The Most Expensive Letter in the Alphabet

Updated – 9:55pm with Information from Carlos Zambrano on WGN TV

People do not normally associate a cost with a certain letters of the alphabet, but for the Cubs, that is not the case. Currently Z is the most expensive letter because it stands for Zambrano and it going to take hoards of money to keep this letter in the portfolio. While the Cubs were spending record money on acquisitions this off-season, fans were still focused on the future of Carlos. When Chris Carpenter afforded the Cardinals with the proverbial ‘hometown discount’ many fans were hopeful that Zambrano would do the same. However, after ridiculous contracts for average pitchers were dolled out, the opportunity for a discount became less likely. The two sides were far apart in arbitration numbers, $15.5 million to $11.025 million and as the court date approaches, February 20th, the chances of a long-term contract before Opening Day are diminishing.

For every Carpenter there is a Gil Meche, Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis. Last week I fell of my chair when reading about Bronson Arroyo’s two-year, $25 million dollar extension. WHAT? $25 million for Arroyo? Sure, he lead the league in innings pitched and had a rather solid first half while finishing the last month rather well, but he is not a number one in the rotation. Plus, he feasted on the worst team in the division last year as well as feasting at the plate against Glooroo. The point is that pitcher’s salaries are ridiculously inflated, but they are not going away any time soon. At the onset of the off-season, I think most fans would have agreed that it would take $13-$15 million a season for four or five years to secure Zambrano. Now, $18 million a year for 7 years sounds realistic and that is just nauseating. There are many to blame, perhaps none more than Scott Boras, but the fact remains, this the new playing field and you need stacks upon stacks of Benjamins just to play ball.

I, like you, am a fan, and no Alfonso Soriano or Ted Lilly will help douse the flames if Zambrano skips town after the ’07 season. We have spent the last few months lauding The Hendry and if misses this one, the fans will have him out of town in a manner that would make even Dusty say, “That was fast, dude!” The truth is that Z is the cornerstone of this team; he is a losing streak killer, the emotional fortitude and most importantly, a bastion of hope.

In 2003 I publicly stated that he would be the best of the Big 3, Prior and Wood being the other two. At the time, no one agreed while watching Prior offer a Cy Young caliber season and Wood winning the NLDS MVP award. I am not saying I am the grand prognosticator, but his talent has been obvious for years. At the Convention, while discussing the strategy of trading prospects, Hendry said, “You always have to be careful, heck, in 2003, you all wanted me to trade Zambrano for Shea Hillenbrand.” He was right and his point was extremely effective. Where would this organization be if that trade had occurred? I, for one, do not want to know. With that said, he needs to be re-signed, at all costs and that is exactly what it is going to take.

Zambrano has not made it a secret that he wants ‘Barry Zito Money’ and if the Cubs are not willing to write that check, one of the New York teams will be more than happy to as soon he files for free agency next November. A few weeks back there was a report in the Chicago Tribune that stated Zambrano was willing to play out the season under his current contract if he and the Cubs could not negotiate a long-term deal before the season started. Regardless if Z gets his new deal or not, the Cubs must avoid going to arbitration with him.

Zambrano’s fire is what makes him the pitcher he is and while no player is perfect, the Cubs have little if any ground if the two sides have to include a third party to settle their differences. The last time the Cubs went to arbitration was 1993 and the player’s name was Mark Grace….avoiding arbitration, at literally all costs, is a must at this point. Zambrano is an elite pitcher and his numbers are more than comparable, if not better, than most in the major leagues.

Carlos Zambrano’s Stats

  • 2006 – Record – 16-7
  • ERA – 3.41
  • Games – 33
  • Innings Pitched – 214.0
  • Hits Allowed – 162
  • Runs Allowed – 91
  • Earned Runs – 81
  • Strikeouts – 210
  • Walks – 115
  • WHIP – 1.29
  • Opponents Avg. – .208
  • K/BB Ratio – 1.88
  • Career – Record – 64-42
  • ERA – 3.29
  • WHIP – 1.28
  • Opponents Avg. – .224
  • K/BB Ratio – 1.94

Born – 06.01.1981

Zambrano is coming off his second 16 win season if his career. In 2006 he posted his second highest era of his career (3.41 in 2006, 3.66 in 2002) and tied his second most innings pitched in a single season for his career (214.0 in 2006, 223.1 in 2005). Zambrano has logged at least 200 innings in his last 4 seasons. The 20 dingers he gave up was the second most in his career (21 in 2005) and he set career highs in strikeouts (210) and walks allowed (115). At the same time he set a career low in hits allowed with 162 in 214 innings. Zambrano’s 1.29 WHIP was his highest since 2003 (1.32). While Z had a Cy Young type season for the worst team in the league (can anyone say Steve Carlton), he has to take the next step and cut down on the amount of free passes he seemingly allowed on a regular basis last season. Some feel that his participation in the WBC led to his struggles early on last season and led to him not posting a win in April.

Carlos has been the workhorse for the Cubs during the absence of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood and some have wondered when, not if, Zambrano will develop arm problems of his own. Dusty and his staff allowed Z to throw a lot of pitches for two horrible Cubs teams and the concern of the front office must be about his durability, because no one can question his desire to win. Jim Hendry must put this behind his club as soon as possible, otherwise all the money he and the Tribune Company have spent will be for nothing.

Barry Zito’s Stats

  • 2006 – Record – 16-10
  • ERA – 3.83
  • Games – 34
  • Innings Pitched – 221.0
  • Hits Allowed – 211
  • Runs Allowed – 99
  • Earned Runs – 94
  • Strikeouts – 151
  • Walks – 99
  • WHIP – 1.40
  • Opponents Avg. – .257
  • K/BB Ratio – 1.40
  • Career - Record – 102-63
  • ERA – 3.55
  • WHIP – 1.25
  • Opponents Avg. – .232
  • K/BB Ratio – 1.96

Born – 05.13.1978

Chris Carpenter’s Stats

  • 2006 – Record – 15-8
  • ERA – 3.09
  • Games – 32
  • Innings Pitched – 221.2
  • Hits Allowed – 194
  • Runs Allowed – 81
  • Earned Runs – 76
  • Strikeouts – 184
  • Walks – 43
  • WHIP – 1.07
  • Opponents Avg. – .235
  • K/BB Ratio – 4.28
  • Career – Record – 100-68
  • ERA – 4.09
  • WHIP – 1.07
  • Opponents Avg. – .267
  • K/BB Ratio – 2.51

Born – 04.27.1975

Bronson Arroyo’s Stats

  • 2006 – Record – 14-11
  • ERA – 3.29
  • Games – 35
  • Innings Pitched – 240.2
  • Hits Allowed – 222
  • Runs Allowed – 98
  • Earned Runs – 88
  • Strikeouts – 184
  • Walks – 64
  • WHIP – 1.19
  • Opponents Avg. – .243
  • K/BB Ratio – 2.88
  • Career – Record – 47-44
  • ERA – 4.21
  • WHIP – 1.31
  • Opponents Avg. – .260
  • K/BB Ratio – 2.17

Born – 02.24.1977

Recent Zambrano Related Articles concerning his contract status on the CCO….

Stay Classy Cubs Fans!!!

Update – Carlos Zambrano was on WGN News at 9 on Monday night and he said he is ready to sign with the Cubs and he does not want to talk about contracts during the season. He went on to say if the Cubs do not sign him before the season starts he is leaving at the end of the year.

According to the interview on WGN, the Cubs are on the clock and it sounds like it is up to them to sign Zambrano to a new contract or risk losing him.

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