The New York Yankees came into the 2011 season with just one big question mark on their roster: after CC Sabathia, how reliable are the rest of the Yankee starting pitchers? However that question has been answered to this point, one this is certain: the Yankees are considering adding more pitching, including Chicago Cubs starter Carlos Zambrano.

Almost three months into the season, the Yankee staff has been something of a mixed bag. A.J. Burnett has returned to something approaching respectability, and Freddy Garcia came out of nowhere with a resurgent year. Doing Freddy one better, long-forgotten pitcher Bartolo Colon came back from the depths – complete with a stem-cell-infused shoulder – to be a reliable, if not good option.

But youngster Ivan Nova has been just OK, Phil Hughes is on the 60-day disabled list with Andrew Cashner-like shoulder problems, and Colon, himself, just hit the DL this week with a strained hamstring. Moreover, to the extent it impacts the depth of your starting pitching and the way you use them, injuries in the bullpen have only made matters worse. The Yankees are without Damaso Marte, Pedro Feliciano, Rafael Soriano (though he’s been terrible), and just lost Joba Chamberlain to Tommy John surgery.

I think it’s fair to say they could use a pitcher or two.

That’s why it’s not altogether surprising to learn that the Yankees have been scouting Carlos Zambrano’s last couple of starts. And, as Bruce Levine makes clear, these aren’t the advance scouts a team sends to look at players they might be facing in the future. They’re folks who closely advise Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman. You’ll note that Zambrano won’t be starting this weekend against the Yankees – something that’s been clear for more than two weeks.

Zambrano has been inconsistent this year, but generally solid. No, he hasn’t pitched up to his $18 million salary (to say nothing of the additional $18 million he’s owed next year), but in almost every start, he’s given the Cubs a chance to win. That’s what a team like the Yankees should be looking for.

While the Yankees certainly have deep enough pockets to absorb the approximately $27 million remaining on Zambrano’s deal, if the Cubs hope to get anything of value, the Yankees shouldn’t have to. If the Cubs were willing to eat a third or a half, the return in prospects could be quite meaningful.

Of course, perhaps the biggest hurdle, is Zambrano’s no-trade right. Would he be willing to leave Chicago, a place he’s said he wants to retire? Would he be willing to go to the AL? Would he want to be reunited with Larry Rothschild? Most importantly: how important is having a chance to win a championship to him?

Taken together, and given the rocky couple of years he’s had off the field with the team, I suspect Zambrano would accept a deal to the Yankees. And, if high level Yankee advisors are taking in Z’s games, I suspect the Yankees believe he’d accept a deal, too.

[Speaking of the Yankees and Cubs, their game today at 1:20 CST is the first in the BN Fantasy Baseball Contest, so if you want your chance at a slice of $150 (for free), better hurry and sign up now!]

  • RY34

    I love Big Z but I do not think he has the mental toughness to survive in the Bronx. It takes a rare special breed to thrive in that jungle!

  • Fishin Phil

    I have mixed feelings about trading Z. The salary relief would certainly be nice, but I don’t think we’ll pay enough to get any top prospects coming back. I also think Z going to a contender at this point in his career makes a lot of sense, so he probably won’t approve the trade.

  • MichiganGoat

    If this happens I rather the Cubs take the salary relief and a bucket of chestnuts vs. picking up 1/3 or 1/2 his salary to get prospects or even a MLB ready player. The more money we have next year the better, of course this is assuming a new GM will be spending it.

    • Ace

      Eh… the Yankees have some seriously awesome prospects and young players who could help the Cubs as soon as next year. That, I think, should be the focus.

      • MichiganGoat

        I just don’t trust Hendry with that.

        • Ace

          I don’t totally disagree, “obviously.”

  • Ian Afterbirth

    He’ll only be willing to go if he gets to be DH in the games he pitches.

  • pfk

    This is a very interesting situation and/or dilemma. The name of the game is pitching and defense and the Cubs are last or nearly last in both departments. Forget for a moment the money part – if they deal him for prospects, who is going to pitch this year or next or even the year after? We only have 4 now, we’d be down to 3 and then Davis, Russell, et al. Yes, we might get prospects but they won’t be ready for quite some time. They could go after some free agents. Perhaps a 3-way trade might yield better results? I’m reluctant to give up a decent arm who eats innings even if he is a head case, unless there are sufficient free agents or really good mature prospects ready to step up – not some long range gamble. Here are the pitching free agents this off season from Cot’s list:
    Mark Buehrle CWS
    Chris Carpenter STL * (option)
    Aaron Cook COL * (option)
    Kyle Davies KC
    Zach Duke ARI
    Edwin Jackson CWS
    Scott Kazmir LAA * (option)
    Paul Maholm PIT
    Jason Marquis WAS
    Scott Olsen PIT * (option)
    Roy Oswalt PHI * (option)
    Oliver Perez NYM
    Joel Pineiro LAA
    CC Sabathia NYY (may opt out)
    Tim Wakefield BOS
    C.J. Wilson TEX

    • MichiganGoat

      I think Wilson or Maholm would be good signings. Maholm is only 28 and Wilson 30 and they may not cost big time money.

    • Ace

      There are more than a few guys I’d take on that list. Let’s assume Z is gone, but Dempster is brought back. The Cubs could be looking at something like:

      A group of young guys (Struck, Beeler, Jackson, etc.)

      Depending on the FA, that could be solid both in quality and in depth (I know, we thought the same before this year).

      • http://BleacherNation Bric

        I think it’s way too early to pencil McNutt into the starting rotation for next year. Even without the injury and struggles he has nowhere near the experience or number of pitches to face big league hitters. It would be Samardjia, Coleman, Russell all over again. Just sayin’ it would be safer to think of Carpenter or Jackson before him. At least they have more of an ability to keep the Cubs in the game through 5 innings.

        • Ace

          Unless the Cubs are going with 6 starters, you’ll note that McNutt is listed as just outside the rotation. That said, he’s going to get a look if he’s healthy. And he should.

  • Norman

    Larry Rothschild was seen earlier this morning @ Wrigley…he may be there to talk to Big Z.

    • Ace

      Well, I think they’re still close.

  • Ol’CharlieBrown

    I understand that it would be nice to clear up some salary by getting rid of Zambrano and I understand the idea that he is pitching decent but is certainly not living up to his contract.
    What I’m not so sure I understand is how can we be considering moving one of our very few somewhat reliable starters in a season when starting pitching has been a huge issue for us. I mean, it may force us to start Russell or some other atrocity to fill in Zambrano’s spot, unless we end up getting a starter back in the deal for Big Z. Maybe we’ll just run a 3 man rotation of Garza, Dempster, and Wells lol.

    • Ace

      Well, the idea would be: 2011 is done. So who cares what they do with the rotation?

      • Toosh

        Exactly! It looks like Hendry will still be the GM at the trading deadlines. Between now and then, he’ll have to decide whether to write off this season and build for the future or, if the Cubs get back in the hunt, to go for it this season.

  • Ron

    I hate to see Z go, and personality wide I think he is a better fit for the red sox but honestly the cubs are 2-3 years from completing. There are to many question marks on this team. Starting pitching, defense and.hitting so this is probably for the better in the long run.

  • pfk

    The Yankees are about as desperate as it gets. They are in a battle and if a really good arm can be had I think they’ll over pay, provided we are willing to eat some salary. There are some interesting free agents, so if we are indeed willing to spend on FAs, this could be an interesting opportunity to get max value for someone – and not just Z. There are plenty of clubs in tough battles who have pressing needs…Giants, White Sox, Rays, Yankees, Angels…and more.

    • MichiganGoat

      Hopefully Hendry can do something great here, and that’s a big hope. With the needs so many of these teams have if we are willing to move anything but Castro we could be big winners this trade season and have a whole new look next year.

      • TWC

        We don’t need a whole new look, MG. We just need to get a little more left-handed.

        • MichiganGoat

          Ha, I was actually thinking we need to field a all switch hitting team that way we can always go RLRL

        • pfk

          We don’t need to do anything, its just a few injuries, that’s all.

  • Roughriider

    I’ve always liked Zambrano and would be saddened to see him go. However, if the Cubs can get a couple of GOOD prospects for him it should be done. He hasn’t been the same picher he was before the huge contract and maybe a change of scenery would be good for him. I wouldn’t be surprised to see him be successful somewhere else and have us saying a couple of years down the road that it was a terrible trade.

    • EQ

      It’s hard for me to want to see the one player on this team who seems to have emotion and actually care about winning, get traded.. Hendry better get the Yanks best prospect at the very least.

  • Caleb

    Ace! Where the heck is the Yankees series preview? It’s only hours till gametime! Wake up and get to work! And pick a good picture of what’s her name, too.

    • Ace

      Sorry, sorry. It’s up, it’s up.

  • Toosh

    The Garza trade was 5 for 3, so if Zambrano goes, after working out the financial terms, the Cubs should get prospects, not just one.

  • Toosh

    She had a name?

    • Fishin Phil

      Her name was on the back of her shorts – “Bananas”

  • Roughriider

    How about Zambrano & for Manny Banuelos, Austine Romine and Kyle Roller

  • pfk

    Zambrano still has the best ejection rage I may have ever seen. Seeing him eject the umpire was a classic. I still laugh when I watch that one. Then nearly throwing the ball out of the park. Lou had some great ones with the Mariners and Rays and Earl Weaver had some classics too, but for originality, ejecting the ump was awesome.

  • http://Bleachernation Ramy16

    First of all I would make the Yankees sweat it out..also what’s our farm system ranked after the Garza deal?

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  • Laura

    I don’t know. Money and prospects aside, let’s say the Cubs DO manage to make it to the World Series in the next couple years. Odds are the Yankees could be our opponent, since they’re constantly in the play offs. Do we really want Z pitching AGAINST us? (from any team, really) I say keep his ‘crazy’ (and passion) on our side of the fence.

  • Toosh

    If the Cubs make the World Series in the next 2 years, I don’t care what team they play or who’s on it.

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