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A report out of Venezuela says new Florida Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen has been in contact with Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano about joining him in Miami next season. The two have long been friends, and, with the Marlins’ desire for a starting pitcher coupled with the Cubs’ desire to be rid of Zambrano, a marriage seems like a natural fit.

The report, from El Nacional, says Guillen and Zambrano have discussed a future together in Miami, and quotes a source who describes the Cubs’ plans for ridding themselves of Zambrano. Carrie Muskat and others have described that plan as the Cubs letting the Marlins take Zambrano and his entire $18 million 2012 salary, which the team would pay off in deferred payments.

If that seems too good to be true, it could be because something was lost in translation.

When I read the article – both in my attempted Spanish, and using Google translate – it’s unclear whether the quote means that the Marlins would be paying Zambrano’s 2012 salary in deferred payments, or that the Cubs would be converting Zambrano’s 2012 $18 million salary into deferred payments in exchange for releasing him. To me, it looks more like the latter.

If that’s the case, Zambrano’s situation would be not unlike the Dodgers and Andruw Jones back in 2008. Before the 2008 season, the Dodgers signed Jones to a two-year, $36 million contract. During that 2008 season, Jones performed terribly, was injured, and strained the relationship between himself and the Dodgers. Neither side was interested in being together for the 2009 season, so the Dodgers restructured Jones’ contract to defer payments on the $22 million he was owed for 2009, and Jones was released.

The gain in such a move is twofold: (1) it allows you to spread payments to a player over several seasons’ budgets, reducing the impact of that salary on any one given year; and (2) the time value of money means that $5 million paid in 2016 isn’t worth quite as much as $5 million paid in 2012.

The Cubs, however, would explore such an option only if they could find absolutely no takers on the trade market for Zambrano. And that’s where the Marlins once again enter the equation.

Joe Frisaro, from the Marlins’ site, suggests that, because of Guillen’s interest in having Zambrano on the team, the Marlins might consider trading for him. Obviously that would be the best outcome for the Cubs, even if it meant only a few million in salary relief.

I would imagine this situation would play out over the next couple of months, with nothing major happening until the new GM is in place. Tom Ricketts has said that Zambrano is unlikely to return to the Cubs next year, but he wouldn’t be so bold as to green light a move like that before the next GM steps in, right?

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