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.”


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