The Rundown: Big Z Eyes Comeback, Kris Bryant Trade Rumors Flying, Josh Donaldson Free Agent Profile

Not much Cubs news over the weekend, but I did come across this: Carlos Zambrano is pitching in the Venezuelan Winter League. This has been confirmed by his agent agent, Barry Praver, who told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune that Big Z would like to pitch in the major leagues again.

The big righty has reportedly lost 30 pounds since his earlier playing days and after pitching in the Mexican League earlier this year, he decided he may be good enough to take another shot. He’s still just 37 years old, believe it or not.

But let’s pump the brakes on Zambrano before this car gets rolling too far down the hill because his results have been fairly terrible thus far. He’s appeared six times, throwing 12 1/3 innings and allowing 25 hits, 16 runs, and recording nearly as many walks (two) as strikeouts (four).

Remembered largely for his tumultuous personality, Big Z posted some stellar career numbers. He tossed nearly 2,000 innings across parts of 12 seasons, putting up a 120 ERA+ and notching 132 wins. From 2004-07, he was 62-34 and averaged 5.4 wins against replacement.

The switch-hitting Zambrano was decent at the plate, too, hitting 24 home runs in his major league career.

Free Agent Profile: Josh Donaldson

Donaldson missed a vast majority of 2018 with a strained left calf, an injury that will likely cost him a multi-year contract. The Blue Jays traded the slugging third baseman to the Indians at the trade deadline, giving Donaldson just a month to prove himself. He hit .280 with .400 OBP and three homers, posting an impressive 146 OPS+ in the Tribe’s final 16 games. That’s pretty representative of his career numbers. Donaldson is just three years removed from being named the AL MVP and had averaged 37 home runs per season in the three seasons prior to his injury. His defense is solid and he offers a middle-of-the-order presence when healthy.

A one-year contract seems about right for Donaldson given his age (33 in December) and limited playing time last season. The Cardinals look like the favorite on the surface, as they have had great success resurrecting careers of established stars, but I don’t see St. Louis offering anything more than one year. The Indians may smell a bargain and offer a two- or three-year deal. I’ll lean slightly more toward the Cardinals getting Donaldson on a one-year pact since Cleveland is trying to reduce payroll.

Handicapping Donaldson:

  1. Cardinals
  2. Indians
  3. Braves
  4. White Sox

Cubs News & Notes

Monday Stove

It’s Awards Week for MLB and tonight the NL and AL Rookies of the Year will be announced. The NL figures to be a tight race between Ronald Acuña Jr. of the Braves and Juan Soto of the Nationals. In the American League, Shohei Ohtani of the Angels seems to be the favorite, though the Yankees’ Miguel Andujar shouldn’t be overlooked.

The MLB All-Stars picked up a 7-3 win over Japan on Sunday. Yadier Molina went 3-for-5 with a home run while Mitch Haniger and Whit Merrifield finished with two hits each. Japan leads the series 2-1.

Mariners’ starting pitcher James Paxton has reportedly drawn the attention of several teams, including the Astros.

The Braves may be interested in free agent outfielder Michael Brantley and catcher Wilson Ramos. There is nearly “zero chance” that Brantley will return to the Indians in 2019.

The Indians may be facing more roster turnover than any of the teams that made the 2018 playoffs.

The White Sox are rumored to be pursuing Harper and Manny Machado.

The Yankees are said to be doing an extensive background check on Machado.

Everything in the Harper sweepstakes has gone exactly as you should have expected it to so far, and you should expect it to continue to go on for quite a while longer.

The Athletics made an attempt to sign CC Sabathia and may turn their attention to trading for Yankees SP Sonny Gray.

Recently retired Twins catcher Joe Mauer has a decent argument for Hall of Fame induction.

A look at potential trade destinations for Diamondbacks’ slugging first baseman Paul Goldschmidt.

Extra Innings

Deputy MLB commissioner Dan Halem blames bad weather on the 2018 drop in attendance, but the two teams with the most severe attendance collapse – Toronto and Miami – play in domes. Can we continue to deny that there is a connection between the rebuilding process (i.e. losing a lot) and low attendance? It seems farcical to believe that weather is the main culprit here. All six teams that pretty much tanked last season (Marlins, Orioles, White Sox, Royals, Reds and Tigers) finished in the bottom third of attendance in baseball.

Yes, some franchises that win on at least a semi-regular basis suffer with a poor fanbase, but other mitigating factors are at play, such as outdated stadiums, for example. The Reds had their lowest attendance since 1984 and in the past five years, they have finished last in the NL Central four times and are a cumulative 124 games under .500. They have finished bottom five in NL attendance in each of those seasons.

Monday Walk Up Song

Sultans of Swing by Dire Straits. Or, what they would call the Cubs lineup if the team signed Harper.

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