Tag: Carlos Zambrano

Chicago Cubs: Reflecting on Mark Prior, 2003 and What Should Have Been

Chicago Cubs fans will always remember 2003.  Most will not have particularly fond memories of that season.  With the 10 year anniversary of that season just around the corner, Cubs fans still think about what might have been without injuries and that wretched curse.

Oh, yes.  The curse.  I, for one, have never believed in it.  However, after spending last summer cringing at the product the Cubs put between the lines, maybe there is something about Billy Sianis and that doggone goat.

But 2003—that was different.  It was a solid team defensively, well, at least in the infield.  It was a good offensive team, well, at least in the outfield.  This was when Sammy Sosa still had adoring fans in right field who rose to their feet when he sprinted out to begin the game.  The fans weren’t worried about corked bats or corked biceps.

Kenny Lofton came over to play center field and energized the team.  Moises Alou, he of the infamous play along the left field wall, seemed to be an ageless wonder with his potent bat.  No one even cared that he peed on his hands to toughen them up.  But it was the pitching that really mattered.  

The Cubs had the best young rotation in baseball.

Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano, and Matt Clement.  

The collapse in the playoffs against the Florida Marlins has been well documented.  The disappointment at the time was palpable—but there still seemed to be hope.  Again, the Cubs had the best young rotation in baseball.  They would be back in the playoffs.  They would be the team to beat for the next 10 years.  With a pitching staff such as they had—anything was possible.  

Kerry Wood had come up as a phenom from the state of Texas.  He had already thrown what was arguably the most impressive game in the history of baseball, with the 20 strikeouts and only one hit in a shutout against the Houston Astros.  He had successfully come back from Tommy John surgery.  He was primed to be a staff ace.  

Carlos Zambrano was a very green young pitcher who some felt had the best arm on the entire staff. He could be absolutely dominant at times.  In 2003, we didn’t yet know he was as crazy as he was talented.

Matt Clement, he of the weird beard.  While no one was sharpening their pencils to nominate him to the Hall of Fame one day, he certainly seemed more than serviceable as a fourth starter.  In fact, he would have probably been a two on many teams. 

But Mark Prior he was the special one.  He was the guy who was going to be the Cubs Tom Seaver with the silky smooth delivery.  He was going to be the Cubs Don Drysdale with his impressive command of the strike zone.  He was going to be the Cubs Greg Maddux…nah, I’ll leave that one alone.  There are already enough regrets going on here.  

There seemed to be no reason to doubt Mark Prior was going to be the best pitcher in the National League for the rest of the decade.  No one could have known in 2003 that Mark Prior would never again return to the form he showed that season.  His fall, due to shoulder injuries, is the most disappointing of all the disappoints from 2003.

Some blamed Dusty Baker for Kerry Wood and Mark Prior’s subsequent injuries.  Is that fair?  Maybe. Probably not.  No matter, what happened happened, and the Cubs have never rebounded from that season.

It’s tough to be a Cubs fan.  Perhaps there is nothing tougher than thinking back about what could have been with that early nineties pitching staff.    

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Fantasy Baseball 2012: Why Carlos Zambrano Is Due for a Bounce Back to Relevancy

During his last few years with the Chicago Cubs, new Miami Marlins starting pitcher Carlos Zambrano made headlines for his temper tantrums more than his work on the mound, but the change of scenery will bring Big Z back to relevancy in 2012.

Zambrano is an interesting name for fantasy managers every season. On one hand, he knows how to strike batters out and is a solid veteran; on the other hand, he can be a monster headache with all his random outbursts and foot-in-mouth type of comments.

That being said, the Marlins didn’t go out and acquire the former Cubs hurler without thinking they can control the big man. Who better to control Big Z than manager Ozzie Guillen, right? Exactly.

While I don’t expect Zambrano to pull any more of his usual outbursts during his first year on a new team, if he tries that stuff with Guillen, he’s going to get an earful and then some. There’s no way the new Marlins skipper is going to put up with temper tantrums from anyone but himself.

Zambrano had his worst season in MLB in 2011, and he still posted a 6.2 strikeouts-per-nine-innings ratio. The native Venezuelan is a proven strikeout producer, and he’s a guy I’ve seen go either in the last round of drafts or undrafted in many fantasy leagues.

The newest Miami Marlin is only two seasons removed from a double-digit win year in 2010. Oh, and over his 11 seasons in the big leagues, Big Z strikes out an average of almost eight batters per nine innings.

If you’re sitting there questioning whether or not this former Cubbie is motivated, he’s actually spent the offseason working out according to the Miami Herald. Yes, you read that right: Carlos Zambrano has been working out!

The Herald stated that Zambrano has dropped an estimated two or three pants sizes since we last saw him take the mound. In fact, Big Z told reporter Clark Spencer that the only reason he didn’t keep shedding the weight was because his wife said he was beginning to look ill.

“She says I don’t look good, like I have cancer” the starting pitcher told Spencer.

I’m sure there have been plenty of managers who have been burned by this guy in recent seasons, but you can’t write off a proven veteran who boasts a career average of almost 200 Ks a year.

While I wouldn’t advocate drafting Big Z in, say, the 14th round of your draft or anything, he’ll be available in the final round most likely, and that’s a steal.

Now your league mates aren’t going to pat you on the back or scold you for taking their potential pick when you draft Zambrano, but you’ll have them kicking themselves later in the year when the Marlins hurler becomes one of your biggest strikeout producers.

While the congratulations are nice, it’s much more fun to watch your fellow managers wonder why they didn’t pick Big Z when they had the chance.

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Miami Marlins: Five Keys to a Successful 2012

Every season for the past four or five years, Marlins owner Jeffery Loria has said that if his team “does not make the playoffs, they have fallen short of the front office’s expectations.” While that might have been considered an unrealistic goal given the budget the past few seasons, using that criteria to analyze the team’s productivity the past few years means that the Marlins have fallen well short of expectations.

In an attempt to make sure this team at least competes within their division during the upcoming season, the Marlins’ front office core has made significant moves that have dramatically improved their roster.

While bringing in names such as Jose Reyes and Mark Buehrle, the success of the Marlins in 2012 will most likely depend on players that have been on the roster for several years, such as Hanley Ramirez and Josh Johnson.

An injury-plagued Marlins team struggled in 2011, however the new Miami Marlins might only be five keys away from making the playoffs and becoming a contender once again.

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Chicago Cubs: How Anthony Rizzo Will Define the Theo Epstein Regime

In one of the biggest trades of last year’s offseason, the Boston Red Sox acquired first baseman Adrian Gonzalez from the San Diego Padres for prospects, Anthony Rizzo, Casey Kelly and Reymond Fuentes.

Rizzo, a first baseman, was an intriguing prospect given his connection to then-Red Sox general manger Theo Epstein’s protege, Padres’ GM Jed Hoyer.

Fast forward to now, as Theo Epstein is the President of Baseball Operations and Jed Hoyer is the general manager of the Chicago Cubs, and as of today, Anthony Rizzo has rejoined Epstein/Hoyer in Chicago as he was traded from the Padres’ for right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner.

Ever since the Padres’ dealt starting pitcher Mat Latos to the Cincinnati Reds for first baseman Yonder Alonso, pitcher Edison Volquez and catching prospect Yasmani Grandal, it was suspected that Rizzo would become a main target for the Cubs given both Epstein and Hoyer’s connections with him.

At Triple-A Tucson last year, Rizzo batted .331 with 26 home runs and 101 RBI in 93 games.  Immediately Rizzo becomes one of the Cubs top prospects along side center fielder Brett Jackson.

Rizzo brings to the table the prototypical power-hitting left-handed batter that many teams search so hard to find.  At just 22 years old, Rizzo posses a great combination of power as well as an ability to hit balls all over the field.  Although he struggled in his first call up to the major leagues and is expected to start the 2012 season at Triple-A Iowa, Rizzo immediately becomes one of the first major acquisitions in the rebuilding of this Cubs franchise.

It has been no secret that the Cubs are not going to be much of a contender next season or the season after that.  Former general manger Jim Hendry played in to the win now philosophy, and the Cubs are riddled with aging veterans with large contracts. Epstein and Hoyer have been doing their best to focus around their young star, Starlin Castro, and to begin to build a young nucleus around him. 

Earlier trades involving Sean Marshall going to the Reds for 24-year-old starting pitcher Travis Wood and getting rid of Carlos Zambrano for a serviceable 25-year-old starting pitcher Chris Volstad have shown that this new regime is ready to get younger and are willing to eat a large contract (i.e., Cubs will be paying for the majority of Zambrano’s remaining $18 million that remains on his deal).

If Rizzo can pan out to become the type of player that many believe he can be, the Cubs may have finally found their long-term solution at first base.  A guy who can hit for power, have a high average and play exceptional defense at first can become a cornerstone along with Starlin Castro and Brett Jackson, for an organization that is desperate to win.  Rizzo is not the only answer or even the savior, but he is a great starting point for an organization desperate to win. 

Hopefully in the years to come, Rizzo can make the phrase “Wait until next year” a thing of the past.

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Miami Marlins: Analyzing Starting Pitching Options in Wake of Gio Gonzalez Deal

After relentlessly attempting to land local product Gio Gonzalez and add another established pitcher to the rotation, the Marlins are forced to look elsewhere as the division rival Washington Nationals augmented their rotation with another young arm. 

It was disappointing for the Marlins because, in this particular case, they were willing to deal their top prospects, a change of times for a franchise who usually keeps and molds their farm system and deals their established starting players. 

The Oakland Athletics asked the Marlins for either Logan Morrison or Mike Stanton in a package deal for Gio Gonzalez and the team has deemed both “untouchable”. 

So where does the team go from here? 

The current rotation of Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, and Anibal Sanchez has an array of question marks to the point that it might not even be within the top 3 in the crowded NL East.

The trade market currently consists of Wade Davis (Rays), Gavin Floyd (White Sox), Matt Garza (Cubs), Wandy Rodriguez (Astros), and Carlos Zambrano (Cubs). 

The Marlins could easily obtain Davis, Rodriguez or Zambrano in different ways. If they want Wade Davis (26), they’d have to part with Gaby Sanchez which will only happen if the team successfully signs Yoenis Cespedes so that Morrison can reclaim his former position at first base.  

To get Wandy Rodriguez (32), the Marlins would have to eat up the grand majority of his contract (three years/$36 million) and deal a solid return. But considering they wanted C.J. Wilson, this is a possibility. Rodriguez went 11-11 with a 3.49 ERA but his strikeout rate has steadily declined since 2008. 

To get Carlos Zambrano (30), the Marlins wouldn’t have to deal much as the Cubs would eat up most of the $18 million owed to him in 2012. The team would likely have to part with pitcher Chris Volstad to get a deal done. Zambrano essentially would be a reclamation project with the hopes he can regain his footing as top-of-the-rotation guy. 

As for Matt Garza or Gavin Floyd, the package would have to be within the ranks of the Gio Gonzalez deal. The Marlins will probably steer clear of Garza (10-10, 3.32 ERA) considering the package the Cubs would seek for their 28-year-old with only one year of control left. Gavin Floyd (12-13, 4.37 ERA), Ozzie’s former pitcher with the White Sox, would be an intriguing option but the “rebuilding” White Sox could seek a huge return for their 28-year-old pitcher. 

On the other hand, the free agent market consists of Edwin Jackson, Hiroki Kuroda, Roy Oswalt, Joe Saunders and Javier Vazquez.  Out of these, Vazquez has said and continues to hold firm on his stance on retiring and, at this point, why force a guy back when he truly doesn’t want to return?

Joe Saunders and Hiroki Kuroda make little sense because of age in Kuroda’s case (36) or pitching ability in Saunders’ case (soft-throwing left-hander, which the Marlins have in Mark Buehrle). 

Edwin Jackson seeks a multi-year deal with agent Scott Boras in tow, and the Marlins won’t go down that road with a pitcher of similar ability in Ricky Nolasco, who floundered last season. 

As for Roy Oswalt, it wouldn’t be a bad decision to sign him, as he seeks a one-year deal. But can the Marlins afford to add another question mark, as Oswalt suffered through back issues last season? 

You can bet the Marlins are going to add one more pitcher, but who is it? That’s yet to be seen, but the team has to do whatever it takes to keep up with the pitching ranks in the NL East. The Marlins arguably may have the best lineup in the division, but the starting rotation thirsts for one more ace to make the team a serious contender. 

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Chicago Cubs and Jim Hendry in the Final Analysis

Jim Hendry has already gotten the pink slip, so a lot of the venom Cubs fans may have felt is gone. Now, it is time to pick up the pieces and move on. Unfortunately, there are a lot of pieces to pick up. The Cubs have a top-five payroll and stand in fifth place in their division. That alone tells you the kind of analysis that has been done. Furthermore, they haven’t been a factor in the division for several years.

Interestingly enough, this team is not devoid of good players. Quite the contrary, when you look of the number of good players they have, you wonder how they stand in fifth place. This is one of those organizations that consistently makes you scratch your head. Some teams (say the Angels or Rays) make you wonder how they win. With the Cubs, you wonder how they lose. It takes some creativity.


Key Statistics

Team Payroll: 125.0 million (sixth)

Lineup: 17.6

Rotation: 16.6

Bullpen: 18.1

Composite: 17.4

Analysis Score: -11.4


The secret to Hendry’s success (if you can call it that) is that he was not terrible in any phase of the game. The problem was that he was just bad enough to field a losing team. Still, fans could point to players like Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Pena, Starling Castro and even Marlon Byrd and say the talent is there. Yes it is, but then there were the contracts for Kosuke Fukodome, Alfonso Soriano and the maddening inconsistency of Geovany Soto.

They weren’t terrible, but they were paying through the nose for mediocre players. Carlos Pena, Aramis Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukodome all made more than 10 million dollars this year. Ramirez may have been the only one who came close to producing on that kind of level. Mind you, I said close. Keeping your job without the benefit of results takes effort. You can’t completely botch moves. They simply have to underachieve enough to the point where the powers that be won’t notice.



In reality, the starting staff isn’t really that bad. Sure, Carlos Zambrano has a toxic personality and the contract to match, but you have three solid starters including Randy Wells, Ryan Dempster and the newly acquired Matt Garza. All of them have pitched well even if their collective ERA doesn’t show it. See, the Cubs are currently last in the National League (and all of MLB) in defense efficiency rating (DER). DER is the inverse of BABIP. The Cubs have a .675 team DER this season. That means that their opponents have a collective .325 BABIP this year. So, Matt Garza is the only starter with a sub 4.00 ERA, but with better luck they could have two or three pitchers there.

That’s also one of the ways in which you can underachieve and still keep your job. While they’ve committed the most errors in the league, that doesn’t always have to be the case. It just means the team makes fewer plays. That’s usually due to lack of range. Range is not something casual fans or owners notice. The Cubs could use a serviceable fifth starter but, then again, so could most of the league. What they really need is for Carlos Zambrano to either start earning his money or go away.



Carlos Marmol has been filthy in the past, but something happened on the way to him becoming the best closer in the National League. He suddenly became hittable. Andrew Cashner was supposed to be the heir apparent, but he got hurt and has been ineffective. Sean Marshall, Kerry Wood and Jeff Samardzija have been fine, but none are good enough to hold down the closer’s spot in Marmol’s stead. So, they have been stuck with his inconsistent performance.


Response to Crisis

The Cubs were out of it before the season got going and Hendry was out too as it turned out. So, the main crisis is how the organization is going to move forward. They traded Fukodome to Cleveland, but that just cleared a few million dollars. Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano are signed long-term. Zambrano will clear the books after next season and Soriano will clear after 2014. Finding takers for them would be ideal, but they are going to have to get someone drunk to do it.

Part of the crisis will be to avoid the temptation to spend their way out of the mess. Carlos Pena is a free agent, so they have his money and the money dedicated to Fukodome clearing the books. The temptation is there to go after Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. Neither of them will be enough to take the Cubs anywhere. They would energize the fan base, but this fan base needs winning more than glitz.


Analysis Score: -11.4 (29th)

Final Analysis

Actually, this rank seems pretty close. The only thing that remains a mystery is why it took ownership so long to pull the plug on Hendry. The emperor had no clothes and was running around in the buff for several seasons. Chicago is an intriguing job, so chances are they will attract a big name. Don’t be surprised if that guy gets this team competitive in a hurry.

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It’s Time for Chicago Cubs to Put Up the ‘For Sale’ Sign

No, not the team—that sale has already taken place and unfortunately we’re stuck with the Ricketts. We’re talking players here.

The Cubs have played 69 baseball games this season and, despite taking three out of four against the first place Milwaukee Brewers, have proven once again that this simply ain’t the year for the Northsiders. 

It is time to sell.

Sure, the division is immanently winnable, but not for the Cubs. It’s too obvious when you see the lack of fundamental play, the injuries and the lack of clutch hitting to continue buying what the Cubs are selling.

Oh, and speaking of selling, the time is now for GM Jim Hendry to start whispering in the ears of his general manager counterparts throughout MLB in an effort to lay the groundwork for a move by the All-Star break.

Look, it won’t be an easy task, to be sure. Expensive, long-term contracts and nonperforming ballplayers often do not make for attractive shopping if you’re a contending club looking to add that piece that puts you over the top.

But let’s take a look at the trade candidates one by one and determine why they should be moved, what the Cubs could realistically expect to get and who might be interested.

Carlos Zambrano

Usually, this kind of a trade is the classic “my bad contract for yours” type of deal. However, with starting pitching always at a premium, and Big Z pitching fairly well, I actually do think the Cubs can get a return for Zambrano’s services.

The choice would likely be between salary relief and/or prospects. For the Cubs to net any real players in this type of trade, they would have to pay much of the remaining salary owed to Zambrano.

Alternatively, they could dump the majority of what is owed on a team like the Yankees, for example, but then they would not get much, if anything, in return.

Zambrano is owed the remainder of his $17.875 million contract for 2011, plus another $18 million for next season and he also has a $19.25 million vesting player option.

The Yankees have said to have been scouting Big Z and he is said to be willing to waive his no-trade clause. With everything that has transpired between Zambrano and the Cubs, this may make sense for everyone.

Ryan Dempster

Dempster is Zambrano with the drama, and there are clubs said to be interested in the righthander.

He is owed what is left on his $13.5 million deal for this season, along with a $14 million player option for 2012.

Dempster has recovered nicely after starting the season in brutal fashion. If he can keep the gopher balls down he can be effective.

But there is likely no way he is moved as long as Hendry continues to play GM—though, once again, the Bombers have interest.

Kosuke Fukudome

Actually, Fukudome is not really a bad little ballplayer. The main problem is he signed a contract in which he was supposed to be a power hitting superstar and that simply was too much to expect.

But if you want a guy who has patience at the plate and plays adequate defense in right field with an accurate arm, he is your guy.

Fukudome is in the last year of a four-year contract that is paying him $13.5 million this season. As with most Hendry signees, he has no-trade protection.

A team like Boston might be interested if the Cubs tossed in salary relief.

Alfonso Soriano

This is a pipe dream, as there probably aren’t any teams willing to give up prospects or pay Soriano anywhere near what he is owed.

The Cubs would absolutely be thrilled to move Soriano and what’s left of the eight-year, $136 million albatross he signed in November of 2006, but it would have to be a team with deep pockets and poor baseball sense.

With his defense, it would have to be an AL team where he could DH and both Boston and the Yankees have those spots covered.

Marlon Byrd

Once Byrd is healthy, he should be fairly easy to move as he is a productive player with a manageable salary and a solid reputation.

The most likely scenario is Byrd going to a contending team that could use a veteran for the stretch run, although they can’t count on much power from him.

The Cubs could then call up Brett Jackson and get an early look at the guy who is probably going to be their center fielder next season anyway.

Aramis Ramirez

By all means, I’ve been suggesting that Hendry move this guy for years, but Ramirez simply doesn’t want to go anywhere.

I’d tell him that he has two choices—he could ride the bench in Chicago or he could accept a trade elsewhere. Since he’d like to build up his numbers for free agency, I’m sure he would change his tune.

However, with his power waning, I’m not sure any teams would be interested now. He can still hit when healthy, though he plays a lousy third base.

Carlos Marmol

What good is a closer when you’re not playing meaningful games?

Now, Marmol is very good when he has his command, but sometimes you have to give up something to get something in return and Marmol could be a valuable trade chip for the Cubs.

Move him to Boston for young fire-baller Daniel Bard and a good prospect and it’s a move that helps both clubs. The Sox will be looking for a closer once Jonathan Papelbon is eligible to leave via free agency after the season.

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MLB Rumors: Revisiting the Carlos Zambrano to the New York Yankees Rumors Again

On Friday, we saw the Yankees and Cubs begin their three-game series from Wrigley Field.

Doug Davis out-pitched Freddy Garcia, and the Cubs won the first game 3-1.

Before the game, there were a lot of rumors floating around about the Yankees having major interest in a certain Cubs pitcher.

The pitcher is one the Yankees have been linked to several times before, most notably this past winter after they lost out on the Cliff Lee sweepstakes.

According to Bruce Levine of ESPN, that pitcher the Yankees are linked to again is Cubs ace Carlos Zambrano.

The Yankees didn’t feel the need to make that type of trade for Zambrano, as they settled on signing Garcia and Bartolo Colon, plus letting Ivan Nova develop.

Garcia has been up and down for the Yankees, but he’s given them innings and depth.

Nova has been the same as Garcia. He too has given the Yankees innings and is learning how to pitch at the big league level.

Colon was doing so well, revitalizing his career in pinstripes, until he strained his hamstring covering first base in a game against the Indians.

Colon became the second Yankees starter to go on the disabled list in 2011. Phil Hughes has been on the DL since the end of April with shoulder inflammation.

The Yankees signed and called up longtime minor leaguer Brian Gordon, who went 5.1 innings and allowed two runs in his first-ever start against the Texas Rangers on Thursday.

Gordon pitched very well in his first outing, but who knows if he can be that consistent for the Yankees on a regular basis.

The Yankees also have Hector Noesi, who has been a starter in the minor leagues for the Yankees. A lot of people thought Noesi would get the start against Texas on Thursday, but the Yankees seem set on keeping Noesi in the bullpen.

So here we are again, re-visiting the Zambrano to the Yankees trade talks six months later.

Zambrano is 5-4 with a 4.59 ERA, 67 strikeouts and 35 walks in 96 innings and a 1.34 WHIP.

The cons of Zambrano: He is owed over $28 million through the end of next season, so taking him isn’t exactly a cheap move.

He also called out Cubs closer Carlos Marmol for his pitch selection in a game against the Cardinals and then called the Cubs “embarrassing” and a “Triple-A team.”

Zambrano did apologize to Marmol for his remarks but did not back off his comments about the Cubs.

Zambrano still has that feisty temper, but it looks like neither has his competitiveness or his willing to win.

The Cubs are 29-40 and almost 10 games out of first place in the National League Central. Unless a miracle happens, the Cubs aren’t going to be a playoff team in 2011 and it might come time for the Cubs to become sellers.

The Yankees likely know this and are looking for pitching re-enforcements. With Colon and Hughes both on the DL, it could be a big reason why the Yankees sent top advisers and scouts on the Cubs recent road trip to take notes on Zambrano’s latest starts.

Zambrano’s last two starts were nothing worth remembering.

On June 10 against the Phillies, Zambrano allowed seven runs and seven hits, walking seven and striking out five in 6.1 innings of a loss.

On June 15 against the Brewers, Zambrano allowed nine hits and five runs, walking two and striking out six in six innings of another loss

His last three starts, however, were very good.

On May 26 against the Mets, Zambrano allowed six hits and two runs, walked two and struck out five in 6.2 innings in a win for the Cubs and Zambrano.

On May 31 against the Astros, Zambrano allowed seven hits and one run, walked none and struck out seven in eight innings—a no decision for Zambrano.

On June 5 against the Cardinals, Zambrano allowed five hits and one run, walked two and struck out three in seven innings—another no decision for Zambrano.

Zambrano does have a full no-trade clause with the Cubs, but a close friend of Zambrano told Levine that, “at this point, Zambrano would let the Cubs trade him to Siberia.”

That quote right there sounds like Zambrano wants out of Chicago.

If Zambrano is the competitor who wants to win, if an offer to go to the Yankees were on the table, Zambrano could in fact waive that to come to the Bronx for a chance to pitch in October.

Zambrano would have a familiar face and be reacquainted with his former pitching coach in Larry Rothschild.

Rothschild was Zambrano’s former pitching coach in Chicago before he departed to the Bronx this winter.

I did this story once before on this site back on December 15 wondering if the Yankees would make a move for the right-hander.

I got a lot of different reactions to the idea of a trade for Zambrano. In the poll that I posted in the story, which was done by 530 people, 72 percent of the people were for the idea of making a trade for Zambrano.

If the Cubs were to make a deal to trade off Zambrano, they wouldn’t be getting anything major in return.

Which means Dellin Betances, Manny Banuelos, Andrew Brackman, Gary Sanchez and Jesus Montero would certainly not be involved in any trade talks for “Big Z.”

If anything, this type of trade would just be a salary dump for the Cubs looking to shed some payroll.

Rumors have been flying rampant about Chicago saving and collecting money, trying to structure together a mega-offer to free agent to be Albert Pujols for this coming winter.

Zambrano has never pitched in the American League, spending his entire career with the Cubs since being called up in 2001.

Zambrano does have some experience pitching in the postseason.

He was part of the rotation for the Cubs in 2003 that reached the NLCS against the Florida Marlins.

Zambrano also pitched in playoff series for the Cubs in 2007 against the Diamondbacks and in 2008 against the Dodgers.

If Yankees GM Brian Cashman is in fact serious about making a deal for Zambrano, you would have to wonder how he would hold up in an atmosphere like New York.

Chicago is a big market, but nothing compares to being in New York with the media attention that being a Yankees has.

Would Zambrano’s temper be able to handle the likes of the Bronx? With Rothschild’s influence and having the ear of Zambrano, plus the veteran presences of CC Sabathia and Mariano Rivera in the clubhouse, I doubt Zambrano would be causing much of an issue, especially if the Yankees are vying for a playoff spot and even a championship.

The trade market this summer is very thin. Last summer, Cliff Lee, Dan Haren and Roy Oswalt were all on the market and dealt. The Yankees nearly pulled the trigger for Lee, but the deal with the Mariners fell apart and they passed on going for Haren and Oswalt.

Those types of pitchers aren’t being put on the market this summer, so if Zambrano is in fact put on the market, the Yankees may feel the need to make a move.

If the Yankees aren’t trying to rush the progression and call up Banuelos, Brackman or Betances, and if any complications happen with Colon and Hughes in their rehab assignments and/or returns, the Yankees need some sort of backup plan if they are going to make another playoff run.

They are currently two games behind the Red Sox in the American League East, but if the postseason were to begin today, the Yankees would be the wild-card team. They also have the second best record in the American League, so their playoff hopes look pretty good right now (despite the fact the Yankees are 1-8 against the Red Sox in 2011).

As the series with the Cubs continues over the weekend, we will all hear more about the possibility of Zambrano heading to the Bronx in a possible trade.

Will the Yankees pursue a deal for Zambrano? Only time will tell.

Stay tuned, Yankees Universe.

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MLB Trade Rumors: Francisco Liriano and 10 Staff Aces Most Likely to Be Traded

With spring training in full bloom, it’s never too early to start thinking ahead. For all the promise teams show at this stage of the game, there is always the possibility of finishing below expectations. When that happens, there will be plenty of teams trying to make the best of a bad situation.

Whether that’s taking care of their economic safety or trying to put the pieces in place to build for the future, changes will be made.

The biggest chip most teams have is their staff ace. There is no bigger commodity in baseball than a pitcher with experience, promise or a balanced combination of both. So when things go south for a team, or a glaring need arises elsewhere, a team might be forced to part with their most proven arm.

The good news is that wherever an ace is available, interested parties aren’t far away. So here’s a look at the 10 staff aces most likely to be traded this season. 

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Chicago Cubs: The ‘New Big Z’ Should Be Himself Without Restraint

Carlos Zambrano has been to the mountaintop and back.

He has braved the treacherous climb, studied with the celebrated Dharma bums in the Himalayas, found inner peace with the spirit of Maharishi Mahesh Yogi and even spent a few months in the swamps of Dagobah under Jedi master Yoda.

He is ready.

Of course, Luke Skywalker also thought he was ready and then hurried off only to have his hand cut off by his asthma-bound father Darth Vader at Cloud City. While I’m pretty sure Zambrano’s appendages are safe, he still controls much of the Chicago Cubs’ density—I mean, destiny—this season.

Sure, he may do as much damage to the dynamic of the Chicago Cubs this season as Anakin Skywalker did when he basically killed all the Jedi Knights once he joined the “Dark Side,” but he could also do as much good as the Skywalker family eventually did for the freedom of the galaxy. You see, the problem with Zambrano is that too much can be a bad thing but—and hear me out on this—too little may also.

Zambrano was the only semblance of passion in last year’s lifeless, heartless and pathetic Cubs campaign. Derrek “6-4-3 inning-ending double play” Lee deserved plenty of guff for his lack of obvious concern. Aramis Ramirez couldn’t hit water if he fell out of a boat at the time, Alfonso Soriano looked like Wyle E. Coyote in left field and Kosuke Fukudome did more spinning in the batter’s box than the late DJ AM ever did in the booth.

The whole season lacked anything special, and the entire roster looked as if it was joining manager Lou Piniella in his impending retirement.

Heck, even the hot dog vendor deserved a little bit of the fury. It was THAT bad. Honestly, Zambrano’s outburst in late June was not the worst thing to happen and, as usual, Jim Hendry blindly threw him under the bus to maintain appearances and the status quo. The same GM who hired Piniella—a manager that had thrown more temper tantrums than all of the ‘Real Housewives of Atlanta’ put together—now was condemning a MUCH younger man for doing the same thing.

While I don’t condone showing your teammates up, I do support players calling a spade a spade when calling out an entire team that hadn’t shown positive life since their brilliant general manager thought adding clubhouse great Milton Bradley was a good idea. Zambrano hit the boiling point many Cubs fans had been at all season, yet he was entirely at fault according to Cubs brass and the Chicago media machine, but they all failed to see that he was calling himself out as well.

Hendry, as usual, missed a real opportunity to call out his cast of wayward (and overpriced) toys, but—just like he did when he failed to handle the Ryne Sandberg managerial situation professionally—he showed he lacked the stones to lead. Having the guts to gamble is not the same as having the intestinal fortitude to be a leader. Hendry unfortunately lacks this, which is why he couldn’t bring himself to hire a manager who just might challenge him on how he ran the ballclub.

Mike Quade is a good man, and a solid coach, but make no mistakes about it: He is a “yes” man from head to toe. Zambrano, on the other hand, is not. He speaks from the gut, which can be misinterpreted in the sound bite world we live in these days, especially in Chicago, where the media calls fall and winter “QB Hunting Season” and the summer becomes a hot mess of pessimism.

The awfully negative Chicago media loves to give stupid nicknames like “Old Z” and “New Z,” or “Good Rex (Grossman)” and “Bad Rex,” but here’s a little secret for you: He’s the same guy no matter if you change his name to “Good Z,” “New Z,” or even Pee-Wee Herman. The Cubs have spent four years trying to reign in a wild horse and it obviously isn’t working.

If memory serves, the last major blowup Zambrano had was in 2007 when he gave catcher Michael Barrett a judo chop to the grill. The result? Piniella blew his fuse a few games later and the Cubs went on a magical run to the playoffs for the first time since 2003. Don’t let the media fool you: Emotion and getting in a teammate’s face can work magic when the gauge is on empty. It’s the “crawling into a hole and quietly fading” that gets me worked up, and Zambrano’s emotion doesn’t tolerate that. He wants to win that bad, and if you don’t want it at the same level, then you better take some self-defense classes because you deserve anything Zambrano brings to you.

After 102 years without a World Series, I’m sure plenty of Cubs fans would agree that enough is enough. You’ve got to want it as bad as he does, or this isn’t going to work.

I’d love, for once, to see the Cubs and their management give Zambrano all the slack he needs to be himself. It’s not a coincidence that his performance has gone down since they began worrying about his psyche. The minute you tell someone to not be themselves, you’ll also see their performance resemble someone else as well.

You can’t have both.

In Star Wars, Anakin Skywalker had the greatest potential as a Jedi Knight but he gave into his anger and emotion too much, which led to his destructive nature and him becoming Darth Vader. But when given unconditional love regardless thanks to his son, who believed in him, it was Anakin (as Darth Vader) who eventually defeated the Emperor by throwing him down the reactor shaft.

Unconditional love and support throughout the early part of his career fostered in the golden age of Carlos Zambrano. Perhaps a little freedom, some support and some emotional space might bring him back to the days when he mowed down opponents like defenseless Ewoks and gave a team in contention the emotional boost it needed down the stretch.

Too much of anything is a bad thing, and that goes for restraint as well.

Me, personally, I’d rather not see “New Z” or “Old Z.” I just want to see Carlos Zambrano, the pitcher who has shown electric brilliance more than a few times and still has plenty left to showcase. If you bottle that up with the right mix, you’ve got something sweeter than Yoo-Hoo and more potent than any ginger root west of the Great Wall of China.

If you don’t, all you’ll have is a regretful son of a Jedi staring at a two-starred sunset, wondering what might have been had he left Tatooine with the old hermit, Ben Kenobi.

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