The offseason for the Chicago Cubs is in full swing, and, with every additional move made, the question of Carlos Zambrano’s future with the Chicago Cubs will linger in the background.

Zambrano walked out on the Cubs in August, and didn’t throw another pitch for the team in 2011. All signs pointed to another ugly separation between the Cubs and a former employee, including owner Tom Ricketts saying he had a hard time envisioning Zambrano pitching again for the Cubs.

But that was under the old boss, Jim Hendry. New boss Theo Epstein, not eager to make any rash decisions – but equally keen to Zambrano’s history – met with Zambrano, who is currently trying to get his baseball side right, about getting his mental side right. There, he laid out the steps Zambrano would need to take to earn his spot back with the team, but elected to keep those steps private.

We haven’t heard much about it since, and, with Zambrano on the shelf in Venezuela after taking a liner off the face (he’s expected to finally make another start soon), it hasn’t been on most folks lips of late (a stray Ozzie Guillen comment aside). But Epstein opened up a bit at the Winter Meetings on the subject of his wayward starter.

“From a talent standpoint, I am optimistic,” Epstein said of a good 2012 season for Zambrano as a Cub. “He’s thrown real well in Venezuela, and his velocity is back. As far as his attitude, I think it’s in the right place right now.”

Epstein went on to describe his mid-November meeting with Zambrano and his agent, Barry Praver.

“I listened when I first got here, and a lot of people told me he’s been in this place before and it’s fallen apart when there’s been any kind of adversity on the field or in the clubhouse,” Epstein said. “He has to prove himself. It’s not enough to say things are better. I told him that to his face when we met.

“I said, ‘You have to go out and prove it. Words don’t matter any more, it’s a matter of actions. There’s going to be a lot of people who don’t believe it, no matter what you say or do, and it’ll be a bigger burden than usual on you until your last strike.'”

In the end, Epstein says he believes Zambrano could successfully return to the Cubs.

“Am I hopeful or optimistic? I think it can work,” Epstein said. “He’s got to demonstrate through his actions and consistent actions that it will work, and he has a chance to be a really good pitcher.”

Would you expect Epstein to say anything else? The smart money says Zambrano is still very much on the block, whatever the Cubs’ pitching needs. And, when that phone rings with the first acceptable offer, Zambrano will be gone.

My guess is, if Zambrano returns to the Cubs in 2012, it will have a whole lot less to do with him satisfying the conditions of his return, and a whole lot more to do with that phone not ringing.

  • Joel Edmonson

    That is all Theo can do, if he says he will never pitch here again, he then has no trade value. It is easy for all the so called experts to say, just get rid of him, they are not eating 18 million. That is a lot of cash to give someone to go win games for someone else. Hopefully they can find a trade partner. If not you put up with him for 1 more year, then he is gone.

  • Robert

    Brett, I just read that Jed Hoyer said ” we wouldn’t of gaven up that much talent to get stewart if we didn’t think he’d be our starting 3rd baseman” so.. does this end the chase headley idea? and what about fielder? that adds a little extra cash for the Cubs to use? do you see the Cubs going hard after Prince?

    • Brett

      There’s a Stewart post coming. I think it was the smart thing for Hoyer to say.

  • Fishin Phil

    I’m guessing you are right, they will jump at the first reasonable offer.  If he does come back for the start of 2012 (I believe that is a strong possibility), I hope he can keep it together and have a good first half.  Then ship his butt off to some sucker before the deadline!

    • Smitty

      Agree with you here Phil. I think Theo knows the better offers are going to come at the trade deadline. As a result, I think he might be planning on him being on the club the first part of the year.

      Of course, that is quite a risk to take, and maybe you are right, Brett. Might be too risky to wait until the deadline so ship him as soon as a good offer comes along does make sense.

  • Andy H

    He is more than likely heading to the Marlins, they are willing to spend, and are targeting and smartly so Latino big names to fill the new stadium with STH’s. Big Z still can play and may thrive in a media friendly market after being under the micro scope in Chicago.

    His value is not great, but he has value unlike Soriano.

  • EQ76

    Well, I’m still optimistic we’ll be better next year, but so far I’m not even close to being impressed with the moves we’ve made.. If anything, we are currently worse than we were last year. That could all change with another move or two, but as of right this minute, we suck.

    • Hawkeyegrad

      I’m a big fan of these moves assuming they don’t end up just tucking away the saved $’s. I think we can get similiar production out of Dejesus/Stewart as we did for Fukudome/Pena for $10+ million less per year. If they take those saved dollars and some minor prospects and trade for another high risk/reward player for first (ie. Morales) and roll this money along with Rameriez’s money into International FA’s who are younger and due to the risk will come at a lower price then MLB proven FA’s, we will ultimately find a few pieces to pair with Castro to be our necleus for our future team.

      Zambrano ($18 million)/Dempster ($14 million)/ and Pena’s ($5 million) come off the books next year and Stewart/(Morales)can be non-tendered if they don’t work out so these moves don’t hamper the team long-term if they don’t pan out.

      Maybe you trade Soto for some prospects and let Castillo take over and trade Garza for some top prospects, and trade Soriano to free up a spot in the OF and save some $. The MLB club will be alot younger and we hopefully find some core cheap pieces, the farm system will be restocked with some big prospects that you can start bringing up in 2013 (Jackson and the Garza/Soto prospects) and you have alot of money to spend in FA next year to fill in the holes.

    • CubSouth

      I agree with u 100%! I’m starting to get that upset feeling that Theo/Jed are just in rebuilding mode….for 2014. I believe u can put a competitive team out there next yr and still build toward the future, I’m not seeing that from the front office as of yet. I still believe in the FO and of course its too early to not, but if this team keeps making these kind of moves then we r in for a long season(s). I’m gonna bite my tongue for now, but come March, there will b heck to pay if this is the best we have to offer. People say be patient, but there r great grandfathers who haven’t seen them win a W.S. Time for patience to take a back seat.

      • Paul

        There is’nt a single person alive who saw the Cubs win a world series. do the math.

        • CubSouth

          Paul, I was trying to make a point, read between the lines

  • baseballet

    At least Big Z has had lots of rest the past couple seasons after the bullpen demotion and suspensions. His arm might have a little extra life in it for his age. Maybe we’ll luck out and he’ll be a good #3 starter who can eat 200 innings for us. What have we got to lose? Even if we unload him we’d still have to pay most of his salary. Might as well see if he can give us one more year. And if he pitches really well he would have a lot more value at the trading deadline this summer.

    • EQ76

      agreed. I think Z is in line for a good year.. think about it, the past 2 seasons he’s either been suspended or.. um.. suspended and missed significant time. He’s still managed to go 20-13 in those seasons. He’s only 30. I believe he can be a 12-15 game winner this year if he stays out of trouble, remember this is a contract year.. The one thing always forgotten about him is that he is a good pitcher and when he gets on his occasional hot streaks, he’s really good.

  • andrewmoore4isu

    I respectfully disagree with this post Brett. Hard to say it, but in a sense we need Carlos Zambrano, and we need him to be good. Unless, we reallllly want to trot a triple AAA team out there then we need Big Z and we need him to be decent. Especially if we trade Garza then we need Z even more unless we want a full rotation of AAA pitchers + demster and his 4.5 ERA. Our rotation will look like complete shit if we

    1. trade garza
    2. dont get darvish (which there is almost no point in getting him if we trade garza)
    3. trade garza and Z.

    I mean think about it…. If we trade Garza and Z then we have absolutely no proven starting pitchers that can go out there any given day and give the team a chance to win. WIth very little offence coming Dempster will not be able to give this team a chance to win unfortunately.

    • Brett

      There are a number of other pitchers available, many of whom pitch just as well as Zambrano is projected to in 2012. Trading Zambrano (or even Garza) isn’t the deathknell to the rotation.

      • DRock

        Agree with Brett. By trading Garza for TOP prospects and getting rid of the cancer that Z is to the Chicago Cubs organization, we can replace their spots in the rotation with other pitchers who are available via free agency or trade. Zambrano is NOT the pitcher he once was in the early 2000’s. Since 2012 is likely to be a rebuilding year, we don’t have to have a Garza-type pitcher this year IF and only if we can net some really good stud prospects for him.

      • BetterNews

        Who might they be?

        • DRock

          The FA pitchers that I would target in this order would be:

          1. Kuroda
          2. Pineiro
          3. Jackson
          4. Oswalt
          5. Vasquez

          They could also make any number of possible trades for servicable SP to fill spots in our rotation.

      • BetterNews

        We all know Garza is off the table! I have been saying that for months, and have been ridiculed to an extent that was was not warrranted and Garza is staying!

      • BetterNews

        Garza is staying!

        • JR

          BetterNews what are the chances Garza is moved?

          • BetterNews

            Your house will be “foreclosed” first, jerk.

            • Brett

              My patience is wearing thin. If you have nothing of value to offer in your comments, the least you can do is not call names (which is something I never thought I’d have to say outside of an elementary).

              • MichiganGoat

                Sadly I am still teaching high school students this lesson and obviously adults still need to be taught how to behave.

                • BetterNews

                  So funny goat.

              • Sam

                Everybody needs to CHILL OUT!!!!!!!!!!! ( not you Brett keep up the good work) This website is dedicated to reporting news on the cubs, not politics or religion or some other “taboo” / super- serious topic so quit taking it so seriously. Not everybody who disagrees with you is trying to insult you, don’t let the assholes of the internet get to you. We are ALL above this petty BULLSHIT! BN has one of the best online communities, lets try to keep it that way.

              • BetterNews

                Brett—Everybody knows my stance on Garza. For JR to ask what my stance is was “uncalled” for, he was just trying to incite a response, and he got one.

                • Sweetjamesjones

                  Betternews you are just being over dramatic. Its hard to take you serious when all you do is make trollish comments to people.

  • Blinda

    First off I really hope they don’t trade Garza he is such a good pitcher it would have to be one hell of an offer. Going off pujols’ contract do u think Fielder would sign for 8/155? I would be happy having him at that price.

    • andrewmoore4isu

      fielder thinks hes worth 25 mill a year not 19.5 he will probably get something like 6-150

      • hansman1982

        Unless the Marlins lose out on the young Cubans.  If, as of Jan 1 they have only signed Bell, Reyes and Burhle, they will pull out the stops to get Fielder and probably go after Z, hard.

      • Luke

        At 6-150, I think I sign him. I’d prefer 5-130.

  • Spencer

    Sounds like Epstein is #HelpingTradeValue

  • hansman1982

    The sad part is a deal could already be completed and we wouldn’t know.

    I just read Levine’s post from Wed about Stewart where he said both sides were still working on a deal, when in fact, the deal was done they were just waiting on a physical.  This could be the reason Z has been sitting out the last few days…

    • Pat

      Z has been sitting out since he got hit in the face by line drives twice in the same game. I’m actually starting to fear he’s being held out for post-concussion reasons. Nothing to go on other than a day or two after the incident everyone said he would make his next start, but each time it keeps getting pushed back.

      • andrewmoore4isu

        2 line drives to the face in one game? for real???

        • SirCub

          Yea, and on the same play too.

          • andrewmoore4isu

            2 line drives to the face in one game… on the same play…. explain?!

            • EQ76

              maybe the line drives knocked sense into him and he’s a lot calmer now.

      • hansman1982

        That is entirely possible, I don’t think thats the case considering it was a hit to the jaw and his hand absorbed a lot of the force.

  • Kyle

    *is tempted to have this argument again, with all the racism implications and Ron Santo comparisons and such. Decides not to, wants to save his anger for Ian Stewart*

  • die hard

    The game plan appears to be making Z as attractive as possible so Yankees or Rangers bite.

  • The Omnipresent Mystery Team

    Taking Theo at his word (which is not what we’re doing with Z)…

    If Zambrano’s actions proved him reconciled to himself and his club, then would you really still want/need to trade him?

    • die hard

      Theo looking for a chance to pay back Yankees’ Cashman for saddling Bosox with Crawford which led to Theo’s exit…what better way to pair him with Rothschild who worked overtime in pacifying him to get the best out of him..Cashman may be deceived into thinking Rothschild can work his magic again and take a chance if Cubs pick up 85% of salary, which Cubs may do.

  • BetterNews

    Theo is lost! He had no clue what he was gettng into.

    • ferrets_bueller

      comic relief.

      • BetterNews

        No seriously, Theo does not have a clue. He is jumping at straws and has come up with nothing! It is a disgrace going back at least 40 years!

    • ShootTheGoat

      Dude…What’s up with all your posts?!? You are the ultimate Debbie Downer!! Do you think just because Theo moved from one city to another, that all of sudden, he’s lost and don’t know how to do his job?  Give me a break..And if your just implying that he just didn’t know the Cubs situation, no worries mate, I do believe he turned the Boston situation around…Don’t jump, It’s not worth it!!!

      • BetterNews

        Thought about it and I will not jump. But Theo is not an answer, sorry.

  • OHBearCub

    I dont like trading Garza and Z. Z can be traded at the deadline if we are outof it. Rangers and Yankees arent wanting to trade their top prospects. Also, we would need some mlb ready guys and neither of those teams are desperate. They have pitching in their systems they are developing. And to Bretts point.. there is pitching out there comparable to Zambrano (who) so why wouldnt they just go sign someone else. These opposing GMs arent stupid. I wouldnt give up my best prospects for Garza. He is good but he aint that good. We need to draft well and do as much international signing as possible now i.e. asia pac and the caribbean. Maybe outsmart a few organizations with some minor league trades. They can improve that way vs sending what quality we do have somewhere else and getting back something unproven. This trade yesterday upset me at first but now I think we got some decent return. I believe we see a bunch more deals like yesterdays. Maybe Theos MIT grad has crunched his database and figured some shit out. Wouldnt be startled if he has and we see some head shakers for a while. SPEED, DEFENSE, OBP, PLATE DISCIPLINE, PITCHING, WALKS, RBI, AVG, BASE RUNNING SKILL. = SMALL BALL and I like it much better than a bunch lazy asses we been watching. Soriano, Ramirez, Lee, god they pissed me off…. GARZA AND ZAMBRANO ARENT GOING ANYWHERE.

    • die hard

      How about just giving away Soriano and Zambrano to any team for a minor league player to be determined by an arbitrator after contract expires based on performance?

  • jandersonjr81

    Their and Her would be idiots if they trade Zambrano or Soriano. In fact, anybody who suggest we trade them, are crazy. If we trade Zambrano, pay 12-13 mil to a team, how will we replace the production with what we save. We can’t. Same with Soriano. In fact, give me 25 players with Zabrano’s heart, and I’ll give you a World Series.

  • MoneyBoy

    Brett … I’m going to stay out of most of the fray here … but I feel compelled to share what my “white horse souse” shared … the “Z will never pitch for the Cubs again” came straight from TR himself.

    Now, that being said, TR is on record as giving all baseball decisions to E/H & Co.  Yes, responsibility passes upline … but Theo is doing what any smart exec would do with an asset.  Talk him up, pump him up like crazy in the media (something they’ve seldom done so far), and try to build some value – whether he starts the season, is traded July 31, or is traded this off season (before Opening Day) doesn’t matter.

    • EQ76

      I thought all Ricketts said was that it would be hard to picture him pitching for the Cubs next year.. never heard him say “never”

  • jandersonjr81

    Berry, what people fail to understand is that even though Zambrano handle all those situations wrong, his brie on those situations were right. He was right against Barrett, Lee should have gotten to that ball, and the cubs did quite last year. Also, Zambrano hasn’t completely been horrible. Our defense has been horrible. Ramirez had no range, Castro has great range potential, but hasn’t maximizes it, Lee and Pens both have great gloves, not great range. Byrd has horrible range and Soriano and range should.never be mentioned in the same sentence. So his “BAD” number are inflated by horrible defensive range. If he is traded, and we have to pay upwards of 75-80% of his.contract, it would be a horrible move. Considering, I cant say he been any worse the C.J. Wilson who benefits from good defense.

    • jandersonjr81

      Not Berry, I meant Brett. I’m on my phone, it keeps auto correcting.

      • Brett

        Your phone prefers Berry to Brett?! That’s crap!

  • Jeff

    This pitching market is very thin. The remaining pitchers that are left after Buehrle and Wilson signed aren’t worth wasting much money on. The only way to get a good arm is via trade. With a shortage of starting pitching, no team is giving up pitching prospects or young arms without a large price tag.

    Texas has some of the best young talent in the game and they must apparently not be willing to include the best ones for Garza. So say no thank you and walk away. Everyone seems to be in favor of trading Garza for prospects, but remember they are just prospects, not a sure thing by any stretch of the imagination. Garza has proven to be a solid pitcher and can get better.

    Zambrano and Dempster’s contracts fall of the books next year, so we can”t afford to lose Garza in a trade now. I’m fine with a rebuilding period, but our best bet is to go into the season and hope that Soto, Byrd, Zambrano, Dempster and Marmol rebound and put up good numbers that increase their trade value come July, so that we can acquire some young arms for the future.

    I’m afraid we’re just screwed with Soriano.

    • die hard

      Soriano will have better power numbers than anyone else on club including Stewart which is the rub…

  • Mike F

    I think that is very astute Jeff. I like Perez and while Ramirez and Olt are nice prospects, I would not call any of them can’t miss. They are all good prospects, but you have it, they are all projects and project to player assumptions. If Texas isn’t willing to provide them they should walk away, it makes no sense to trade Garza in my view for prospects at the same level as Vitters, Jackson and McNutt. You have to get at least 2 above that. Perez is, not sure either Olt or Ramirez are that. But taken in total Ramirez, Olt, Perez and Feldman makes sense, not a dime less though.

  • necubsfan

    Brett or whomever, this is totally off topic but I don’t where else to ask. How do I post to message board topics, and what does permalink mean? Thanks and pardon my ignorance.

    • Brett

      To post on the Message Board, just register, log in, and you can post away. As for permalink, that just means the web address for the specific post, comment, whatever. Not typically something you’ll have to use.

      • necubsfan


  • Joepoe321

    Any news on fielder?