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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.

W.o.w.

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.

  • jstraw

    Zambrano. Not. Gonna. Happen.

    I. Hope.

  • http://andcounting.adamkellogg.com AndCounting

    If baseball beat reporters were given the standardized tests elementary school students have to take, I’m pretty sure Bruce Levine would score somewhere between the 1st and 2nd grade levels on the Reading Comprehension scale.

    Levine is a tireless worker who spends 80% of his waking life with a microphone in the face of some major Chicago baseball figure, so I have to give him credit for delivering a ton of sound bytes our way. But when it comes to interpreting what people have said, he has absolutely no clue. When I hear him conduct an interview on Thursday and then hear his reaction to it on his Saturday morning radio show, I’m always astounded by the ridiculous conclusions he comes to. He basically has an idea of what he expects to hear from the player/manager/whoever, asks his question with that in mind, the person tells him, “No, I see through your stupid leading question,” and then Bruce takes that as confirmation of his suspicions.

    When I hear Bruce Levine’s voice, I now try to ignore everything he says to introduce the audio clip, then take in the audio clip for what it’s worth on its own, and then tune out the senseless Levinese that follows. I dismiss every trade rumor claim he is making right now as a rule of principle.

    • Ace

      I give him credit for continuing to toss stuff out there. Would be easy to be discouraged at this point.

  • Butcher

    If we’re trading Z, I’m assuming we’re in full rebuilding mode. Nothing else makes any sense.

  • KY CUBS FAN

    Trading Z is straight ridiculous. I have been completely against the Bradley signing, especially living in KY and watchin another free agent up the road in Cincy KILL everytime he came to Wrigley…Adam Dunn (.282/37 hr/99 RBI). We could’ve signed him and gotten a sub-par right fielder who produces, unlike Bradley.

  • Kerry

    I’ve always liked Zambrano but I think Ted Lilly is more deserving of the title of “Ace” this season.

    • Ace

      This season, Lilly and Wells have been much better than Zambrano. But projecting forward, there’s more reason to believe Zambrano will be the better pitcher next year.

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  • Mike

    ok, for one, zambrano is not one of the best pitchers in the game. i’m not going to sit here and say that when he’s on with his pitches that he’s not a top 5 or 10 pitcher in the league, because he without question has the stuff to be one of the best. but common, if you watch him pitch you know that his arm is worn down by september, he’s a total headcase, and he’s not a pitcher i would rely on in october. they need to get rid of him, he’ll only add to the october woes of the cubs if he comes back next year and we make the playoffs. unfortunately, i think a lot of GM’s feel this way about him, and being as overpaid as he is (and not just a couple million, he is about 6 or 7 million overpaid) i dont think anybody will take on his contract with the issues he’s had late in the season

    • Ace

      Zambrano has been quite good in the post-season, no?

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