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Is he or isn’t he?

That’s what the Cublogoverse is trying to figure out today about Chicago Cubs’ ace (yes, he is an ace) Carlos Zambrano’s availability. A few days ago, SI’s Jon Heyman started a firestorm when he tweeted that Zambrano was “eminently available.” We questioned his use of the word “eminently” there, and sure enough, one day later he recanted, calling Zambrano trade rumors a “time waster,” and describing a Mets-Cubs Zambrano trade as a “pipe dream.”

But then yesterday, the New York Post ran a story stating that “[t]wo AL officials say the Cubs are definitely dangling Carlos Zambrano.” The article went on to note, however, that Zambrano is comfortable where he is, and would be unlikely to waive his no trade clause.

So with the rumors swirling, the media went straight to the source: Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry. Surely Hendry could squash this with a simple statement. Carlos is our guy. We love him. We want to keep him. We would never trade him! Easy, right?

But curiously, Hendry responded like this: “He’s got full no-trade rights, which he negotiated into his contract. I fully expect him to come back in 2010 and pitch like the old ‘Big Z.’”

What the hell? That sounds like the response you’d give when asked about a guy that everyone knows you don’t want on your club. Are you considering trading Carlos Zambrano? He’s got a no-trade clause, which he wanted in his contract. What kind of a response is that? That doesn’t answer the part of the rumor that has people interested in the first place: would the Cubs trade Carlos Zambrano if they could?

In fact, it sounds more like the Cubs would like to trade Zambrano, but are hamstrung by his no-trade clause. Is that really the message you want to send, particularly if you’re expecting to keep Zambrano? Yikes. Hopefully, if Zambrano is staying, these rumors die down, because this has the potential to percolate into something ugly.

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