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Earlier today, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations discussed, among other things, the circumstances of Carlos Zambrano’s return to the Cubs. It was a best behavior kind of thing.

But it might not matter.

According to Ken Rosenthal (and a rumor out of Venezuela we discussed on Twitter earlier today), the Cubs and Marlins are “close” to consummating a trade that would send Big Z to Miami where he could pitch for his good friend, Ozzie Guillen.

Zambrano, 30, is owed $18 million in 2012 (the final year of his contract, setting aside a virtually unobtainable 2013 vesting option). If the Cubs are hoping to pick up anything of value at all in the deal, they’ll have to kick in substantial cash. Even then, I’d keep expectations low – the market for Zambrano, to the best of our collective knowledge, consisted of Miami, and … Miami. Zambrano has a no-trade clause, so the Cubs were probably very limited in their options. With that kind of leverage, it’s not likely Miami will give up much of note.

Apparently the rumor had been floating around Venezuela for a little while, but the only reporter to cover it couldn’t get confirmation from the Marlins on a possible deal. So, it kind of died on the vine.

But, with Rosenthal reporting it, I’d imagine this has legs. I’ll update when more is available.

UPDATE: I checked around with a couple sources, and while the final, final details of the trade are not, well, finalized, the rumor is legit. The two sides are close.

UPDATE II: It just occurred to me – those vague rumors that Zambrano was sitting out Venezuelan Winter League starts because of a leg injury? Any chance that was a cover story for an impending trade, and a new team that didn’t want him pitching any  more this year?

UPDATE III: Dave Kaplan reports that his sources are also telling him that a deal is in the works.

UPDATE IV: Enrique Rojas says (as speculated in the comments) that the return player being discussed is pitcher Chris Volstad. A Zambrano-for-Volstad swap was discussed back in December.

UPDATE V: Joe Cappozi (a Miami writer) says there’s a chance the Cubs could land Matt Dominguez in the deal, which would be insane. I think he’s just speculating, rather than saying what he’s heard from a source.

UPDATE VI: Jon Heyman says he also hears Volstad is headed to the Cubs. (Volstad, by the way, has been a mediocre back-end pitcher for three straight years now, and is in his first year of arbitration.) Note that getting Volstad wouldn’t help the Cubs’ 40-man roster bloat.

UPDATE VII: Joe Cowley says it’s a “wrap,” but I guess we’ll have to wait a bit longer for the final details.

UPDATE VIII: Bruce Levine says it’s a Z for Volstad swap with the Marlins taking on just $3 million of Z’s salary. I know the Cubs’ options were limited, but oof. I’ll still take it, but harder to call it a “win.” A Marlins writer says the Cubs are eating ALL of Z’s salary, but pretty much everyone else (Kaplan, Rosenthal) say Cubs are eating $15 million.

FINAL UPDATE (probably): I’ll have more on the trade tomorrow, but my instant reaction is that, while I would have liked to have seen more salary relief, the Cubs had no leverage. Zambrano has a serious image problem. The Cubs are known to want to move him. Zambrano also has a no-trade clause. With those confluent factors, the Cubs were never going to get much for Z, assuming they felt they had to move him (and, clearly, they did). So they got a little salary relief, and a cost-controlled, high upside, low success, 25-year-old pitcher. I’m not jumping up and down or saying things like “I can’t believe they got this much” (which was my reaction to the Marshall trade), but I’m fine with it. Perhaps after more analysis, I’ll break more firmly in one direction or the other.

  • njriv

    It’s about time. Thoughts on what we’d get in return?

  • Serio

    WOW

    • TWC

      Wow indeed.

      Serio, where you been, baby?

      • Serio

        I feel like iv lost my posting ability…I reach down & there nothing there

  • ferrets_bueller

    Didn’t someone in the Marlins shoot this down earlier today?

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      I think so.

  • Timmy

    For all of his anger problems no one can question his talent, dedication, and desire to win. Except maybe Phil Rogers. Cause he’s an idiot. Here’s hoping Zambrano returns to form for Ozzie! He definitely needs a new location to start over.

  • Edgar

    All i gotta say is FINALLY something interesting. Like his passion to a certain level but he had to leave

  • arealpoy

    Big Z for a spare catcher’s glove, a bag of no name sunflower seeds and a pack of Big League Chew. OK, throw in an autographed picture of the cast of Miami Vice (80s) and we’ll pay the airfare from VZ to MIA.

    • Fishin Phil

      I’d want a new Gatorade cooler thrown in on that deal.

      • BetterNews

        Ha!

  • Cedlandrum

    I personally have always liked Zambrano and will miss him.

  • ogyu

    Yea, Carlos needs the soothing influence of a level-headed, unflappable manager like Ozzie. What could possibly go wrong?

    • Timmy

      hahaha

  • JK

    What’s the return? With Cubs picking some or most of the salary, we should be getting a decent amount of prospects.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I wouldn’t get your hopes up.

      • njriv

        Matt Dominguez? and then move Stewart to 2B?

        • Tommy

          Ian Stewart is not going to be playing 2nd base for the Cubs, ever. I would bet my meager year’s salary on that.

      • JK

        Just does not seem like Theo’s MO to eat a lot of salary without getting value. For the holes we have in the rotation and line-up, could make a decent argument for keeping Zambrano. He would be in the top 5 in HRs on the team.

        • Joe

          Check out Theo’s interview from earlier:
          http://www.bleachernation.com/2012/01/04/theo-epstein-speaks-about-the-state-of-the-chicago-cubs/

          He clearly states that he’s down with eating salary if that’s what’s right for the club. That said, I won’t complain if/when he does snag some reclamation minor league pitcher or something.

          • JK

            You misread my comment. I think Theo will eat salary but he will extract value. He is not going to eat 18M just to make Zambrano and Ozzie happy.

            • Joe

              Ah, that’s clearer. Agreed. A pure unadulterated salary dump is not likely.

            • pfk

              He won’t have to eat a ton of Z’s salary, unless, as Brett points out, he wants something of value in return. Fact is, given Z’s status with no-trade rights, Theo doesn’t have much leverage at all. So, if he can get the Fish to take a big portion of that salary, then there is money to put to good use elsewhere. It sends a message – long overdue with this club. I’ll take Stewart’s athleticism, hustle and average bat over Ramirez any day. Up next, Soriano.

    • ogyu

      The Cubs should be able to sign another free agent with what they save on Gatorade machine repairs.

  • HoustonTransplant

    Wow, good news!  I hope we get at least something for return from him.  I’d be willing to eat a GOOD chunk of his salary to increase the level of return we could get.

    Nice to see this move.  He’s been ‘okay’ at best for a few seasons, anyway.  I think he can be replaced without serious damage.  If we were a contending team it would be a different story, but now we can see someone else get a chance to prove themselves.

  • pfk

    THIS is culture change. I’m for it regardless of what they get besides salary relief to spend elsewhere. Its addition by subtraction.

  • Kyle

    Reminds me of the day Santo went to the White Sox.

    (okay, that’s the last one now that he won’t be a Cub anymore, I swear).

    • ferrets_bueller

      lmao!

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Ha.

  • Joe

    Until this past year, I really did like Carlos. A LOT. Even when he declared “we stinks,” I appreciated the straight-shooting. But I think maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention to his previous meltdowns. I thought it was the fire of a competitor, then. In 2011, anyway, it was the fire of someone who’s out of control. Not quite he-who’s-named-after-a-board-game out of control, but yeah.

    Much more than with MB, I truly wish him well in his new home. Presuming he gets that far… if Carlos stays with the Cubs this year, GOD I hope he gets his shiznat together!!

  • ferrets_bueller

    Who knows, maybe he managed to pull an Alex Anthopoulis-esque miracle and got something of value for overpriced crap. After AA managed not only to move Wells, but got a ton of value in return, I’ll forever believe that anything is possible.

    Highly, highly unlikely, yes. But still slighttttttly possible.

  • Abe Froman

    I’d like the Marlins to take on $5 mil and the Cubs to get Nolasco in return. The Marlins need to trim their 40 man as well and this move bumps Nolasco out of the rotation so a swap would make sense. It also adds yet another reclamation project (in terms of not living up to his projected potential) to Theo’s shopping list this winter.

    • Joe

      That sounds nice. Maybe too nice?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

        A hair too nice from where I sit. If the Cubs get a pitcher back, I’d think it would be Volstad.

        • Abe Froman

          My bad, I meant Volstad, obviously Nolasco is the higher ranked pitcher. I had them both on my fantasy team a couple years ago and now always confuse their names. No way we get Nolasco back.

  • al

    Z is 16 years old emotionally. I would trade him for a twenty game loser who is capable of acting like a man.

    • Joe

      Hm. Yeah, no. I’m down with winning. If Z could behave this way and still win, I don’t think I’d mind it so much.

      There has to be a middle ground. Or no middle ground and just adult-behaving winners. I like that, too.

  • Dumpman

    This makes no sense to me. Unless Garza is close to being either extended or dealt, why would we take the marlins out of the running for Garza by dealing them Z?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’m sure the Cubs wouldn’t do that unless it was clear that Garza to the Marlins wasn’t going to be a fit.

    • Joe

      Good point. And good point from Brett, too.

    • ferrets_bueller

      Garza to the Marlins never had much of a chance to happen, as the Marlins really dont have anything near the prospects the Cubs would require in return. Not even in the same zip code.

  • Oswego Chris

    anything more than 5 million is a win for us….you have to look at this realistically…

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll put the “win” level at half, $9 million.

  • Dumpman

    We’ll pay all of it for an arm liek Volstad or West is my guess.

  • Cheryl

    This is a good move for the cubs and Zambrano as well. It will be interesting to see the details.

  • http://cubbiekingdom.wordpress.com hansman1982

    look at you Brett, with your sources…I remember not too long ago you solicited sources in a post, looks like it worked, congrats

  • Bill

    I don’t see theo eating alot of salary, unless we are getting something in return.

  • SouthernCub

    At this point I do not care if we get anything back…….as long as its not Zambrano coming back. His exit IS the gain.

  • scorecardpaul

    I like the idea of eating more, and getting a real prospect in return.  This could be a wasted year, I like the idea of paying off our debt as we suck, then starting fresh next year.  Maybee we could also get rid of sorryanus next.

  • Oswego Chris

    I was hoping 9 Brett…but I was afraid that was too lofty….9 and a player(who is not dead) you take it and run…the culture change cannot happen with him still there..

  • King Jeff

    They’ve been talking about a Volstad for Zambrano swap since Ozzie took over the Marlins job. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if that was the trade and this has all been on the back burner as a backup plan if they had money left over after Pujols the bidding.

  • BetterNews

    I’ll take Garza over Zambonhead anyday of the week! See ya bonehead!

  • Rick Vaughn

    Being one of the few people who still seem to love Zamrbrano, this makes me a sad panda. But I get it. Don’t like it, but it does make sense. I’d rather see Soriano go if we’re going to be paying 10 million to a guy NOT to play for us. That’s all I wanted for Christmas. Maybe Santa is running a little late for me.

    At least it should be entertaining watching Zambo interact with Ozzie throughout the season.

    • BetterNews

      Did you mean Santa or Sinatra? Always did like Frank Sinatra!

  • Mike S

    If we save money from Zambrano, do you think Theo will use that to re-sign Kerry Wood??

  • Cubs82

    Updated 5:49pm CST: According to a report from Enrique Rojas, the Cubs and Marlins are discussing a Zambrano for Chris Volstad swap. According to reports out of Miami, Matt Dominguez could be in the deal. David Kaplan is reporting the deal could be finalized in 24-48 hours.

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