With rumors flying about the Chicago Cubs trading starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano – and especially now that those rumors run directly contrary to each other – it’s time to put an obsessive watch into place.

Not more than 36 hours ago, ESPNChicago was reporting that, not only were the New York Yankees interested in trading for Carlos Zambrano, but they had sent high-level scouts to observe the righty’s last several starts. Now ESPNNewYork says it isn’t true. ESPN has to get its cities on the same page.

[T]here have been recent reports of the Yankees scouting Zambrano’s recent starts. With the Yankees’ starting staff decimated by injuries to Phil Hughes and Bartolo Colon, it seemed like a natural fit.

Not so, said the source, who told ESPNNewYork.com, “It’s all (B.S.) There’s no seriousness to it at all.”

The official cited Zambrano’s declining ability — the velocity on his fastball has dropped in recent years from an average of 92 mph in 2009 to 89.8 mph this year, according to FanGraphs.com — and prohibitive contract.

“He’s just not worth the money,” the official said. “The Cubs would have to pick up most if not all of the contract. I just don’t see it happening.”

That, right there, is a perfect example of what makes rumor season so much fun. Did you read the denial carefully? The source isn’t saying the Yankees absolutely do not have interest in Zambrano. Instead, the source is floating the idea that, if the Cubs don’t pick up most of Z’s remaining contract, *then* the Yankees *probably* don’t have interest.

I’ve been in the rumor game long enough to know that you can hear seemingly opposing things from two different sources, and yet both things are true. The trick is to find that tiny, venn diagram slice of truth where the two sides overlap.

Here, the overlap of truth is pretty clear: the Yankees don’t want Carlos Zambrano at $9 million remaining this year and another $18 million next year. But they’d be willing to consider him if the Cubs eat a healthy chunk of that salary.

For what it’s worth, this overlap comports with what I’m hearing – namely, the Yankees are interested. And they aren’t the only team.

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