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Let the Zambrano-to-the-Marlins Rumors Begin

September 27, 2011

One of the many things that often puzzles me is how easily mentioning an idea can quickly balloon into an actual rumor. Frequently one of the many beat writers might toss an idea out there – be it their own idea or one “suggested by a source” – and suddenly we’ll see other bloggers and media outlets link to that idea as if it’s the basis for a move that’s about to happen or is at least being discussed. Sometimes these ideas turn out to be valid, either because we hear more sources and more rumors supporting the initial idea or because ultimately we see the deal actually completed. But, more often than not, these runaway rumors turn out to be nothing.

With last night and today’s news that Ozzie Guillen has been released from the final year of his contract with the Chicago White Sox so that he can sign a reported four year deal to lead the soon-to-be Miami Marlins starting next season, some speculation has already begun thanks to Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Sun Times. In his latest post, which has already been linked to by MLBTR, he states the following:

Perhaps the only positive of the night for the Cubs was White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen leaving to ostensibly take the same job in Florida, which means the Cubs have a ready suitor to take Carlos Zambrano off their hands this offseason.

That’s it. That is all Sullivan said regarding Zambrano’s situation aside from reiterating what we’ve all been hearing for the past few weeks – that Zambrano likely won’t be a part of the Cubs roster in 2012. He doesn’t cite any sources or even clarify that this is merely his idea. The statement is presented as if it were fact, which we cannot know until time permits.

Yet, the simple statement from a reputable writer has suddenly turned into a legitimate rumor. To most, this is no big deal. But to some, such as myself, it puzzles me to a degree. It also poses the question, where is the cutoff between speculation and rumor?

I’m likely not the best equipped person to answer such a question. In fact, I’m not sure there even is an answer because really it’s all relative. Essentially we’re left at a standstill – where the line is so fine between speculation and rumor that it’s crossed so frequently we don’t even notice.

Despite my disagreement with Sullivan’s statement being treated as a legit rumor, I do happen to agree with the general idea he is proposing. Yet, my own ideas on the subject likely vary from most we may hear/read over the coming weeks.

It has long been believed that one of the focuses that the Marlins will place on the upcoming offseason will be on finding another starting pitcher to bolster the rotation. While Zambrano fits that need, it does remain to be seen exactly how effective he can be over the course of a full game. Over the past three seasons, Zambrano has appeared in 88 games (72 starts) and pitched a total of 444.2 innings. That’s an average of 148 innings per season and just 5 innings per start. Once considered a workhorse who could pitch deep into games, Zambrano just simply isn’t the pitcher he was a few seasons ago and ultimately, not the best starting option that the Marlins – or any other team – could pursue this winter.

Instead, I think Zambrano could fill another hole that the Marlins may need to address this offseason. Over the past week or two we’ve heard bits and pieces of the story surrounding Leo Nunez, the Marlins closer the past three seasons. Nunez recently admitted to the Marlin organization and Major League Baseball – reportedly at the request of his dying father – that he has been playing under a false identity. His name is actually Juan Carlos Oviedo. It remains to be seen what type of action will be taken against Oviedo so we don’t know what his status will be for next season and beyond. Even if he is reinstated without severe penalty, the possibly exists that the Marlins might prefer to trade him rather than pay him the raise he will likely receive through arbitration.

So, the team might be in need of a closer. Could Zambrano fill that role? We don’t know if he can, or will, succeed by being moved into a closer’s role. Zambrano has an eclectic personality at times, which is largely why many have speculated since the summer that he could wind up playing for Guillen. He’s an intense player, a competitor, and he might be able to handle the mindset needed to be a team’s closer. He also has the ability to handle the role – considering he’s been known to have a strong fastball and decent secondary pitches. Perhaps only needing to come in and get a few outs will revitalize him and let him avoid the problem he’s faced in recent years, where he’s been largely predictable and as a result very hittable as teams move through the order more than once in a game.

At this point all that we know with any degree of certainty is that Guillen will be the manager for the Marlins next season. We don’t know if Oviedo will be permitted to continue his career in MLB. We don’t know if that will be with the Marlins. We also don’t know what’s to become of Zambrano. It seems likely he’ll be traded, with a strong belief that the Cubs will be willing to pay a significant portion of the $18 Million he is due in 2012. But to who? And to fill what role?

Zambrano to the Marlins to be their closer – that’s just my own speculation. Perhaps time will tell if it balloons into a rumor.

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