Carlos Zambrano will participate in the Venezuelan winter league in an effort to catch up on all the pitching he missed while suspended by the Cubs, with Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune reporting that he’s scheduled to make nine starts for Los Caribes de Anzoategui.
Zambrano’s last game action came way back on August 12, but he’s slated to throw a simulated game tomorrow in preparation for his first start Sunday.
New team president Theo Epstein has said that he wants to meet with Zambrano to discuss his Cubs future, so by making regular starts in Venezuela the 31-year-old right-hander is basically auditioning for a possible trade. Zambrano is owed $18 million in the final season of a five-year, $91.5 million contract and has the ability to block any move.
Free agent right-hander Henderson Alvarez signed a deal with the Tigres de Quintana Roo of the Mexican Baseball League earlier this week, FanRag Sports’ Jon Heyman reported Friday. The righty wasn’t necessarily too fringey a player to hack it in the big leagues, but there were no MLB takers in attendance during his showcase in Venezuela last month and he clearly felt it best to try his luck elsewhere.
The 27-year-old’s last major league gig came with the Phillies, for whom he delivered a 4.30 ERA, 6.8 BB/9 and 3.7 SO/9 over 14 2/3 innings in 2017. While he’s not too far removed from his first and only All-Star bid in 2014, he was besieged by shoulder issues in 2015 and 2016 and underwent season-ending surgeries as a result.
That added injury risk, coupled with the fact that he hasn’t pitched more than 22 innings in a single season since 2014, may have been too much for major league teams to take on this spring. Assuming he steers clear of further injuries, however, a return to the majors may not be entirely out of the question in years to come.