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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.

  • Tommy

    I’m stunned to see people complaining about this trade. We get rid of a player that has been a locker room cancer for the last 3 years, at least. His numbers have consistently dwindled, and there was zero market for him. Basically, $18M owed to someone we’d be better without (yes, that is a subjective statement).

    But hear me out – we get a 25 year old pitcher. Did you hear that! 25 years old! He was the 16th pick overall when he was drafted, and was rushed up to the majors at age 21, and has had at a minimum 3 different managers during his tenure with Miami. Give the guy some stability and time to mature and there is no telling what this guy will do in the future. Worst case scenario is that Volstad doesn’t pan out, but we still saved $3M on Zambrano. And Volstad isn’t going to be causing issues in the clubhouse, so that is one immediate benefit.

    Epstein is doing exactly what he said he would – gathering young starting pitchers. It seems to me that he is trying to get as many young arms as he can and hope that a couple, or if he’s lucky, a few, turn it around. The possibilities are endless with a change of scenery, especially when you’re dealing with young pitchers.

    And as for the folks that have already decided that the Cubs are going to be a 60 win team. How about at least waiting until the season starts before giving up completely. Big names don’t always equate to success, and no big names does not always equate to disaster. Remember – all those superstars were just another player at some point in their career. Quite likely in their younger 20’s (which is turning out to be just about the entire Cub’s roster).

    If the Cubs had traded Zambrano for a 25 year old pitcher that had the following stats, what would you think:
    48 Games played
    1.69 WHIP
    6.94 ERA

    Now what would you say if I told you that pitcher was C.J. Wilson?

    Give the young kids a chance to get better. It does happen sometimes.

    • Jim

      Well said.

      • BetterNews

        Really?

        • kubphan82

          Yep, solid post… Volstad had a better xFIP than Z covering the 2010 and 2011 seasons. Over the last two years their numbers are similar. If we are paying close to $19million for a roster space and it’s either for a kid and with an upside and Z gone, or Z with whatever he brings, the Cubs did well pinned in a corner by acquiring Volstad. He’s under control for two years, has ML experience, has youth, and SHOULD improve… If not, at least the cubs aren’t sitting on pins and needles waiting for the next Z-tirade.

          • baldtaxguy

            Good points

          • Brian Myers

            The only part I would argue is the talent level. What I mean is that there was a time where we had 3 pitchers: Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, and Carlos Zambrano… and it was Zambrano that even the pitchers on the club thought had the best stuff and potential. He wasn’t the best at that time (by the numbers or even by fan excitement), but that’s how he was looked at.

            Volstad isn’t CJ Wilson or Zambrano of today (or a few years back). His upside potential is that he’s going to get a bit better… but not to the level of those guys. If he had that potential his former team would have never made this trade as they would have had a cheap, good clubhouse guy getting ready to come into his own. He’s not that.

            Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad for the trade… but we shouldn’t have rose colored glasses that make the talent involved look like it has a great upside. He doesn’t. We got a guy who in his prime will be a mediocre 3rd starter or a pretty good 4th starter. That’s nothing to be ashamed of and it’s a piece of the puzzle this club needed. But they needed to get rid of Z more as his actions were hurting this club and its chemistry more than his arm was helping it.

  • JK

    This was a trade that needed to be made. You think Theo/Jed were going to have Zambrano blow-up and then have the media call them out for not making a move? Zambrano, if 2012 is a great year, he wins 12 to 15 games. Those 12 to 15 wins in a down season were not worth the image hit that the Cubs and management could take if Carlos explodes. I like Volstad. He has good stuff. 25, 6’8″, 1st round pick. He has had some tough starts. I think a change of scenery is a decent gamble. Worse option is to not offer in 2013 and he is a free agent. If we can get a 25 year old offensive player that that has had 2 to 3 years of service time for Soriano, I will be kissing Theo’s picture.

    • BetterNews

      Will you kiss a BetterNews picture?(LOL)

  • Rooster

    I love this trade. People have to quit looking at the obvious stats with Volstad…the kids got talent. 73 BPV to end the year last year. I’m buying.

    His skill growth in August shows why: 8.9 Dom, 2.7 Ctl, 60% GB%, 125 BPV. A near-9.0 Dom + 60% GB% is a combination you won’t find many places. A crazy 36% HR/F produced his 5.01 ERA for the month. There remains a lot of profit potential here.

    This kid can produce. A 125 base performance value (sabermetrics people) is up there with the elite talents. PROFIT POTENTIAL…the two key words. If you display a skill you own it. SKILL GROWTH, BPV of 100 plus in Aug, what’s not to like? Homerun trade Theo! I refuse to waste computer ink on Z.

    • BetterNews

      Wow roooster! My calculator won’t tolerate such nunbers. Reload(LOL)

    • JasonB

      And somewhere Ron Shandler smiles

      But yes Rooster, I agree.  To put it in Baseball Forecaster parlance, there are the seeds of something very interesting here.  And we’ve basically turned 2 years of team control and $15 million into 8 years of team control on two promising 25 year old arms who just need to step up their game a little bit, 6 years of team control on a fringe regular OF and minor league contract on a 2B who has simply hit everywhere he’s ever played.

    • tjtrigo

      Ditto, Rooster.  I was just going to write that exact same thing…the near 9.0 Dom + 60 % stuff…

       

    • BetterNews

      Go have another cooconut drink!

    • Tony S

      I am excited because of the tone of your post but could somebody please provide the ‘baseball stats for dummies’ translation?

      • BetterNews

        What do you need? There is a baseball for dummies book.

        • Tony S

          I may need to invest in that book with the new front office coming on board.

          Lazy on my part but what do good or elite pitchers stats look like for ctl and Dom?

          • BetterNews

            Yes you ar being lazy. I will Not answer your abbreviations. Go find another sucker.

            • Brian Myers

              Well, if you type in google Baseball Dom and nothing comes up (except, of course, Dom Dimaggio) … that’s pretty obscure.

      • JasonB

        He (Volstad) seems to have put something together at the end of the year last year

        Dom = K/9 – a K per inning is very good – can he hold those gains for a whole season?  Well, he never has before but you have to start somewhere.  Even elite starters don’t strike out a batter per inning.  Then again, those elite starters with significantly less than 9 K/9 will also walk less than 2 batters per 9 innings pitched.

        GB = Groundball rate – 60% is very good – actually, it’s elite.  Groundballs are good because I have yet to see one leave the ballpark.  Most others probably haven’t either.  They also don’t go for extra base hits like 2Bs very often.

        Ctl = BB/9 = combine a 2.7 BB/9 with a 9 K/9 and you get a K/BB greater than 3, which is a K/BB ratio that is typically assigned to borderline elite pitchers.  Not walking people is good which we all know because you don’t want to give the other team free baserunners – make them earn their way on base with a hit.

        HR/F = HR per flyball – sabermetricians say this number should be closer to 11%-12% so any number above that indicates that a pitcher has been unlucky.  In Volstad’s case, he was incredibly unlucky (or lobbing grapefruits across the plate).

        You add all of that up and it suggests that Volstad has been unlucky, which means that his ERA should be much better going forward.  In my analysis from earlier tonight I suggested that the one weakness that remains is his struggles versus lefties.  This has to get fixed or teams are going to run out every lefty that they possibly can to face him.

        • Tony S

          Cheers Jason.

          • JasonB

            No prob – I’m into this stuff but I’m a math dork so I can understand why a lot of others wouldn’t be as into it.

            • BetterNews

              Then it should’t be hard to figure out.

  • Rooster

    I’m assuming that’s what Theo and his gang were looking at. Restart the calc BN!

  • http://bleachernation ferris

    very good trade,even though the trade to kc would be better big z had a no trade so it was miami or bust,we save 2 plus m and get a young guy w/ upside potential…….that will help now,we got the better of the deal .these have all been improvement deals not earth shattering but improvement and we only have one bad chip left-soriano……..lets hope bosio can fix marmol,and some of these younger position players are hungry and these starters make the most of their oportunity,i for one am excited to see this team play.

    • BetterNews

      Please help me lord! Im being patient.

      • BetterNews

        I wIin!

  • ty

    Dear Daddy Rick: This your son little Rick. Just a note to let you know we gave away that big bad employee that was upsetting everybody. Remember when he dented the water cooler. Fortunately that other bad guy on the other side of town agreed to take him as long as we paid his salary which is about 20 percent of our payroll for 2012. Yes, I know that I hired several new employees and offered them big salaries but after having lunch with him they are wary of him. Unfortunately the bad dude and his new bad dude boss will be back at our company headquarters a couple times this summer. What do you think Daddy? Did I mess up? Our company consultant Mr. Phil Rogers says its o.k.!

  • njriv

    Now if we get a couple more arms by moving Soto and Byrd, trade soriano and get rizzo I would consider this a successful first offseason for theo and co.

    • BetterNews

      IF!

  • BetterNews

    Yes , everyone will queston Zabraino trade. I’ll take a kitten.

  • Mike F

    I think people seem to struggle with the basic concept of a trade. It takes two to tango. in this case the Cubs get the good of dumping an issue. Just how serious the issue is, we don’t and won’t ever know, their are major privacy issues, but it needs to be recognized that they have all his medical, physiological and personality testing records as well as any agreed upon reports for his several runs at anger management. They are truly the only ones in any kind of position to make a judgement as to whether there was any point in keeping him and the risks.

    Second this was a sh t sandwich for Theo from day one. Ricketts is the one who made clear he’d had enough of Zambrano and there was no way out, he was done. Hendry, I’m certain on the advice and consent of Tom Ricketts made the determination to blow the incident in Atlanta even more out of proportion by the public nature of his reaction, the confrontation in print and then major suspension. they lit the bridge and then threw a little dynamite on for good measure. In hindsight, if they weren’t prepared to eat the entire 18 plus M they should have done a lot more deflection and shrugged it off. But their reaction made any real savings a trade, no matter who the GM was almost impossible.

    The Cubs gained the benefit of ending something, which for them, would have never worked. Miami got the benefit of a reclamation project which if they can reach him will be a a very good deal at 3M for Volstead included. That’s what trades almost always have to do, give both teams something they want and a chance to prosper. Do I like it? It’s not a matter of like and one unlike Garza, Theo really had any practical choice, it was untenable to have Zambrano on the roster, and that is ultimately something people have to take up with ownership. I think we need to be at least mindful they got 3M of relief and Volstead and that’s a hell of lot more than most MLB teams obviously would have given us.

  • air

    it’s a good trade if you trust theo. we’ve seen what zambro has to offer. his attitude and demeanor is sub par. if we get good prospects and keep garza, im in. what can we get for dempster? soriano? gonna have to keep eating and eating until theo gets what he wants. he’s a good gm, although lucky with that first bosox ws. that’s magic. something to be wished for

  • pfk

    I’m 100% for this deal. Theo is right when he talks about “sunk costs.” There is/was no way around it – if the Cubs were/are going to improve they were going to have to accept being hit hard financially and that means eating most, if not all, of the salaries of certain players. It wasn’t a question of what, if anything, we could get in return. It was accepting that it may be nothing but that the team gets to change the culture and move on. No doubt, the same thing is going to happen with Soriano. Rather than hanging on to these guys in the faint hope of “getting a return,” while seeing horrible baseball and atrocious team chemistry, it is better to wipe the slate clean and go in the right direction, which is the opposite direction Hendry was taking this club. Theo is doing it right and seeing his team work shows just how lost Hendy’s group was. No need for me to evaluate this deal wondering if we could have gotten more – it totally fits into the new direction.

    • Fishin Phil

      Absolutely right.  And I’ll add this for all the impatient fans out there – the sooner they start, the sooner you will start seeing results.

  • Kyle

    Carlos Zambrano had better secretly have been eating babies in the clubhouse or something, because otherwise this is a bad trade.

    • baldtaxguy

      Based on what?  Why is this a bad trade?

      • Kyle

        They gave up a useful pitcher while eating his entire salary. They got a very, very fringey buy low candidate in return.

        They got the worse baseball player in the trade while saving no money.

        Yeah yeah yeah, we can’t have players who attack people in the clubhouse or hot dog vendors…

  • chris margetis

    I’m sure this has been said previously based on the number of responses: No one wanted this guy back in the clubhouse under any circumstances!! It doesn’t matter who pitches better next year, (and for my money I’d bet on Volstad) Z would have destroyed the clubhouse based on his presence alone. To get back an at worst serviceable back end rotation guy, with high upside, who’s young and under team control? Consider it a gift from the Marlins, no matter how much dough we include. If every dime of my season ticket money was used to assist in that transaction, I’ll consider it money well spent.

  • 2much2say

    Soriano next? I say Cleveland. Cubs would pay 36 – 39 mil

  • 2much2say

    Zambranos downfall will come in late April. He will come inside on a player who will retalliate and get his butt handed to him causing the league to suspend him 60 days.

  • 2much2say

    Start adding the savings up and stop counting when Fielder cost is covered.
    66 million Payroll before Arb 90 mil approx after
    off the books: 16 mil Aram 3 mil for Z 3.5 mil Marshall
    Left 14 Demp 7 Marmol 6 Byrd 4 Dejesus 19/57 mil Soriano
    50 mil to spend = 25 mil Fielder 12 mil for Cespedes 5 mil Soler 8 mil FA starter
    Not quite there yet

  • deej34

    When it comes down to it…Theo/Jed didn’t pull a Hendry and talk smack and devalue the player before making the trade (see Hendry and Sosa.. Hendry and Bradley… Hendry and Silva)

    Zambano’s days were numbered every since Rickett’s reaction in Atlanta. Theo played his part, didn’t talk Z down, made it seem like Z still has value in MLB. For my two cents… We essentially got something for nothing. Most of us expected Z to get outright cut and for us to absorb 18 mill for nothing. We got an upside young-ish pitcher and some salary relief.

    Win.

  • 2much2say

    Ok Boston lets put an end to this. Give us Crawford and Youklis for Soriano Garza straight up

  • ncsujuri

    I like that we got a little bit of salary relief, this one pretty much HAD to be done.  And despite all his talk about making Z earn his way back onto the team you could read through the lines of Theo’s other comments about sunk costs etc. to know that was what they were going to do whether they got anything back or not.  What’s Volstad making this year?

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