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.

  • Spencer

    Whoever brought up that possible tampering charge is a pretty smart cookie 😉

    • Brett

      Well, strictly speaking, it was Bruce Levine… :)

      But, yes. Extrapolating that to Zambrano was indeed smart.

      • Toosh

        Actually, if you go back and check the message board, one of your regular posters suggested the Cubs should go after the Marlins for tampering before Levine thought of it.

        • Brett

          I must have missed that. Levine never mentioned it in reference to Zambrano, by the way. Just Guillen and the Marlins – according to his radio appearance last week, he had been thinking about it for months. That was the first I’d heard of it, though. And, you’re right, the Ozzie-Zambrano contact stuff came out a couple days earlier.

          • Toosh

            The regular poster was me. As soon as the rumors came out I suggested that whoever’s in charge at Cubs HQ should go after the Marlins for tampering with Zambrano. They have nothing to lose.

            • http://Bleachernation Bric

              Good call, Toosh. I remember reading the response and Brett and a couple of others responded to it but I know that your reply was the first conjecture I’d heard of on it. But I also remember one or two other posters quickly chimed in that they were thinking the same thing.

              • Toosh

                Thank you! I still believe the Cubs have nothing to lose by filing tampering charges against the Marlins. Put it in the commissioner’s hands. Too bad the Cubs have no one in charge.

  • CubFan Paul

    i wonder if the Marlins would consider dealing Hanley Ramirez and his $45million would give them the payroll flexibility to sign Pujols to a 5yr/$25million and they get Ozzie’s buddy for the pitching depth they need

    • Toosh

      PBO Ricketts and whoever his flunky GM is will find a way to screw up the Zambrano situation even more than it already is.

      • Brett

        Oh, Toosh… you’re like a smarter version of Rosenbloom when it comes to Ricketts.

  • CubFan Paul at Bruce Levine’s bomb in chat

    “My gut is that, if Epstein is the guy, it will be this week. There has been too many baseball people that feel Theo is in the midst of trying to get the best deal he can with the Cubs.”

  • EQ76

    wonder if the Cubs threw in a young player with Big Z if we could get Morrison in return?

  • die hard

    Is Big Z only 30?….I thought he was only 30 3 yrs ago?….We could demand to see his BC, but we all know how those can be tampered with….

    • Bails17

      Yeah…he’s 30 in Island years!

  • Joe Cartwright

    I would pay $12 to get rid of Zambrano……

    • CubFan Paul

      but would you pay $6 for Zambrano? thats the question..

      • hardtop

        easily. with his age and career numbers (including this awful season) and the market price for starting pitchers, i’d take him for 6.

  • bigdaddypapawoowoo

    What if Big Z cannot be traded and Ryno is the new manager. Do you think he could manage him? I seen /heard wilder things.

  • die hard

    Big Z would respect Sandberg and vice versa..could work