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.