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January 5, 2012

The BP First Take

Thursday, January 5

by Daniel Rathman

Five months ago, a disgruntled Carlos Zambrano left his final start of the 2011 season threatening to hang up his cleats, so it’s no surprise that he’s packing his bags and heading to Florida. But Big Z isn’t retiring: He’s taking over as the Marlins’ number-five starter. Miami acquired him from the Cubs for Chris Volstad.

The deal is a curious one from Miami’s perspective, even though Chicago will foot $15 million of Zambrano’s $18 million bill. Zambrano still has the talent to be an upgrade over Volstad—but that’s assuming he stays healthy and out of trouble, both significant question marks. With Volstad, there was little upside; with Zambrano, there is little certainty.

How will Big Z react if Hanley Ramirez does this while he is on the mound? Will the Gatorade cooler in the dugout be safe if Ozzie Guillen pulls Zambrano from a rough outing before the right-hander is ready to go? And will Logan Morrison know where to draw the line while tweeting about such a fiasco? Those are the questions you have to answer when you pair the league’s most hot-headed pitcher with its most short-tempered skipper, have a nonchalant superstar playing the hot corner, and use one of baseball’s most transparent players in left field.

Don’t get me wrong—the Marlins will be fun to watch, and even more fun to follow (pun intended). Their clubhouse is as eclectic as any in the league. But eclectic is a step away from explosive, and the marriage of Zambrano and Guillen is a ticking time bomb.

 Owner Jeffrey Loria gave Larry Beinfest newfound payroll flexibility this offseason, hoping that he could reel in enough big fish to contend with the NL East powerhouses as the team moves into a new stadium. Jose Reyes, Mark Buehrle, and Heath Bell furthered that cause. But the Marlins began by bringing in a clown to be their manager and, with the addition of Zambrano, they may not be a contender, but they are officially a three-ring circus.   

Daniel Rathman is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Daniel's other articles. You can contact Daniel by clicking here

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