With Carlos Zambrano on the disqualified list awaiting a grievance hearing, and the Cubs already in this-guy-has-to-go-so-lets-bury-him-in-the-media-for-no-discernable-reason mode, it’s time to start speculating on the ways – short of a release – the Cubs could rid themselves of Zambrano. If the Cubs could move Milton Bradley for a moderately useable piece (for one year, anyway) in Carlos Silva and some cash savings, how could it be impossible to move Carlos Zambrano?

Maybe it wouldn’t be impossible.

The good news, says Jayson Stark, is that, although most teams wouldn’t take Z for nothing, not every team feels that way. “I honestly think if he went to a veteran team, he’d be different,” one AL executive told Stark. “He couldn’t go just anywhere. He needs to go to a Philly, or the Yankees, or the Red Sox – a winning-type situation where he knew he couldn’t get out of line.”

The trade, itself, though, is likely to be a problem-for-problem swap, a la the Bradley/Silva deal. To that end, Stark suggests a handful of possibilities, including Carlos Lee (who’s owed $18.5 million in 2012), A.J. Burnett (who’s owed $16.5 million in 2012 and 2013), Barry Zito (who’s owed $46 million over 2012 and 2013 (with a buyout)), Derek Lowe (who’s owed $15 million in 2012), and Alfonso Soriano (hur hur hur).

Each suggestion comes with flaws, including the question of whether the Astros, Yankees, Giants, or Braves would even want Zambrano.

Tim Dierkes also went about theorizing on a handful of possible problem-for-problem trades the Cubs could make to rid themselves of Zambrano. Almost all of Dierkes’ suggestions are interesting and plausible (some of which were also suggested by Starks – I guess there’s a finite number of skull-crushingly bad contracts out there), but here are a few of the more intriguing ones:

Zambrano and $1MM to the Mariners for Chone Figgins. I can also picture this trade, as the money is very similar and Hendry and Jack Zduriencik swapped problems before. Figgins is under contract for an extra year, but the Cubs could release him if things don’t work out.

Zambrano to Orioles for Brian Roberts. Roberts is owed $2MM more than Z, but he may still have value if his concussion symptons go away. Plus, he was once a target of Hendry’s. However, former Cubs exec Andy MacPhail isn’t expected to be in charge of the O’s this offseason, and in general Zambrano is just a headache compared to whatever Roberts might give them.

Zambrano and $8MM to Red Sox for Daisuke Matsuzaka. In the best case, Dice-K might be able to provide a couple of months of post-Tommy John innings next year, so maybe Boston would prefer to try Zambrano in some capacity instead.

Zambrano to White Sox for Alex Rios and $20MM. The White Sox would reduce the years of their burden if not the money, while the Cubs could pray Rios bounces back next year or else cut him loose.

Zambrano to White Sox for Adam Dunn and $26MM. The problem with both White Sox scenarios is that it’s hard to see them sending so much money across town. Whereas from the Cubs’ point of view, they’d probably just release Zambrano rather than increase the commitment. That said, Dunn makes sense for the Cubs at first base next year if the money is a wash.

My vote out of these particular possibilities? You’ll crucify me, but I wouldn’t mind seeing what Adam Dunn could do back in the National League (and with a little f-you motivation in his belly). I the money was a pure wash, why on Earth wouldn’t you want to do it? The Cubs are on the verge of releasing Zambrano anyway, so, if Dunn doesn’t work out, you release him, no worse for the wear.

Ah, but you are a little worse: by adding Dunn in the offseason, the Cubs presumably wouldn’t pursue Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. Of course, they might not pursue them anyway. The real question about Dunn, even if you get past his abysmal offense this year, is whether he can play passable first base anymore – he’s played there just 26 times this season.

Still, I think the risk might be worth it, given the lack of any other meaningful contributions to the Cubs that some other Zambrano trade could provide.

This is, of course, all academic at this point. But it’s interesting.

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