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It is becoming increasingly likely that, come August 1 or after this season, assuming the team can find the tiniest bit of interest, Carlos Zambrano will not be with the Chicago Cubs.

Consider the mounting evidence/motivation (of which numbers three and four are new):

1.) The Cubs have been shopping Zambrano for as many as two months during the season, and considered moving him in the offseason.

2.) The Cubs have started telling other teams that they will eat “big bucks” to move Zambrano (he’s owed about $24 million through 2012).

3.) Before his start last night, Cubs manager Mike Quade made the bizarre comment that, he hopes Zambrano “pitches lights out and entices whoever is here to look at him. I think he, like a few guys, are in control of their own destiny.”

4.) After his (successful) start last night, Zambrano took to the media to say that he hopes for changes on the Cubs. “I do want to stay, but at the same point, I want this team to make some changes,” Zambrano said of his future with the Cubs. “And if we want to win here, we need to make some changes. If I have to go, I have to go, but I’ll still have the Cubs in my heart. If the change has to be me, that’s OK.” Zambrano went on to reiterate no fewer than four times that he was hoping for “change.”

Individually, each of these items could be explained away. But, considered together, things are starting to look a great deal how it looked (and felt) before the Cubs took on trade-or-bust stance with Milton Bradley and Sammy Sosa. Hopefully this time GM Jim Hendry won’t publicly trash Zambrano before dumping him, as he did with both Bradley and Sosa.

Moving Zambrano has become a dicey proposition. What would once have been greeted by many fans with a shoulder shrug and a flippant remark about missing his entertainment value, if nothing else, has now become a trickier business in the face of a decimated and unproductive rotation. Andrew Cashner is facing a tough comeback from two shoulder injuries in the same spot. Randy Wells is a shell of his former self. Ryan Dempster is aging. The top pitching prospects in the system have roundly struggled this year.

Wouldn’t trading Zambrano be like robbing Peter to pay Paul? Who’s going to take his spot next year if the Cubs hope to be competitive? Zambrano is clearly no longer the ace he once was, but it’s reasonable to expect that he could be miles better in 2012 than the rough cadre of arms the Cubs trotted out at the back end of the bullpen this year.

But, for whatever reason, it is becoming apparent that the Cubs believe not only can they live without Z, but they believe they’d be better off without him, at any cost.

  • Joe

    I think it would be a grave mistake to trade Z – unless there is some major hangup in the locker room that we dont see or hear about. If the Cubs get $8 million or less in annual salary relief then it is a complete waste.

    • MichiganGoat

      I hope, and suspect, any payroll loss will just be eaten as a loss and the 18M Z is not owed next year goes back into the FA pool.

  • MichiganGoat

    Reading between the lines and pure speculation, I imagine Z has done something to get on Ricketts bad side or is a negative clubhouse presence. His on field antics have been under control since last year and his performance has been acceptable and consistent compared to the rest of the staff, but the must be something else that has made Ricketts so passionate about getting rid of him. The other option is he want to get rid of as much payroll (even if it means he has to eat millions) so he can spend big this off season. Although I’m sure some will think he wants to shed payroll so he can get a Pittsburg size payroll and swim in a pool of money, but I still see this as a positive sign that Ricketts wants to make this his team and start to plan a championship team.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Unrelated, but it sounds like Fukudome to the Indians is close.

    • MichiganGoat

      If we could move Fuk and Soriano and get a couple of pitching prospects I’d be very happy. It would open up the outfield and allow us to see if Jackson or Colvin are ready or see what other AA/AAA players are ready.

      • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

        When referring to Colvin, I think you mean ‘AAAA’ players.

        • Michigan Goat

          Or AAAAA depending on who you ask

          • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

            I’m asking YOU, pal.

            • Michigan Goat

              Lol, I’m not you pal, buddy…

              • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

                I’m not your buddy, guy.

                • Caleb

                  I love seeing the start of a budding bromance.

                  Your relationship is sure to be AAAAAA quality!

        • CubFan Paul

          Colvin .256/.270/.478

          brett jackson .204/.298/.367

          i hope neither player gets the call up today when Fook gets dealt

          montanez has a healthy .325/.381/.493 line
          brad snyder .303/.345/.500
          & whoever Ty Wright is: .314/.331/.399

          • Michigan Goat

            Any of them is fine as long as Q actually plays them, but I’m guessing Campy will get all the starts.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

            Montanez and Snyder had their shot. They stinks.

            • Dan0mite

              How dare you sir. Brad Snyder is the man. Not really, I just like him cause he lives in the same city that I live in.

    • Toni

      Any word on the prospects and payroll involved for fukudome?

  • Andy

    I am increasingly convinced that the Cubs need a complete rehaul of the clubhouse. IMO they have enough talent on the team to win this crapfest of a division, but for some reason just cannot play winning baseball. All clubhouse distractions and non-hustlers need to go.

    With the additional payroll from Zambrano’s contract and the expiring contracts the Cubs should be able to afford a top pitcher and a back of the rotation pitcher. Couple this with Wells, Cashner and Dempster and the rotation isn’t that far worse than any others in the Central.

    • EQ

      and exactly who is this top of the rotation guy the cubs could get? FA pool is weak and not many on the trade block.

      • Hogie

        CC might opt out. It’s probably going to take a rediculous contract to pull him away though.

  • Toosh

    Million dollar arm. 5 cent brain.

  • AJ Walsh

    There are only so many players left in the game that have only ever played for one team, including their minor league careers. It’d be sad to see that list reduced by one in the event of a Z deal. Furthermore, the man is obviously overpaid, but change for the sake of change can be injurious.

    Off the top of my head, I think Z is a $10 million arm, so I’ll consider the deal a failure if the Cubs send $15 million in cash along with him.

  • Mike

    So, let me get this straight. Jim Hendry doesn’t want to trade anyone who will be part of the Cubs future, either in 2012 or beyond. So, therefore he is going to trade one of the top pitchers on the team. The Cubs NEED pitching. Z, Dempster and Garza could help guide whoever fills the 4th and 5th spot in the rotation. Unless they pay only $10 million or less and get something great in return, or sign a top pitcher, this could backfire, huge!

  • Ol’CharlieBrown

    I feel like they should be focusing much more on trying to rid themselves of Soriano by any means necessary. He should be the only guy that we’re willing to eat “big bucks” to get rid of. Well, maybe John Grabow also lol. With all the outfielders we have and with how Soriano is just not what he used to be, it only seems right. Our pitching situation is much different though. Unless there’s something we don’t know about, such as Zambrano’s done something behind the scenes or the Cubs have intentions of going after a pitcher or something, it just doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Yea, Zambrano is never going to be an ace again and he’s certainly overpaid, but he’s still relatively reliable. You can usually count on him to go out and pitch well enough to at least give the team a chance to win a game. I could see getting rid of him if we got a decent return, you know, like a fair trade. I can’t see getting rid of him by essentially paying another team to take him from us. He’s not THAT bad.

    On a side note, I do like the idea of the Cubs starting to show some change though. Parting ways with guys who we have probabaly all liked but we also know deep down that we’re not winning with this core group. Guys like Derrek Lee, Theriot, Lilly, Soriano, Zambrano, Ramirez. I’ve really liked some of these guys and really wanted them finally get it together and win it all, but it’s just not gonna happen.

    • http://BleacherNation Bric

      Well said. I agree it was hard watching Lilly and Lee go last year but the team and the fans moved on. Sori should be moved with any means neccesary even if (and it might) mean some kind of buy out of the last three years of his contract because he’s starting to look more and more like Milton Bradley- no team will take him even for free.

      He’s that useless defensively and too unpredictable at the plate for any contender to take him even for 5% of his contract because it’s a waste of a roster spot. And his attitude, which was never the best on the Rangers, or Nationals, has only gotten worse in his time with the Cubs.

  • willis

    I think this is a bad idea unless there is something behind the scenes working that we have no clue about (as has been said). I get dumping some money, but it creates a huge rotation hole in a rotation that other than Garza has holes. Two thoughts:

    Either there are major wheels turning with huge moves upcoming and we just have to trust (gulp) the powers that be, or Ricketts has had enough and is going to basically suck it up and become a basement dweller for a few years while the team builds from it’s young base. He’s looking at maybe 2014 or so before he plans to be competitive. The thought of dumping Z just to dump him, which makes an already bad rotation way worse, signals to me my second thought is the course and we should be looking for no big happenings in the offseason in terms of FAs. Ugh.

  • RY

    I think it is a bad idea as well. he has one year left, we won’t get jack for him and we have nobody ready to take his place, couple that with a weak free agent market and 2012 could be worse than this miserable season.

  • Dan0mite

    Ch-ch-ch-changes, turn and face the strange, ch-ch-changes.

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  • Caleb

    I think a lot of us are worried that next year we’ll be be trotting out TWO James Russells a week and wondering where Z is, and our only consolation will be a million dollars of renovations to the team bus.

  • http://BleacherNation Ramy16

    Well my good ol buddy TWC..we better get a staring pitcher and Eduardo Nunez in the deal if he’s going to join the Yankees

    • http://twitter.com/thomaswconroy TWC

      I’m pretty ambivalent when it comes to Zambrano. I think he’s a pretty stable #2/3 rotation type. Problem is he’s paid as a top-five-in-the-league-type #1 starter, and I don’t think we can get jack for him. A dilemma to be sure. I’ll neither cry nor rejoice if he’s dealt. I reserve the right to roll my eyes, though.

  • die hard

    Z should stay and with D and G would be anchors for next yr….mix in Wells, Smardja and/or Carpenter and we are good to for starters……Cold wet April/May and Q’s refusal; to get any runs he could via small ball was our undoing….hes learned lesson and with Campana leading off and F is traded today, watch us play 500 ball for rest of season…tweaking not smashing is what we need…as for S, leave him in left cause now Campana will cover left center to take off pressure….put S closer to the left field line

    • willis

      Carpenter won’t be a starter, but his arm will be in the pen next year. Shark could be, but I kind of hate messing with a good thing (he’s found his way this year). But I agree, keep Z. There is no one, not an arm anywhere in the system to take his place, and unless we are planning on going after CJ Wilson, it’s dumb to trade him just for grins.

    • Jeff

      So, Tony Campana = .500 baseball. That means you project his WAR at +19. I’m wondering where this thought process is coming from. Fukudome, Castro, and Barney have been getting on base all year, but haven’t been getting driven in by the power guys, are you saying that Campana is going to run wild and be the difference between contending for last place and playing at a level close to the division leaders? Is his .250 average and below .300 obp going to skyrocket now? I hope he does get some more playing time, but I am not as optimistic that he’s going to be the Cubs version of Sam Fuld in May, I am pretty sure what you see is what you get, a nice player bench player with speed, but limited to center because of his noodle arm, no way he can play a corner spot the rest of the year.

      • willis

        Campana sucks and shouldn’t even be on a major league roster. And his defense is worse than his offense.

  • RW

    I don’t get it.
    They still need 5 starting pitchers, and Z is clearly better than anyone they have who can be a number 4 or 5. Maybe they will pick up 1 or 2 more starters, but if they subtract him, think they will get 3 more that are better? I doubt it.

    Despite the drama, I don’t get the sense that deep down he is a “bad clubhouse” guy- Sure he gets emotional, and once in a while punches a Michael Barrett or says the team stinks in an interview ( which is true)… but that’s OK with me.

    If they end up getting little , or paying a big part of his salary anyways- I’d far rather that he pitches for the Cubs 1 more year and they get something for what they are paying.

    Now if they get a top notch pitching prospect that may be a year or two away- now then we can talk. But again, somehow I don’t have a lot of faith in Hendry getting much in return.

    • Brian Myers

      That’s easy math. They want to get rid of Z because he’s going to make 18 and 19 million a year for each of the next 2 years with stats no better than a #3 starter or #4 starter on a championship caliber club. Add his temper to the mix and and you don’t even get leadership out of this 30 year old man. Being “better than the alternative” (a 4.00 ERA instead of maybe a 4.50 ERA) does little to change the clubhouse atmosphere and nothing to actually make the Cubs better over the next couple years.

      • Jeff

        He’s signed only through 2012, so he will make 18 million next year, he’s owed around 7 for the rest of this season. You are talking about paying another team 20 million dollars to take him. That’s not 20 million dollars coming off the payroll, it still will be paid. Looking at the organization, there are zero guys that I think can start and have an ERA below 5 in the majors next year. Zambrano is going to pitch 200+ innings, his ERA will be somewhere around 4, and like him or not, he is respected and liked by his teammates. He also speaks the truth, something I really like about players. I am not a fan of guys on bad teams telling me that everything is fine. I don’t think it’s worth a 20 million dollar black hole on the roster to get rid of his “attitude”. I have a feeling that if more guys on this team had his attitude about losing, this team wouldn’t be 20 games under.

        • MichiganGoat

          Jeff, I’m with you on this. On paper it makes no sense to “pay” him away for a mid-level prospect (and thats best case senario), we have no one who can replace his average production (sad but true), but I have stay positive and believe that Z must have done something to make Ricketts want to get rid of him so badly.

  • Brian Myers

    I believe that getting rid of Z while offering to eat a huge part of his salary states something about where this organization see’s itself. Zambrano will turn 31 next year and has shown few signs of getting better. That being stated, we’re looking at a guy that provides no leadership in a clubhouse, could hover around a 4.00 ERA with 150 SO… if he stays healthy.
    We could pick up (or bring up) virtually any bum that could give us a 4.50 ERA as a starter which over the course of a season is a difference in 15 earned runs. That equals about 3-4 more losses next year.

    The smart play would be to not bring in “any bum” but to bring in either a club house leader (which the Cubs need badly) or a young arm to develop. The clubhouse would be more relaxed, the young talent would either get more exposure or more guidance, and there would be marginally more money to invest back into the organization.

    3-4 losses on a team in a rebuilding year isn’t easy for fans, but it would be worth it once the benefits kicked in down the road.

    Unfortunately, getting that will be tough as nobody wants Z for the same reasons the Cubs want to get rid of him.

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