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With a brutal stretch of games coming both in the immediate future and throughout the month of June, the odds that the Chicago Cubs will be sellers at the July 31 trade deadline is increasing every day.

Should that time arrive, two of the players for whom the Cubs will entertain offers are starter Carlos Zambrano and third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Indeed, Bruce Levine suggested in a recent chat that, if the Cubs are out of it by July, they may well find out what they could get for Zambrano and/or Ramirez.

There is no real surprise there, given that, among the Cubs’ larger contracts, Zambrano and Ramirez are two of the more tradable pieces. That’s not to say there aren’t issues.

First, there are no obvious replacements for either player in 2012. As we’ve seen this year, the Cubs aren’t overflowing with internal rotation candidates. The hope would be that prospects like Trey McNutt, who aren’t quite ready to step into the big league rotation this year, would be ready by 2012. Of course, as Andrew Cashner reminded us this year, you count on top prospects at your own peril. As for third base, there are options – DJ LeMahieu, Josh Vitters, Marquez Smith, Blake DeWitt – but none is expected to generate the kind of production the Cubs get (well, the kind of production the Cubs are supposed to get) from Aramis Ramirez.

Second, neither player’s contract is particularly attractive. As we’ve discussed previously with Ramirez, if he’s traded, his $16 million 2012 option kicks in. While the Cubs could throw in some cash to cover that number, they could also just save the cash by letting him walk at the end of the year (with a $2 million buyout). So, in order to trade Ramirez, the Cubs would almost certainly have to find a team that not only wants Ramirez this and next year, but is willing to pay most of his prospective $16 million salary in 2012. That won’t be easy to find.

As for Zambrano, he’s making about $18 million this year and another $18 million next year. Obviously, that rate far exceeds Zambrano’s current utility – he received that contract (1) at the height of the market (though I suppose we’re arguably reaching another height), and (2) at the height of his career. Zambrano is just 30, but it’s an old 30 – he’s already got more than 1750 innings on his arm. $18 million is a lot of money to pay for Zambrano, and, despite the dearth of available pitching talent, the Cubs would have to be willing to eat a considerable amount of that remaining money if they want to receive anything of value in return for Zambrano.

Third, both Zambrano and Ramirez have no-trade clauses in their contracts. So, as was the case with Derrek Lee last year (before he was ultimately dealt to the Braves), the Cubs might line up a good deal for one of the two only to have them reject it. This could force the Cubs to settle for a lesser deal with a team Zambrano/Ramirez finds more palatable, or no deal at all.

The hurdles are not insurmountable, but trading either of Zambrano or Ramirez is going to be difficult. Still, the Cubs will be listening to offers if their losing ways continue.

  • EQ

    and so it begins.. if this happens, we better get some solid pieces to build the future on or as top level prospects to trade. Has Hendry ever been able to do that???

  • jerryMac

    the cubs need to talk to Boston Dice-k is going to have tommy john surgery

    • Ace

      Eh. They’ve been doing all right without him for the better part of a few years. Not sure they’ll leap at snagging someone now.

  • willis

    I can’t imagine any team jumping at either of these guys with all the coin involved. Like you said, unless there is a major haul in return, it would cost the Cubs less to let Rami walk next year vs. trading him and having to eat a ton of money. It would have to bring back some really good prospects.

    I would hate to see Z go, but if the offer is right, then it’s time.

  • Butcher

    I could see plenty of teams interested in Z. Pretty much every team in contention is going to want to shore up their pitching (with the possible exception of Philly).

  • Michigan Goat

    I’d be curious if the Yankees are interested… If they are not it will tell us what Rothchild thinks about him. If he goes anywhere the cubs will have to decide what’s more important: prospects or salary dump. I’d be happy if anyone would take Z if we can dump a majority of his contract. We will get nothing in return unless we eat a major portion of his contract, and the Yanks are the only team that can eat his contract. ARam is going nowhere because of the vesting in his contract, but he’d be a fool to pass on any trade because he will not make $16 mil next year outside of Hendry. As for replacing Z, there are always affordable pitchers who can give you a 4+ era in the off season, it’s finding one mid-season that’s tough.

  • TSB

    I’m for keeping Zambrano, unless some other team offers the store. He’s the closest pitcher the Cubs have to a “cagy veteran” to anchor the pitching staff. He is a team player, starts, went to the bullpen when asked, and is one of the better hitters on the cub team (sad when a pitcher achieves this). Plus, he a fun guy to watch, and bitch about.

    • Ace

      That’s true – without Z, there would be a whole lot less entertainment.

  • JB

    There are seldom players that I wouldn’t trade…
    They are Castro, Barney, Wells, Garza and Soto…

    There is no reason to keep Marmol especially with that funky throwing motion. Maybe you can get some team to pay a lot for Marmol and pick up a bad contract at the same time. I would hate to see this but what if the Cardinals took on Marmol and Aramis for Cody Rasmus…the Cubs could pick up half the money from Aramis and get the deal done. When the Ram wants to play, he is one of the best third basemen in the league offensively. Pena has to be attractive for someone with limited risk for the stretch run if he would get hot. Someone need a left handed bat…throw in Koske…

    Bottom line…we have to play Colvin every day and see what we have there. All the at bats that go to Koske and not Colvin are wasted at bats. If Byrd comes back( I don’ t know his status) trade him…who cares…

    It’s like when I used to see Don Baylor run out Nefi Perez when the Cubs were out of it…What’s he going to show you at 37 years old that is going to help the organization.

    I would go youth now…get some excitement for at least the team has a direction of where they are going. In the off season, sign Fielder and start building around the young infield we have assembled. Colvin can anchor the outfield and pick up the third baseman from the Rangers who they can’t stand but always hits well as a stop gap. Wait on Sories stupid contract and continue to add pieces…

    This off season is a great opportunity to get healthy in a hurry but this organization needs direction. I am so glad that Sandberg didn’t take this job…

    • Ace

      I’d like to think they’ll go even more young in a month or two, but they aren’t going to concede the game is up until late July at the earliest (when they start dumping players).

  • Serio

    Oh YEAH lets wait till July. Things wont Improved by July and if they did would you want to keep these jag’s?

  • Cheryl

    I don’t think there’s a market for Aram. He’ll probably walk after this year. As for Z, that’s a different story. I’d also trade Marmol and offer the closing job to Marshall. Marmol may be young enough to attract some teams even with the year he’s had so far. Hope Hendry is tryig to find an American League team for Soriano. They’ll have to pick up most of his contract if H can do that. Unfortunately with Byrd you don’t know how he’ll recover from his injuries. Even if he comes back this year, there’s a limited market for him.

  • Jerry McClellan

    I would consider trading Soto. It appears that position is pretty deep in the minor leagues with that position. Soto has been injury prone as well.

    Not even Hendry is dumb enough to trade with in the same division, especially the Cardinals. That wont happen.

    I am all for trading Byrd even though you wont get much for him.

    Not thrilled with the idea of trading Marmol unless you get a ton in return. I just as well hold on to him. You have to win some games.

  • Ron

    Evan the AAA team sucks, ugh.10-13 in the 6th.

  • ron

    Those damn Cubs…
    Just went to a AAA game Iowa vs. the Nashville Sounds and the cubs got beat 15 to 11 or something like that. I went to the game with the intention of seeing good baseball and a chance to get away from the daily grind. I went with my wife and oldest son who is 5 and met some friends. After a pretty entertaining game, lots of offense, good hitting, and a bunch of beer, the cubs were on the short end of an 11 to 15 contest, but that is not the story of the game for me. At the end of the game my 5 year old son was crushed that he did not get a ball, almost in tears, but for some good mentoring, he held it together. We walked down to the I-cubs bullpen as they were packing up getting ready to leave Nashville for who knows how long of a road trip. I was fulfilling any fathers duty of simply trying to satisfy my son who just wants a ball. So I approach number 45 (who by the way is no slouch of a ball player, he stands at stout 6′ 3″ which seemed closer to 6′ 5″) as my son is burried in my arms not able to face anyone with the disapointment of leaving empty handed, “hey 45 can I get a ball for my kid?” I ask with a bit wonder if this guy will even give me and my son a second glance. It was a wierd moment, he looked at us, took in the scene in for a second, this was mear minutes after a teamate accepted a number from a loyal young fan. My five year old is still holding it together but it was 10:30 two hours after bed time. Thomas Diamond (45) digs though his bag, nothing…asks a teamate…no ball…asks another, still nothing. Then, I think is was Scott Moore (I read his name on the bag but did not get a number) reaches into the ball bag, hands a glistening white ball to 45 who in turn gives it to my son. Alex, still choking back tears thanks him, shakes his hand and curls up into the comfort of my arms. After a 20 minute ride home, as I am putting him to bed, I ask if I can put the ball that he is still clutching in his hands away. He says no, “I am going to hold on to my lucky ball.” He is asleep with it tonight.
    After all of this I am left with my thoughts, first, bless you Thomas Diamond for making a boys night so special. I wish you the best and hope he never forgets…. and damn you for cursing a child with the memory that could doom him with futility and frustration similar to what I have endured since the 1984 Cubs that has condemnded me with undiing loyalty ever since.

    • Ace

      Sounds like a simultaneously good and a bad night. Thanks for the story.

      • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

        One of the best dad moments I ever had was at the second game of Spring Training 2009.

        My son was almost 3 at the time. Went from SF>PXH on an early flight, grabbed the rental car, dropped off bags at the hotel, and zoomed over to Hohokam to catch the already in-progress game. Planning on getting $5 lawn tix, instead we snagged 3 front-row tickets right behind 3rd base for $20 (total) from a scalper looking to cut his losses and go home. The stadium was at best 1/3 full, playing the Brewers — beautiful, sunny, 80° day. My son had his first snow cone, first ballpark hot dog, first Old Style, all while watching the scrubs take on the schlubs. Starters were all out by the 4th inning. We had a few close calls with foul balls, but weren’t able to snag one. He was a bit bummed, but the snow cones seemed to make up for it.

        On our way out (naptime) late in the game, we wandered out to enjoy the outfield grass for a while. We at down to let our son finish his 15th snow cone of the day when out of the corner of my eye I saw a flash. I turned around, took one step and grabbed Alcides Escobar’s ground-rule double and handed it to my son all in one smooth motion. It was both his and my first game ball. Wife said she wasn’t sure which of us was happer about it. Still makes me grin thinking about it.

        • Ace

          Outstanding. That’s the kind of story you keep retelling the kid, and it makes a lifer out of ‘em.

          Separately… first Old Style?

          • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

            Snob.

            • Ace

              I wasn’t criticizing your choice in beer – I’m fine with Old Style; rather, I was trying to figure out if you were saying your almost-three-year-old-son had his first Old Style at the game…

              • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

                Of course I’m kidding about the beer. (You can stop calling DCFS now, thankyouverymuch.) Only slightly exaggerating about the snow cones. His tongue was rainbow colored for a week.

                • Ace

                  Better than only having lemon snow cones.

                  (oooooh, snap, I’m mature!)

  • http://None Blinda

    We could deal both of them if our GM was anybody but Jim Hendry. He always accepts the lowball offers he needs to go for real especially if we are going to have a fire sale.

  • JB

    There is no reason to keep Marmol…he has extremly high trade value right now…think the White Sox could use a dominant closer? Closers are a luxury…a final piece to the puzzle…I love Marmol…have for a years but he is probably the most valuable asset we have as an organization…he is cheap and dominating…package him up with Ram(eat half the salary) and move him…

    • willis

      Another thing to think about along this front…Cashner could be a closer. I am on board with trying him again as a starter but he just may not be built for it. And if not, at least try to get something out of an electric arm and a #1 pick. I have no faith, based on the history of this club, that Cashner will be a healthy starter. Unfortunately.

      Anyway, with this in mind, Marmol may be a piece that could net someone that could become an ok starter.

      • Jeff

        If Marmol brings back a similar return to what other top closers have the last couple of years, the Cubs have to at least consider it. I agree that Cashner could close, but they need to make up their mind on him pretty soon and stick with it for a while. This yo yo crap hasn’t worked out for any of the Cubs.

  • DieHard

    Prefer for Byrd, Fukudome, Ramirez, Soriano, Zambrano, Pena and Dempster
    to be gone by mid year…..Colvin in left, Campana in center, Jackson in right, Lemaheu at first and Vitters at third, and bring up best AA pitchers to fill out staff…run and gun offense and better defense will help pitchers..small ball wins pennants…

    • Ace

      For this year, anyway, that’d all be fine with me.

    • Jeff

      I like that you put Jackson in right, I think he’s got the arm and is going to develop the power for it. He has the wheels to cover center, so his range would be outstanding, I just wonder how he would adjust to the weird corner in right. An outfield of Campana, Colvin, and Jackson wouldn’t leave a whole lot of gaps, it would easily be the most athletic Cubs outfield of my lifetime.

      If they move Pena, who would play first for the rest of the year? I wouldn’t mind seeing Baker play more, but he seems like he’d be a pretty valuable trade candidate for a contender looking for a super utility type.

    • Hogie

      I would love to see the youth out there. I would put DJ at third and Vitters at first. There has been talk of moving Vitters there anyway, his defense isn’t the greatest, and he has logged some games this year at first.

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