So here’s a thought exercise for the day before the Dodgers send Chad Billingsley out against Yovani Gallardo this evening: would you trade Juan Uribe for Carlos Zambrano, the undeniably-talented-but-maybe-Milton Bradley-level-crazy Cub starter who is currently fighting a suspension handed down when he cleaned out his locker following an ejection over the weekend? (Let’s be clear: what follows is entirely speculation. This is not a rumor or anything close to one, just something interesting to spend an afternoon on.)
Tim Dierkes, Cubs fan and mastermind of MlbTradeRumors, runs through the list of “my problem for your problem” deals the Cubs could make to be rid of Zambrano - suggestions include Barry Zito, Aaron Rowand, Chone Figgins, and Adam Dunn – and the Dodgers, along with everyone’s favorite overweight infielder, make an appearance: (link h/t Jon Weisman)
Zambrano and $2MM to the Dodgers for Juan Uribe. If the Dodgers are having buyer’s remorse on Uribe, this could be a way to wash their hands of the deal after 2012 instead of ’13. But since Uribe still has some positive value, the Cubs would have to add a player or additional money.
First, the money: after making $5m this year, Uribe still has $16m coming to him over the next two seasons. Zambrano gets $17.875m this year, and $18m in 2012, along with a 2013 vesting option that has almost no chance of activating. Since this season is largely done, that’s where Dierkes’ suggestion of $2m comes in – to bridge the gap between Uribe’s $16m and Zambrano’s $18m.
So if the money is a wash, which player is preferable? Uribe, 33 next March, has had something like two decent seasons in the last five, and has been a complete disaster as a Dodger, though he still flashes a good glove, and both teams are looking to go with a good young shortstop prospect next year while having no answers at 2B and 3B. Zambrano, 30 as of this June 1, is probably not as good as the reputation he gained while putting up shiny win-loss records for good Chicago clubs in the early and middle part of the decade, but generally has a FIP in the 3.50-4.50 range, and don’t forget that this is a world where Ted Lilly picked up $33m guaranteed. If you’re talking about talent vs talent, the younger pitcher with the better track record beats the older infielder with a mediocre history nearly every time.
The catch, of course, is that Zambrano is a lunatic, while Uribe has no such baggage. The list of his trangressions are long and varied, and the possibility that the Cubs may be done with him depreciates his trade value, and there’s more than a few teams who wouldn’t think about touching him. I’m not sure I’d place the Dodgers in that category, however; for all the things that we’ve seen go wrong this year, clubhouse harmony has not been one of them. This is, by all accounts, a solid group of characters and Don Mattingly has done a good job of keeping the team on track through a trying season. In addition, this a team that in recent years survived Manny Ramirez and successfully took on another troubled pitcher, Vicente Padilla.
The question then would be, is the money better spent on a pitcher or an infielder, and there’s the tough part. Hiroki Kuroda may or may not return in 2012 – doing this deal would all but ensure that he wouldn’t – and Rubby De La Rosa is out following Tommy John surgery, so adding another arm would be nice to prevent rushing guys like Nathan Eovaldi and Allen Webster. On the other hand, this is a Dodger infield that has zero guaranteed starters for 2012; James Loney, Casey Blake, Jamey Carroll, and Aaron Miles could all be gone, and Dee Gordon has yet to prove that he has either the health or the ability to be the shortstop for a full season. Trading Uribe would further weaken the already tenuous infield depth, and so maybe it’s better to try to keep Uribe and hang on to Kuroda, rather than turn Uribe into Zambrano and say so long to Hiroki.
Two sides to this proposal, clearly: which way do you lean?