Now that we've had some time to calm down after yesterday's announcement that Carlos Zambrano will be moving to the bullpen, let's take a look at the move objectively and perhaps we can see the logic behind the move.
Oh, I've heard all the arguments against it:
200 innings of Zambrano is more valuable than 80 innings!
You don't pay a guy $18 million to be a setup reliever!
And of course, the general: Piniella is crazy! This is the stupidest move in Cubs history! Or, as Phil Rogers says, "this is wrong on so many fronts!"
The fact is that the Cubs bullpen is in shambles and in particular the pitchers performing the 8th inning duties. As Gordon Wittenmyer points out, the 8 Cubs pitchers who have pitched in the 8th inning for the Cubs have a combined 10.80 ERA. Overall, the Cubs pen has blown 4 saves and are a combined 1-6 with a 6.14 ERA.
Something had to be done to shore up the bullpen and fast. In fact, the Cubs got so desperate, that they even scouted former Brewer Braden Looper (you know, the guy who had a sparkling 5.22 ERA last year).
Since Jim Hendry has been unable to find a righthanded reliever on the trade market and missed out on the righthanded free agent relievers over the winter (how's that John Grabow signing looking now?), Piniella was forced to make a gutsy and unpopular move.
With Ted Lilly coming back this weekend, someone had to be moved to the bullpen. A lot of people are saying that Carlos Silva or Tom Gorzelanny should have been moved to the pen as neither are as good a starter as Zambrano. However, neither of them is as good an option as a reliever as Zambrano either.
Silva is a sinkerballer with a fastball in the 80's. He's not the kind of guy that can come in and strike a guy out to get your team out of a jam. Gorzelanny is also not an overpowering pitcher, plus the Cubs already have two capable lefties in the pen (well, maybe just one in James Russell, but that's another story).
What about Ryan Dempster, some might say. Well, he IS the ace of this team so far and Piniella would truly be crazy to move him. Randy Wells could have been an option, be he doesn't have the experience that Zambrano does.
That leaves you with Zambrano, who has struggled some this year as a starter, so maybe a move to the pen is just the thing to wake him up.
In any case, the Zambrano setup experiment could begin as early as tomorrow night and Cubs fans everywhere will be watching, if only to say "I told you so!"