As the Chicago Cubs stand on the verge of adding another starting pitcher (Paul Maholm), it’s worth taking a look at the starting pitcher they picked up a few days ago, Chris Volstad. With the Starlin Castro news and Anthony Rizzo/Andrew Cashner trade on Friday, it was easy to forget that the Cubs had just swapped Carlos Zambrano for Volstad, who came in for a healthy discussion on Thursday.

With Volstad in tow, and penciled in for a starting spot, regardless of what happens to the rest of the rotation, it’s interesting to consider what some other folks think of the acquisition and of Volstad’s future with the Cubs.

  • Baseball Prospectus’s Ben Lindbergh sounds like he likes the deal from the Cubs’ perspective. “Over the past two seasons, Zambrano accrued 2.4 WARP, much of it due to his performance at the plate. Chris Volstad was worth 2.2. That doesn’t mean the two are equally talented; for one thing, Zambrano put together that total in about 65 fewer innings (albeit because he was so often unable or unwilling to pitch). Extend that selective starting point back to 2009, and the difference becomes even clearer. But even if Volstad isn’t the pitcher Zambrano was and perhaps could be again, he’s five years younger, under team control through 2014, and much less likely to punch someone in the face before then.”
  • Lindbergh goes on to describe Volstad much in the way we’ve been hearing – he could be better than his stats have looked recently. “Volstad, a 6’8” groundballer with improving control, seems like he should be better than he’s been, but he’s handicapped by two glaring weaknesses: his fly balls leave the park too often, and he’s helpless against lefties, who’ve knocked him around to the tune of a .295 weighted, multi-year TAv. Even so, he’s not bad fourth- or fifth-starter material, and he doesn’t have any of the stats that typically lead to large sums in arbitration. In Volstad and Travis Wood, the Cubs now have a couple of young starters with potential you can dream on, a commodity they lacked at the back of the rotation last season.”
  • Tom Tango also likes the deal for the Cubs, even if it means only that the value coming back to the Cubs was equal to what they sent out, because it means no more Zambrano.
  • BP’s Kevin Goldstein seems to be higher on Volstad than most, calling the righty a “very good candidate for a 2012 step forward.” Goldstein even went so far as to call Volstad the Marlins’ 5th best player age 25 or younger, and said, “Volstad is a fantastic sleeper selection for 2012 as he learns how to be a groundball pitcher. His ERA was up in 2011, but his walks were down, his strikeouts were up, and there is still a ceiling there.”
  • Marlins blog Fish Stripes reviews Volstad’s 2011 season, and sums it up in one word: disappointment. Volstad was valuable to the Fish, but barely, and doesn’t look primed to take the next step forward in 2012. This was written before the trade, obviously, so it’s not as though they’re being overly critical of a guy on the way out the door.
  • FanGraphs concludes that Volstad has been nearly as good as Zambrano over the past couple years, but comes without the headaches and with more team control.
  • jr5

    It seems like getting a guy like Volstad for Zambrano was the best case scenario. The no-trade clause, the huge 2012 contract, and the Cubs obvious need/desire to trade him had to really handcuff the front office; to turn Zambrano’s 2012 contract into years of a projectable, relatively young starting pitcher represents a win to me. Even if Volstad ends up bombing (or giving up bombs, I guess) then it was still a better risk for the Cubs than just releasing Zambrano outright.

  • Tonycampanathebasethief

    With Maholm and no trades as of right now what do u think our rotation and bullpen would look like?

    • 100 Years of Tears

      Garza, Dempster, Maholm, Wood, Volstad… although I’d be fine if Dempster found a new home. He’s gotta bounce back or get out. Wells is good if he gets through the first 2 innings without giving up a few bombs.

      Samardzija, Woody, Carpenter, and who knows who… Marmol scares the heck out of me as closer… or anything for that matter.

      • loyal100more

        true but i believe the return on dempster would be minimal at best.. however he is an inning eater and he could add a piece if dealt at the deadline.

      • mark

        In all likely hood we are not going to be competitive next year, so it’s the perfect time to take a chance on a bounce back season for marmol. it wasn’t that long ago he was one of, if not the most dominant pitchers in baseball. his slider was the definition of disgusting. anyways, if he tanks, at least it wasn’t in a year where we could have gone somewhere. I’m willing to give him another shot. at least right now.

  • Daniel Guerra

    Personally, I think the front office did as good as they could with the Zambrano-Volstad deal. Volstad will be a fine back end of a rotation guy for the many years and he still has upside. Zambrano is on the decline and a heartburn waiting to happen with no relief.

    The Cubs will need front line starters though to compete with the best. Maybe we get one or two young starting prospects in the Garza deal? Maybe the free agency of 2013? How about the draft? Right now, I believe the Cubs don’t have any front line starters besides Garza.

  • Spencer

    I’m not buying the argument that Volstad and Zambrano have equal ability.

    • Brett

      In that FanGraphs article, the writer concedes that, if you go back further than two years, Zambrano starts blowing Volstad away. It’s hard to judge their relative ability, given Zambrano’s shortened, and decline-filled 2011 season. A one-year fluke? The result of years of arm wear? His fastball decline and worsening stuff tend to suggest Zambrano isn’t going to be the guy he was three years ago ever again. But I can certainly buy the argument that he’s a better candidate for a good 2012 season than Volstad.

      • loyal100more

        i think being on a new team factors into that as well.

        • Boogens

          I think this being his last year before free agency will have a bigger impact on his performance than a change of scenery.

          • loyal100more

            i dont think he plays after next year. your statment could be oh so true though

  • Matt

    While Zambrano might end up being statistically better this year than Volstad, I don’t see that continuing in the 2-4 years after this one. Volstad isn’t a 1-for-1 replacement of Zambrano in the pitching rotation this year. What he is, is good, young depth at the back end of the rotation. I’d personally much rather have the three-some of Maholm, Wood and Volstad at the back end of my rotation than Zambrano, Doug Davis and Rodrigo Lopez, which we were continually subjected to this past season. And that’s just looking at the objective numbers. Go beneath the surface and consider Zambrano’s inability to play nice with others and I say this move is a small win this year for the Cubs and a big win for them in the years to come.

  • Toosh

    Good call on Larkin, Brett! I didn’t think he’d make it.

  • bluekoolaidaholic

    I just hope that Bosio can teach him what he needs in order to be better against lefties and what happens to those huge fly balls at Wrigley.
    As far as replacing Z goes, frankly, I’m surprised that team Thoyer got anything in return, let alone a pitching prospect (project?).
    Go Jed, you da man!

    • loyal100more

      they were gonna trade him for a hotdog but we asked for sour krout in the deal and bam it was dead

  • loyal100more

    if z has an improved year in florida, that says nothing about the type of year we have if hes in chicago… or the type of year he would have in chicago. the deal has been made with the best intentions of the club and i hope that all fans can understand and be ok with it.

    • Wilbur

      Good perspective …

  • sam

    MY take on Chris Volstad. First don’t ever let him pitch against Phillies this guy can be the first pitcher to give up the first homerun souvenir to Wrigley rooftop faithful ! but back to reality
    This guy is as tall as the Willis Tower and he is a gamer – protects his batters fights with the Brewers – I like him alone on those reasons. He is young

    things i don’t like about him he is gonna give up alot of home runs – Any team that has powerful 4-5-6 its gonna be exciting . batters hit a high avg against him he has a low walk ratio but that might be he is very hittable . He must have some movement on his fastball .cause he can put up the K but its against lower quality of players .

    This kid had no chance with the marlins and he would have be gone by next year. Start him when the wind in blowing in. convert him to a middle relief pitcher and pray the Cubs can trade him later

  • Drew

    Loyal- I whole-heartedly agree. Who knows, maybe Volstad ends up with the same numbers hes had in recent years, but it sure beats the heck out of another year of Zs hot-headed antics.

    • loyal100more

      really a soda and a hotdog for z sounded good. to actually get a player with some upside and a huge lack of couching in his young career… grate trade only if it nets Z outa chicago… if big V does anything ( a good bat boy would work) the trade works for me. so long Z and i really do wish the guy the best!

  • loyal100more

    boy am i a bad speller!

  • tex134

    There is no way with the way the current roster is designed that Zambrano would have survived the year. In that regard the trade is a win for the Cubs.

  • J.B. House

    Is it possible the cubs name two people off the 40 man as the two compensations.That would make room for Woody and Maholm.

    • Mick

      I thought I heard somewhere that the Padres aren’t going to be compensated. You bring up a good point though with the 40-man. What players are the Cubs going to designate for assignment when/if they sign Maholm and Kerry Wood? Do they need to designate Corpas and Sonnestine since their contracts have a minor league or major league option?

  • loyal100more

    possible but highly unlikely any roster guys will be sent as comp.

  • BetterNews

    Does anybody know the status of Robert Whitenack in the minors? Is there any chance the could be brought up in 2012? This guy seems to be “lights” out!

    • JulioZuleta

      Tommy John last year. He was dominant in a brief stint in AA. There’s no way he pitches in Chicago this year. He might not even begin rehab outings until June/July.

      • BetterNews

        That is a shame. Thanks for response JZ.

      • Luke

        Anymore they say 1 year is about the norm for recovering from Tommy John surgery, and his one year mark is in May (I think). June would be about right rehab starts, probably in Arizona initially.

        • BetterNews


        • JulioZuleta

          Yeah, here’s hoping to a full recovery, and solid numbers to at least Daytona, if not Tennessee by the end of the year.

  • die hard

    every pitcher better be a good bunter or else Cubs wont score more than 2 runs a game

  • JasonB

    I agree with Lindbergh’s assessment and I also agree with Goldstein that he has some upside.  If he can learn how to get lefties out more consistently, he could be a more than serviceable pitcher and that xFIP of 3.64 that he posted in 2011 could become reality.  This assumes of course that he can maintain his gains in K/9 and BB/9 that he showed last year, particularly when runners are on base, which was something he struggled with previously but appears to have corrected last year.  If he can’t figure out lefties, then we stick him in the pen and use him exclusively against righties (is there such a thing as a ROOGY?)

    Volstad has some upside that is evident in his peripheral numbers so I’m hoping we can cure what ails him.

  • Cliffy

    Kaplan saying just now Cubs are pretty far along getting a deal done with Tigers regarding Garza trade. Stay tuned.

    • loyal100more

      any details? aside from we gotta get jacob turner and…

  • Cliffy

    QT @Rotoworld_BB: Cubs and Tigers talking Matt Garza trade

  • loyal100more

    here comes that darn garza anxiety again… pull the trigger!

  • Spoda17

    I love the Volstad trade no matter what.  If Z has a good year in Miami, good for him, If Volstad has a bad year in Chicago… oh well.  Z had to go… I like the comment about even for a hotdog and a beer…

    I do think Volstad will work out and be a good Cub.  Love the trade.

    • loyal100more

      we get the prospect of peace and happyness in the club house that in a rebuilding process would have brought out the wort in big Z. good luck to the very satisfied especialy sence i dont have to pay him to take a hike.

  • loyal100more

    nick castellanos looks to be at least a full year if not more away from any major league action. i guess the general opinion on turner is he is ready… but this latest reports there will be other players involved with those two being the main pieces. promising

    • JR1908

      From everything i have seen if the Cubs get Turner and Castellanos, they will have to give up another decent prospect in the deal. If they get Castellanos, Vitters may be out..

  • cubsnivy56

    What does anybody know about Bosio?  I have seen a few people mention him but the question was never answered?  Can he help Marmol?  Or Volstad?

  • jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    Ok. Looking at it unbiasedly. I would not have offered this guy a contract as a free agent. He does not qualify as a Theo bounce back guy, because has never been successful to start with. I see wood has having more “upside”, a phrase I hate. I feel you either have it or don’t once you reach the bigs, and this guy clearly doesn’t. There is a reason why the Marlins gave us this guy. Look the Marking GM comments. He basicly said if Z doesn’t work out, all it cost us was this. Not exactly a ringing endorsement. He our 8th best starter option at this point. Garza, Maholm, Dempster, Wood, wells, Smarj and McNutt are all better options. Like I said, hopefully he turns into a Ace, but I don’t even see him as a decent back end guy.