As the Marlins pursue left-hander Mark Buehrle at the top of the free-agent market, here are two lesser names to consider as they seek to upgrade their rotation:
Carlos Zambrano. Livan Hernandez.
Miami has seemed a logical destination for “Big Z” ever since the Marlins named his friend and fellow Venezuelan, Ozzie Guillen, their new manager.
Zambrano, 30, has a full no-trade clause, so he could effectively tell the Cubs, “the Marlins or else.” Of course, he can’t simply snap his fingers and make such a deal happen, not when he is owed $18 million in 2012.
Still, the Braves paid $10 million of Derek Lowe’s $15 million salary to trade him to the Indians. Zambrano, for all of his off-field histrionics, actually had a lower ERA than Lowe last season (4.82-5.05). If the Cubs turned him into a $5 million pitcher, the way the Braves did with Lowe, perhaps the Marlins or another team would bite.
Hernandez, who turns 37 on Feb. 20, would be strictly a fifth starter, chewing up innings. He will not return to the Nationals, who are deep in starting pitching and pursuing high-end free agents such are right-hander Roy Oswalt. But a return to Miami would complete his career circle – he began his major-league career with the Marlins in 1996.
In a perfect world, the Marlins would sign Buehrle and find another starter who is better than Zambrano or Hernandez. But if they strike out with their top choices, it wouldn’t be a shock if Zambrano and/or Hernandez became options.