Prediction: Carlos Zambrano will be a part of the Miami Marlins starting rotation by the time the 2012 season starts. That prediction is more like a hypothesis, otherwise known as an educated guess, because of the circumstances linking Zambrano to the Marlins. It is no secret that former Cubs’ general manager Jim Hendry tried feverishly to trade Zambrano during this past season, with the biggest push coming at the July 31 trade deadline when it was believed that Ricketts was willing to absorb the majority of the remaining salary owed to Zambrano.
However, Hendry found no-takers for the controversial pitcher. Before Zambrano’s season–and career with the Cubs–it was believed that Zambrano would look most appealing during the off-season, and the chances were that the Cubs would be able to trade the veteran pitcher during the winter rather than during the regular season. However, Zambrano diminished any trade value he had by the way he walked out on the Cubs in August and essentially “retired” his Cubs’ career.
Despite all the knocks against Zambrano, there was one team that was always rumored as a potential suitor for the temperamental starting pitcher. No not the Yankees, but the Chicago White Sox. Zambrano and former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen are best friends, and the two talked on regular basis. As we now know, Guillen has burned the bridge between him and the White Sox and headed down to Miami to become the next Marlins’ manager. But that does not mean that Zambrano and Guillen still do not talk on a regular basis.
In fact, according to a report out of Venezuela (Via Muskat Ramblings), Guillen has been in contact with Zambrano since becoming the Marlins’ manager. Guillen wants to reshape the Marlins roster, and adding a starting pitcher is probably somewhere within his plan. The new Marlins’ manager apparently shared that part of his plan with Zambrano, bringing up the idea of the two uniting with the Marlins.
According to a report in Venezuela’s El Nacional by reporter Ignacio Serrano, Guillen has reached out to Zambrano and wants to bring him to Miami. Zambrano is owed $18 million next season on his contract, and the report says the Marlins would pay that money in deferred payments. Muskat Ramblings
If that report is true–which I would question the credibility of it–I would not be surprised if Tom Ricketts jumps on that deal before a new general manager is in place. A new general manager could be in place soon, though, if the Theo Epstein rumors turn out to be true. However, in case Epstein is not going to be the Cubs’ next general manager and the process drags on, then Ricketts may be forced to start making more baseball operation decisions. Among those decisions would be possibly signing off on a Zambrano trade. It will be hard for Ricketts to find a better deal than what the report suggests the Marlins are potentially proposing. One of the biggest benefits to trading Zambrano–in addition to removing his presence from the clubhouse–is the hope that the Cubs can save some money while doing so. The report suggests the Marlins are willing to take on the $18 million owed to Zambrano in deferred payments, and that would get the Cubs from completely underneath the original $91 million contract Zambrano signed during the 2007 season.
However, the idea of the Marlins taking on all of the remaining $18 million seems a bit far-fetched. Considering that Zambrano has almost no trade value and teams know that the Cubs are looking to trade the pitcher, it does not make sense for the Marlins to put themselves at a disadvantage by taking on the remaining portion on Zambrano’s contract. Especially for a small-market team like Marlins, such a move does not fit the trend of the Marlins’ financial history. It would be my guess that there was indeed an error in translation, and the original Venezuelan report may have been aiming to suggest what would happen if the Cubs released Zambrano. In that case, as Bleacher Nation suggested as well, the Cubs may re-structure Zambrano’s contract to where they pay the remaining $18 million in deferred payments while allowing Zambrano to sign with the Marlins.
The Cubs are no strangers to dealing away veterans with bad contracts; whether it be the trade of Milton Bradley, the releasing of Carlos Silva, or the deadline trade of Kosuke Fukudome. Jim Hendry was the man calling the shots on all those roster decision, and now it is time to see how a new general manager can alleviate the Cubs of the bloated contracts that are on the roster. That process could very well begin with the trading of Zambrano.