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Less than two days ago, Chicago Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein told a crowd that either Carlos Zambrano was going to change, or the personnel on the Cubs was going to change.

It turns out he already knew that it was going to be the latter. A few hours later, word leaked that Zambrano had been traded to the Marlins, which deal was finalized yesterday.

Epstein spoke about the trade yesterday, and explained, among other things, why Zambrano had to go. The highlights of Epstein’s comments:

  • On the primary reason Zambrano was traded: “I’m not big on labels, I’m not big on reputations dictating how I treat people or how I think about people,” Epstein said. “But this was one that was really consistent. Every player I talked to articulated to me that Carlos really violated their trust. When you’re talking about physical altercations with players repeatedly, when you’re talking about physically walking out on the team, it’s very hard to then have that player come back into the clubhouse and be trusted. In order to be a good teammate, there has to be a certain degree of trust and accountability. Do I believe in second chances? Yes. Do I believe in third chances? Yes, in some cases, and even fourth chances. But I think you have to be realistic about it and recognize that players don’t dictate decisions like this, but you’re trying to establish a certain sense of unity in the clubhouse, and a sense of purpose …. The players here felt, and the organization feels, like there just wasn’t trust there, and it was a risky proposition to see whether that trust could be re-established.”
  • On whether Epstein was simply cowing to public pressure to trade Zambrano: “Not just talking to players but talking to a lot of the people that have been here for many years, they made it clear in my mind this wasn’t just a mob mentality or unfair momentum to run this guy out of town,” Epstein said. “This was a very legitimate situation. It would have been very difficult for him to re-establish himself in that clubhouse and gain the trust of his teammates back. Therefore it would be very difficult to establish the culture we want in the clubhouse.”
  • On the trade, generally: “The calculus for us was, would we rather spend that $18 million on one year of Carlos and try to make it work with him here?” Epstein asked rhetorically. “Best-case scenario is that if it did work, he’d be leaving as a free agent at the end of the year. Or, if we had to spend that money anyway as a sunk cost, would we rather spend it on a 25-year-old who we can put in our rotation and control for three seasons? That made a lot more sense.”
  • On the amount of money being eaten: “With respect to subsidizing some of Carlos’ contract, I think the concept of a sunk cost was something Tom [Ricketts] and I discussed at our very initial meeting,” Epstein said. “Tom showed a keen understanding of what that means. For better or worse, if you’re stuck paying $18 million for one year of Carlos Zambrano, and there is not a team willing to take him with any dollar relief whatsoever, then you have to decide were we better off with one year of Carlos at the $18 million paid, or are we better off paying the $18 million and getting a 25-year-old pitcher with three control years?”
  • On wishing Zambrano well: “We’re glad for him that he has a chance for a new start and a place where he can build new relationships and establish a new reputation for himself,” Epstein said. “We think he has the chance to do that in Miami.”
  • colocubfan

    In the last few years, Carlos appeared to me to be a pretty selfish individual. If somebody made an error, he just simply seemed to come unglued. I could tell as soon as an error was made or a play wasn’t made that Carlos thought should have been, that was it. The manager just as well have taken him out before he completely lost his temper, because his ability to pitch effectively was pretty much gone for a couple of innings.
    I’ve seen him get by for an inning or two, and then right himself if everything went good. But more often than not, another error, another big hit, then Carlos threw a little kid’s fit in the dugout. Or worse, left the game in the middle. Good riddance to bad rubbish in my opinion.

  • cubmig

    It’s hard to imagine that public pressure didn’t factor in on the move z possibility. I think it did. Also,(and while I don’t factually know), the “sunk cost” concept discussion at the initial meeting allows one to speculate that Z may have been on their mind and an impetus for it. At least it’s not totally clear that it wasn’t. Having said that, I think the reasoned explanation put forth was smartly crafted and politically palatable.

  • hardtop

    as much as i’ve been discouraged by the moves and non-moves to date, this is a rock-star performance by theo in terms of addressing the issues. every time i begin to think theo’s crazy, he wins me back with well thought out explanations and comments like these. nice work.

    btw, i had a chance to spend some tie with volstadt a few years back… marlins were in chicago for a four gamer i think. anyway, really nice, quite kid… extremely tall! probably the opposite kind of teammate zambrano was.

  • John Breslin

    Great comments by Theo. I am a little surprised he so direct in his indictment here against Carlos. He must feel it is worth explaining this situation to Cub fans, and to the players. Trading Carlos was a very significant moment in the quest to establish a new culture on this team.

  • truebluecubbie

    It doesn’t surprise me that he was traded. Ricketts said after the blow up that he had a hard time seeing Big Z in a Cubs uniform again. What I like about it is that we got a talented young pitcher who needed a change of scenery (I really hate that term but it fits) and may just right the ship under Bosio. Zambrano was gone at the end of the year anyway and would have went to Miami, so at least we got something out of it. A lot of Cubs fans are complaining about the moves that Theo is making, I however, like them. He is changing the culture and doing something that no other GM/President has done for the Cubs. This year may not be our year, next year may not be our year, but in three or four years the Cubs will be on top of the NL Central and World Series contenders.

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