The Chicago Cubs 2009 season has certainly been a disappointment. Of course, it’s not quite over yet, but that’s not stopping the Cubs from discussing 2010.
“We haven’t talked about next year as of yet,” Piniella said. “We want to continue to focus on our games now and this season. However, we are going to meet, probably when we go to San Francisco, and talk about next year’s team.” ESPN Chicago.
Fair enough. And here’s where the report, from Bruce Levine, devolves into the whole Cubs-need-speed crap. But then it segues into something interesting.
I asked Piniella what some of those needs will be when the management group gathers to talk about next season.
“We need a little speed at the top of our lineup,” he said. “We probably need another nice RBI bat as well, but that’s Jim’s [Hendry, the Cubs’ general manager] department. But if I’m asked, that’s what I think is appropriate.”
The team will most likely explore deals for outfielder Milton Bradley and starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano. Bradley has had a disappointing season and has a back-loaded contract for the last two years of his deal that will pay $23 million.
Zambrano has three years left at close to $50 million. He also has a complete no-trade clause over the life of the contract. However, the Cubs pitcher told me earlier in the season that if the team ever wanted to trade him, he wouldn’t stand in their way.
A trade of Milton Bradley would not shock anyone, outside of the fact that another team is interested in taking on the troubled, malproductive outfielder. Of course, the Cubs would have to eat as much as half of the remaining two years and more than $20 million remaining on Bradley’s deal. An American League team that can DH Bradley occasionally makes the most sense.
But to trade Zambrano? That would be a shocking move for the Cubs, despite the occasional rabble-rousing from local columnists. Carlos Zambrano, for all his childishness, remains one of the best starting pitchers in baseball. Would the Cubs really risk moving him? He may very well be overpaid – by no more than a couple million dollars (measley) – in today’s market, but there would be no shortage of teams eager to trade for him.
But where are the Cubs going to find another Zambrano?
Rich Harden is almost certain to leave after this year, and one would be foolish to count on Randy Wells repeating this year’s impressive debut.
Like it or lump it, until a better option comes in view, Carlos Zambrano is the best available starting pitcher for the Chicago Cubs next year. And look at that. He’s already a Cub.