The story of the day in Chicago baseball was the Cubs' 2-0 win against the Milwaukee Brewers. The win would have meant something a year ago at this time as the Cubs and Brew Crew were duking it out for NL Central supremacy. Right now, the Cubs' biggest battles are against themselves and mediocrity.
And now we bring you to the buried lead in the story brought to you by Chicago Tribune Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan:
Now that Hendry is assured of returning in 2010, he'll have to decide which players to bring back. Dempster, who signed a four-year, $52 million deal last winter, is assured of returning. [Carlos] Zambrano, who signed a five-year, $91.5 million deal in August 2007, is not.
Despite the fact that Zambrano has a full no-trade clause, the Cubs plan on shopping him this off-season, sources said, believing he'll waive the clause to go to the right team, as Jake Peavy eventually did when the Padres consummated a deal this summer with the White Sox.
According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, Carlos Zambrano has $53.75 million coming his way from 2010-12, with a vesting option worth $19.25 million in 2014.
Let the record show that despite a mediocre season by Zambrano (8-6, 3.77 ERA), pitching has not been the Cubs' downfall. The North Side staff ranks in the top-5 in strikeouts, ERA+, WHIP, H/9 and K/9. But with a weak free agent market awaiting, now might be the best time to move Big Z.
NEW YORK METS
The Metropolitans might be the ideal landing spot for the beleaguered Cubs ace. Big city, bright lights and the opportunity to be a hitter are probably things Zambrano would look for in a new team. New York's "other" team provides all that. Adding Zambrano would also fall in line with Omar Minaya's blueprint of creating a Latino baseball All-Star team in the NYC.
The Cubs could go one of two routes here. They could opt to go for the home run and try to acquire the equally beleaguered Jose Reyes. The shortstop has been bothered by injuries this year and rumors have already been floated that he could be moved. Adding Reyes would improve the Cubs in a variety of ways. It would move him immediately into the lead-off role, while pushing Ryan Theriot to second base. For this to happen, the Cubs would likely have to eat a huge chunk of his salary.
Another option would be swapping bad contracts with the Metros, which would ideally send center fielder Carlos Beltran to Chicago. As it stands now, the Cubs have a right fielder playing center, and adding Beltran (who makes $37 million over the next two years) makes a lot of sense as well. Beltran is a career .392 hitter at Wrigley Field with 9 homers, 22 ribbies and a 1.292 OPS. Bringing in the switch-hitting center fielder would leave Kosuke Fukudome in right field, especially if Peter Gammons' recent nugget of sending Milton Bradley back to Texas comes to fruition.
New York Yankees
If one New York team is involved, the other can't be too far behind, right? The Yankees are a team that is usually more than willing to take on other teams' misfits and salary problems. I wonder had Alex Rodriguez struggled mightily after the whole roid-gate thing if he would have been on the trading block because at times, I have
Pure speculation here, but if the Cubs also threw in Ryan Theriot, could they land lefty-swinging second baseman Robinson Cano and his career OPS of .816? He's owed $48 million through 2013 if all the options are picked up.
Boston Red Sox
If the Yankees are interested, so are the Red Sox. Sports Illustrated's Jon Heyman reported Toronto declined to accept Boston's 5-for-1 deal for Roy Halladay. Could the BoSox be interested in Big Z? If I were Jim Hendry, I'd be intrigued by a number of their prospects.
Remember when you were a kid and you had problems finding Waldo? That's how the Rangers feel about finding pitching. Former top prospects Edinson Volquez and John Danks have flourished since leaving the organization, so adding a pitcher of Zambrano's caliber might be the best avenue for Texas' team.
Infielder Michael Young just signed a five-year deal worth $80 million in 2009, and when he played shortstop he posted a .310/.358/.453/.811 line before moving to be the Rangers' full-time third sacker.
If the Cubs want to go into complete blow-up mode, the Rockies might make an ideal fit. The Rox usually have a good amount of young talent going through the system and actually making a difference at the big league level. Chicago could land some valuable pieces in exchange for its troubled right hander.
THE ULTIMATE WILD CARD: Florida Marlins
Hear me out.
The Cubs have a problem child in Carlos Zambrano. The Marlins supposedly have a problem child in Hanley Ramirez. Since the 2002 season, the Cubs have made seven trades with the Marlins, six of them have spawned under The Hendry Regime. So, the question is: does Trader Jim have another one left in him.
Bringing HanRam to the Cubs would be the blockbuster of all blockbusters. He's owed 64.5 million over the next five years, so swapping salaries wouldn't be that big of an issue. The Cubs would likely need to throw in prospects such as Jeff Samardzija, Andrew Cashner, Jay Jackson and (*screech*) Josh Vitters ... among others.
It'd be a deal worth making for both ends, seeing that the Fighting Fish build their teams around pitching, and always have a prospect nipping at the heels of their current players. For the Cubs, slotting Ramirez in the No. 3 hole in front of Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez and Alfonso Soriano would give the Cubs the best heart of the order (on paper) in the National League.
As the title suggests, this post is highly irresponsible on several fronts. But hey, one of the top signs that your team is out of contention is when trade rumors start popping up in September. Besides, what else am I gonna do. I've got to wait 'til Sunday to see a meaningful Chicago sporting event.