The facts don't lie. The Cubs are paying for top flight performance from a
pitcher who has the skills to be a big winner. However, Zambrano's performance does not warrant such a big contract and his 18 million dollar annual salary is one
of the deals that is limiting financial flexibility for the front office. Talk to the scouts that attend every game the Cubs play and they all bemoan his incredible physical talents and lack of productivity for a guy whose reputation is that of a superstar.
Zambrano has won all of 7 games this season. That's it. He has had incidents with a Gatorade machine, been suspended for his outburst towards a home plate umpire, and has had two stints on the disabled list. Seven wins for 18 million dollars and enough headaches for management to drive them crazy.
Check out Zambrano's contract terms and you will see that the Cubs have done their part in paying him to be a star. He has not lived up to his end of the bargain though and he has no one to blame but himself. He cannot control his temper and those who observe his antics on a day to day basis know he is far from the superstar pitcher that some believe he is.
Now look, I understand that this season hasn't been exactly easy for Cubs fans. I'm a Met fan, so in many ways, I feel your pain. So many guys who the Cubs depended on to come through big this season have been disappointments, and as a result, the Cubs have not pulled away from the rest of the pack like they should have.
And blaming Carlos Zambrano is a very easy thing to do. Kaplan mentions all of Zambrano's transgressions this season: the stints on the DL, the incident with the Gatorade cooler, and the eruption towards the home plate umpire. Obviously, this has been a rough season for Zambrano for a multitude of reasons.
However, is Carlos Zambrano the most overpaid player in baseball? Absolutely not. We all know that....all of us besides Kaplan.
We can all admit that Zambrano's 2009 season has been a disappointment. But at the same time, if you look at the numbers, you'll see that when Zambrano has been the field, he's been quite good this season. Sure Zambrano only has seven wins this season, but his ERA is a very respectable 3.35, his strikeout rate his up, and his ERA+ is a solid 131. The downside with Zambrano is clear: his WHIP is up, he's walking too many, and most importantly, he's not staying on the field.
But the bottom line: his performance has been good. If you don't think his performance is "ace caliber" that's fine, but Zambrano's 2009 numbers still make him one of the Cubs best pitchers this season.
Would Kaplan consider Jake Peavy one of the most overpaid players in baseball because he's dealt with injuries this season? I don't think so.
Or how about Roy Oswalt? Here is a guy who is getting paid over $15 million this season and only has six wins? Absolutely not.
The bottom line is that you cannot say the Carlos Zambrano is the most overpaid player in baseball because his performance is still well above average. It's frustrating that Zambrano's been unable to stay healthy this season, but calling him "the most overpaid" based on wins and other incidents is foolish.
Update: Iar from wezen-ball.com made a great point in the comments about Zambrano not even being the most overpaid player ON THE CUBS. Check it out:
"I think the real question is, how can someone covering the Cubs say that Zambrano is most overpaid player in baseball when he's not even the most overpaid player on his team? Ask anyone whose contract they'd rather have, Zambrano or Soriano, and I'd put some good money down that it's Zambrano by a mile..."
Update #2: Bill from The Daily Something.com chimes in with even more evidence to suggest that Carlos Zambrano is not even close to being the most overpaid player in baseball.
"Wow, that's terrible. Great find. This guy has absolutely no clue what he's talking about. According to FanGraphs (and I don't really trust this part of it, but whatever), Zambrano has been worth between (approximately) $12 and $15M every year for the last five years, and is on pace for about $14M this year. So, overpaid, sure, but I bet there are 50 guys in the majors right now who are more grossly overpaid than that (yes, like Soriano. Or Bradley, at least in percentage terms)."
Excellent, excellent points, guys. Keep the great comments coming!