The offseason brings with it a number of things. Hope. Malaise. Snow.
And, of course, the hot stove – or, if you’re reading a Chicago Cubs blog that is inclined to post any and all rumors about the Cubs, no matter how tangentially-related or unlikely, the “lukewarm stove.”
Fortunately, not all rumors are about Theo Epstein, and the lukewarm stove season kicks off with increasing interest in Carlos Zambrano coming from the Miami Marlins. From the Miami Herald:
The Marlins have interest in acquiring pitcher Carlos Zambrano – whom the Cubs want to trade – if Chicago picks up a large chunk of his $18 million salary for 2012 and doesn’t expect a lot in return. Zambrano’s numbers were down last year (9-7, 4.82 ERA), but he didn’t pitch the final 6 1/2 weeks, including four when the Cubs placed him on the disqualified list after he cleaned out his locker and told clubhouse staffers that he planned to retire (he quickly changed his mind) following a bad start and ejection against Atlanta.
But he’s only 30 and is 43-26, with a 3.96 ERA, over the past four years. Zambrano told a Spanish newspaper that he and Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen speak almost every day.
I do like reading media in Miami talking about Zambrano’s “down” 2011 as though it were a flukey thing, from which he could certainly recover in the right situation. And, indeed, maybe he could. Hey, whatever it takes to increase his value slightly.
As recently as last week, reports circulated that new Miami manager Ozzie Guillen had been in contact with Carlos Zambrano about bringing the pitcher to the Fish. Zambrano denied discussing the team with Ozzie, but confirmed that the two friends speak frequently.
The story underlying the Cubs’ desire to trade Zambrano this offseason is both well-known and tortured, and bears not repeating here. Zambrano is in the last year of his deal, which will pay him just shy of $18 million in 2012. Obviously the Cubs will have to eat a considerable chunk of that amount just to get Zambrano out the door, and that’s without expecting much in the way of prospects in return. The Miami Herald piece goes on to suggest that the Cubs might have to pay $12 of the $18 million.
One possible piece of leverage the Cubs have is the specter of tampering. When the Marlins traded two decent prospects to the White Sox for Ozzie Guillen, a man everyone knew was not returning to Chicago, there were whispers that they were doing so because they’d actually been in contact with Guillen – illicitly – for months. Thus, to avoid a tampering charge, they sated the White Sox with a better return than Guillen might otherwise have netted. Could the Cubs use Guillen’s conversations with Zambrano in the same way?
It’s a possibility, albeit a slightly icky one. Even still, don’t get your hopes up for a straight-up Zambrano-for-Logan-Morrison swap. It’s more likely that, whatever leverage the Cubs do have, will simply allow them to make a trade with the Marlins at all.