. A.J. Burnett has returned to something approaching respectability, and Freddy Garcia came out of nowhere with a resurgent year. Doing Freddy one better, long-forgotten pitcher Bartolo Colon came back from the depths – complete with a stem-cell-infused shoulder – to be a reliable, if not good option.
But youngster Ivan Nova has been just OK, Phil Hughes is on the 60-day disabled list with Andrew Cashner-like shoulder problems, and Colon, himself, just hit the DL this week with a strained hamstring. Moreover, to the extent it impacts the depth of your starting pitching and the way you use them, injuries in the bullpen have only made matters worse. The Yankees are without Damaso Marte, Pedro Feliciano, Rafael Soriano (though he’s been terrible), and just lost Joba Chamberlain to Tommy John surgery.
I think it’s fair to say they could use a pitcher or two.
That’s why it’s not altogether surprising to learn that the Yankees have been scouting Carlos Zambrano’s last couple of starts. And, as Bruce Levine makes clear, these aren’t the advance scouts a team sends to look at players they might be facing in the future. They’re folks who closely advise Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman. You’ll note that Zambrano won’t be starting this weekend against the Yankees – something that’s been clear for more than two weeks.
Zambrano has been inconsistent this year, but generally solid. No, he hasn’t pitched up to his $18 million salary (to say nothing of the additional $18 million he’s owed next year), but in almost every start, he’s given the Cubs a chance to win. That’s what a team like the Yankees should be looking for.
While the Yankees certainly have deep enough pockets to absorb the approximately $27 million remaining on Zambrano’s deal, if the Cubs hope to get anything of value, the Yankees shouldn’t have to. If the Cubs were willing to eat a third or a half, the return in prospects could be quite meaningful.
Of course, perhaps the biggest hurdle, is Zambrano’s no-trade right. Would he be willing to leave Chicago, a place he’s said he wants to retire? Would he be willing to go to the AL? Would he want to be reunited with Larry Rothschild? Most importantly: how important is having a chance to win a championship to him?
Taken together, and given the rocky couple of years he’s had off the field with the team, I suspect Zambrano would accept a deal to the Yankees. And, if high level Yankee advisors are taking in Z’s games, I suspect the Yankees believe he’d accept a deal, too.
[Speaking of the Yankees and Cubs, their game today at 1:20 CST is the first in the BN Fantasy Baseball Contest, so if you want your chance at a slice of $150 (for free), better hurry and sign up now!]