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.

  • Hack Wilson

    Now if Miami would just take Soriano…

  • ferrets_bueller

    Why the hell are people so interested in Matt Dominguez? He is, at best, going to be Pedro Feliz. Not exactly an impact player. And that is at best.

    • Spriggs

      They probably haven’t seen him play.

  • jandersonjr81 father of Caden

    Should have kept him, did everything we could to ensure he has a good year. Even If it meant baby sitting him. Maybe he has a very good year, obtains Type B(type A is out of the question after last year) status some how, and get a sandwich pick for him. A sandwich puck is worth 10 times as much as Volstad.

    • TWC

      Unless Zambrano finishes within the top 4 in Cy Young voting — he won’t — this is the last year of his contract.  Volstad is under control for 3 more seasons.  That factors into the calculation.

    • Still Love the Cubs

      I seriously doubt Carlos would have fetched compensation.

      In order to get compensation under the new CBA, you have to offer him a contract for 1 year worth like 13 million or something like that. No way I’m doing that!! He’d probably accept for that much money and then we’d have him another year.

      • Pat

        Actually, they would need to offer no less than 80% of his previous salary, so about 14.6 mil.

  • Falselife

    I know it’s early in the process, but we keep getting edge of the 40 man roster talent back. To think we eat that much salary and get a guy that could realistically perform on the level of Carlos Silva is unsettling. I guess this is just the penance for years of mismanagement. I still think I would have given Zambrano another year. If we are rebuild mode he could potentially increase his worth with a solid season, at little detriment to the team. We are selling a stock at it’s near low value. I’m not a huge fan of the guy but we are giving away a lot just to be rid of him. Yet another move that has me wondering on how long they are thinking this rebuild will take. I hope to see Volstad prove me wrong.

    • Gcheezpuff

      I agree on the point of giving Z a chance to regain some value. I was thinking trade deadline might maximize his value, but my best guess is despite the politically correct media responses, the organization already decided Z wasn’t coming back no matter what and saw and opportunity to move him and didn’t want to let it pass. This is better than a flat out release and who knows, maybe a change of scenario and Volstad improves, he is still young and at least adds some rotation depth.

      • baldtaxguy

        Z used all his chances.  He would have found a way to explode before the break to force a release on his terms, his timing.  Regardless of how outrageous the incident he would manufacture, he would have some sense of Guillen as a sort of security blanket where he could ultimately land.. It would be too much of a risk to have this idiot pull his crap once again.  To get salary relief and an arm??  Can’t execute this trade fast enough – get it done before the moron throws a trantrum.

  • jim

    Personally, I am happy to see this Cancer gone! (Zambrano)
    I know, he “is” a fierce competitor. He very well may do
    good in Miami & he probably will beat the CUBS!

  • cubs4life

    Well probably not the greatest trade in the world, hopefully volstad just needs a change of scenery. but i do wish big z well, hopefully he can win a few games down there and bounce back a little, sure he was a thorn in our side for the last few years but he also pitched quite well for us as well(earlier in his career that is).

    • JR1908

      I agree with that cubs 4 life. Man that guy was a complete nut job, but he did make me laugh a lot, and did really well early on too. But he had to go. I wish we didn’t but have to pay 15 of the 18 mill. but he had no market…

  • EtotheR

    I always loved Z…but, did get bummed when his boyish enthusiasm seemingly turned into adult rage.

    We’ll never know whether or not staying in Chicago would have been good for Z, but based on everything, getting rid of him made sense…even if we had to sell low and eat dollars.

    That said…getting Volstad doesn’t make me feel like we got robbed. Like Travis Wood…25 years-old with some flashes of brilliance, and the kind of repertoire that might work in Wrigley. I’m optimistic.

    We move forward.

  • Kansas Cubs Fan

    The new coaching staff will be busy next season with all these bounce back candidates. Curious to see how they all work out next season.

  • Oswego Chris

    When analyzing these moves Cub fans can’t look at them as what they want to happen…we have to look at them more realistically…would I have liked the Marlins to eat half the salary and give us a good player…of course I would have…but that’s not realistic…you have to start looking at things from the other teams perspectives and say if the situation was reversed…would I do that?…..I haven’t thoroughly researched Volstad yet but….so I won’t call it a win or a loss yet…but just remember that Big Z quit last year…

  • http://Bleachernation Ramy16

    Chris Volstad.. No way… They should have at least thrown in Gabby Sanchez!! I feel the Marlins got a better deal than we did even owing big Z that kind of money!!

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      At least Gaby Sanchez? That’s insane.

      • ferrets_bueller

        Undervaluing Sanchez, overvaluing Aramis hahaha.

        • Kansas Cubs Fan

          Big time.

    • King Jeff

      How did the Marlins get a better deal when for all we know, Zambrano might have been released in spring training. I think getting Volstad for a guy that they were going to pay anyway, and getting some salary relief has to be considered a good deal for the Cubs. I don’t think anything has changed from the last two times Zambrano was a “changed man”, I didn’t see him ever regaining his form while pitching for the Cubs.

  • die hard

    is there a stipulation that Z cannot pitch against the Cubs in 2012?..If not, should be as he is crazy enough to want to hurt somebody….

  • al

    One of the greatest baseball moves ever, whatever the price. Ranks right up there with losing Todd Hundley and Milton Bradley.

    • ferrets_bueller

      The Todd Hundley trade is still my favorite Cubs move of my lifetime.

      Not only did we get rid of Todd Hundley, a miracle on any level, but we got back two of the key pieces to a near-championship team. The contributions by Karros and Grudzeilanek cannot be overstated, and are frequently understated. Without those two guys, that team would have been nowhere close.

  • rcleven

    Kind of have two conflicting opinions on this trade
    1)Glad to see Z go.
    2)151/2 mm going for a #5 starter.

    seems we sold pretty low.

  • ty

    Ricketts just ate 15 million dollars today. I misplaced a twenty and still looking!

  • Dougy D

    OUCH! Paying 15! We should have just made him sit the year and not allow him to play.

    Well, I guess beggars can’t be choosers, and I really wanted him gone. Good riddance to bad rubbish. I hope we at least throw at him once this year to get him worked up into a frenzy!

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      Not letting him play would be wasting 18 mil. Instead the Cubs ate 15 mil and got a 25 year old starter in Volstad back.

    • Jim

      Don’t think the player’s union would have allowed that.

      • BetterNews

        $%^& the union, The union only protects familily members, been there done that!

  • Ryan

    I don’t mind the trade simply because the Cubs got something they can use out of the deal. I would have been disapointed if they would have eaten 15 million and gotten a Low class A prospect kinda what the CWS did with their SD trade.

    • rcleven

      Different trade altogether. Williams made the trade for a salary dump. Williams needs the cash to chase the Cubans.

  • rcleven

    Be careful what you wish for you just might get it. I know how Ozzie will retaliate.

  • die hard

    Volstad day games career ERA is 3.60 (6 games) …career ERA otherwise is tantamount to pitching batting practice…well he’s a huge guy and so will come in handy if Z pitches inside against the Cubs causing a brawl

  • JR1908

    Remember when Theo first had lunch with Big Z and his agent? He acted like Z had a chance to come back if he “earned his way back”. Yeah right… Theo knew the day he took the job Big Z was done as a Cub.. He was just trying to draw up a market.

    My pt. is everything Theo does is Premeditated. I’m not saying the Cubs made out in this deal. But it shows that what Theo says or does can never be judged until you see the outcome.. He probably doesn’t even tell Jed everything.

  • Dukie11

    Forgetting Volstad this is a big day for the Cubs. Theo said he was creating a culture of accountability and he backed it up today. He is creating a foundation for success.

  • Oswego chris

    I always see people on here wanting prospects….well in the last two trades we have gotten two pitchers who are 25 and have shown flashes in the bigs….plus they are cheap….Volsted is 6’8…..fastball sits around 91….this guy is not garbage

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      I agree. Prospects are always good but young starting pitchers who have big league experience are good for this team that desperately needs them.

  • cubmig

    This trade is a hard pill to swallow. The Cubs got nothing to brag about in return. One can say the Z headache is gone, but price of the cure is (imo) too damn high to feel confident of a promising, lasting effect. I hope the hand Theo played works out for the team, although I’m skeptical.

  • die hard

    wait a minute….why is Theo be given credit for this deal….thought Hoyer was GM?

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    I added my final thoughts/final update for the evening. I’ll have more on the deal tomorrow, obviously.

  • Cubbiecop

    For those who want a quick reference to Volstad’s numbers here they are. http://www.baseball-reference.com/players/v/volstch01.shtml
    I like the fact that we got rid of Zambrano, he is not a “team player” by any stretch of the imagination. It’s one thing to be competitive but another completely to call out your team in the media. Be a man and tell them to their faces that they need to step it up, that’s what a leader does.

    • Deez

      I don’t think anyone wanted to Big “Z” one on one.
      Ask Barrett!
      You wouldn’t like that kinda party.

  • rcleven

    How much contract control are we getting on Volstad’s contract and for how much?

    • Kansas Cubs Fan

      I don’t know the price but hes a free agent in 2015.

      By the way check out Baseball-reference.com, it will tell you just about anything you want to know about players and prospects.

  • die hard

    ESPN reports trade is pending a physical for Volstad and psych exam for big Z

  • Rancelot

    Now that is funny. Bravo dh, bravo!

    • die hard

      and so its premature to celebrate…but given Volstad’s day game ERA compared to 5.00 ERA otherwise, can see some rationale for home field advantage move in addition to fact he’s huuuuuuuge!!!!

  • cubsin

    The Cubs have Volstad for three years. He’s arb eligible, so his salaries are unknown at this time. Probably around $2.3 this year.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That’s a pretty enormous raise for a guy with an 80 ERA+ in 2011. I imagine it won’t be quite that high.

  • ty

    o.k. Diehard but Ozzie is going to score the exam per his criteria!