Today the Chicago Cubs effectively suspended Carlos Zambrano in response to his action last night, which culminated in Zambrano packing up his things and leaving the team before last night’s game had ended, telling those he saw that he was “retiring.”
Zambrano will be on the disqualified list for 30 days without pay, and cannot have contact with the team during that time. Jim Hendry, who hasn’t spoken with Zambrano, called his actions “intolerable.”
This was the best first step, as near as I can tell. Releasing Z now would preclude the Cubs from trying to recoup anything through a trade, would preclude the Cubs from finding out if Z really does want to retire, and would force the Cubs to give Z the $21-22 million he’s still owed. This way, the Cubs don’t pay him while they – and he – figure things out.
Predictably, Ken Rosenthal reports that the Players’ Association is expected to file a grievance on behalf of Zambrano.
What happens next remains unknown. Zambrano’s agent, Barry Praver, has reportedly said that Zambrano “isn’t in the retirement mode” (shocker that his agent would say Zambrano doesn’t want to leave $20 million on the table). There will probably be a cooling period, during which the Cubs will look to dump Zambrano. If they’re unsuccessful, he might well come back in September, though it’s unlikely. The chances he’s on the team in 2012 are even more unlikely.
If this feels like deja vu, it should: the Cubs placed Zambrano on the restricted list (which has a similar effect) last year after his dugout blowup with teammate Derrek Lee.
UPDATE: From the official press release, this nugget strikes me as interesting phrasing from the Cubs (emphasis mine):
The disqualified list includes a period of 30 days without pay and no activity with the ball club. During this time, Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association will discuss recent statements attributed to Zambrano regarding his baseball future.
Translation? The Cubs are going to try and argue that Zambrano indeed retired, and the Cubs indeed accepted his retirement. It’s not likely to fly, but it’s an interesting (and legally-fascinating) approach.