Carlos Zambrano has a nutso player option . . . that could be serious trouble for baseball


We passed along word this morning that Carlos Zambrano is leaning towards retirement after 2012.  But as Buster Olney notes in his column today, Zambrano may have $19 million reasons to stick around for 2013:

He has an interesting player option that should be a heck of a big
carrot for him in the next couple of years. If Zambrano were to finish
in the top two in the Cy Young voting in 2011, or in the top four in
2012, then he has a $19 million player option that vests automatically.
Zambrano would have to hold his emotions and focus together for an
entire summer to make that happen, but he has great incentive to try, at
a time when a $19 million salary for a pitcher is something that has
become more and more difficult to obtain.

Longshot, I realize it. But as Olney also notes, Zambrano is 6-0 with a 1.59 ERA over his last eight starts. The skills are still there. It’s not outside the realm of possibility that he could throw together a really nice season.

And it wouldn’t have to be that nice. Sure, top two in the Cy Young voting in 2011 is a stretch, but top four in 2012 isn’t. Consider: Javier Vazquez was fourth in the 2009 Cy Young voting results. He got there on the power of ONE SECOND PLACE VOTE. You telling me that there isn’t one writer out there who if, say, Zambrano won 16 games by virtue of health and some good run support, wouldn’t throw him a vote if there is no clear pecking order (as was the case last year)?

Which, now that I think about it, is troubling as all hell.  One writer. One guy could be the difference between Zambrano retiring or the Cubs being on the hook for $19 million in 2013.  Yes, the whole point of the clause is reward good-but-not-necessarily-great pitching, but given some of the outlandish down-ballot awards voting we’ve seen in recent years, it’s possible that something fluky could happen and Zambrano could get his option even with a blah year.

I’ve mostly dismissed the arguments writers have made about not wanting to vote on awards for such reasons because I’ve never really thought it was likely for a vote or two to make such an impact (and because if the teams want to be stupid enough to let players make millions based on crazy baseball writer votes, God help them).

But then again, we’ve never had a team place such a large amount of money on a contract incentive that could be so easily attainable before either, and frankly, it gives me the willies.

Let’s end spring training now, you guys

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There’s a saying that goes “nothing good ever happens after 2AM.” It can also be said that nothing good ever happens after, say, week 5 or 6 of spring training.

Today, for instance, are a lot of inconsequential games. Those are neutral. Then there are a rash of these sorts of incidents which just went down today, all of which are bad:

Archer seems to be OK for now. Moncada walked off his thing and went back into the game. We’re still waiting to hear on Bumgarner and Ichiro. If there is anything serious with them we’ll update as we learn things.

But really, guys: Spring Training is too long. Even in a year like this one, when it’s a tad shorter than usual because of an early start to the regular season. Everyone who was gonna get their timing down well enough to make a big league roster has already done so. If someone isn’t healthy and in playing shape now, they’re not gonna be six days from now for Opening Day. The cake, as they say, is baked.

All that can happen is possessed-by-the-devil baseballs attacking unsuspecting players and injuring them in meaningless exhibitions. Let’s cease all baseball now until the regular season starts. Out of an abundance of caution.