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Mid-season, everyone knew the Chicago Cubs would love to dump Carlos Zambrano and Kosuke Fukudome. Then the duo had two of the best second halves of the season on the team. How much did that change the Cubs’ internal (and external) perception that they’ve got to move the two players?

Possibly a lot.

All of a sudden, the Cubs seem a lot less inclined to deal players like Kosuke Fukudome and Carlos Zambrano than they were a few months ago. And for that, you can credit the Mike Quade Effect.

How much difference did Quade make? Well, the Cubs went 24-16 in the 40 games he managed — after going 24-42 over the final 66 games Lou Piniella managed. And the changes didn’t just show up in the standings.

Scouts who followed the Cubs said they saw young players and the bullpen crew, in particular, relax and perform without the high-strung Piniella around. And Fukudome was also a different guy, hitting .277/.390/.482 (with more walks than strikeouts) from Aug. 20 on — after hitting .258/.365/.425 before that.

“He needed a change of scenery,” said one executive. “And he got it — without going anywhere.”

Meanwhile, we’re hearing the Cubs have gotten some “feelers” on Zambrano’s availability. But his big finish (8-0, 1.58 ERA after his suspension) has eliminated any sense of urgency the Cubs might have had to move him and eat a bunch of money to do it.

Other teams report the Cubs would still talk about Zambrano. But he has a full no-trade clause, and has salaries of $17.875 million and $18 million coming the next two years, plus a vesting $19.25 million option for 2013. ESPN.

With respect to Zambrano, he has not backed off of his post-season statement that he would invoke his no-trade clause should the Cubs approach him about a trade. Obviously you never know, but it’s highly unlikely that the Cubs could find a match that (a) Zambrano approves of, (b) is willing to take on enough of Zambrano’s salary to make it worth while, and (c) is willing to offer enough in return to make it reasonable for the Cubs to give up on Zambrano given his dominant second half of the season.

As for Fukudome; well, his second half was nice, as commenter BT has pointed out. And if the Cubs keep him, he can be a productive player in a platoon-type role. But the fact is, the team wants to free up salary, and nowhere else do they have a clear glut of too many players for too few positions. Fukudome is squarely on the block, and no amount of late-season success was going to change that fact.

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