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With Lee gone, will Yankees target Big Z?

12/14/2010
AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin

Cliff Lee's five-year, $120 million signing with the Philadelphia Phillies will have a trickle down effect on teams like the New York Yankees, Texas Rangers and the Chicago Cubs.

Now that the Yankees and Rangers have swung and missed on Lee, they will come after the Tampa Bay Rays' Matt Garza with their good, young minor-league prospects.

The Cubs, who have been waiting for the completion of the Lee deal, already have their young prospects on the table for Garza.

Tampa wants pitching prospects, but the Rays also are insistent on getting back a shortstop of the future. The Rangers have two outstanding minor-league shortstops in Jurickson Profar and Luis Sardinas. The Cubs also have good middle infield prospects to offer, such as Ju-Hak Lee or Ryan Flaherty.

The big question that remains to be answered is whether Texas, the Yankees or Angels will come looking for a starter like the Cubs' Carlos Zambrano after Garza is traded. At this point, the Cubs are not expecting to trade Zambrano, and they're not entertaining offers. He's expected to be at the top of their rotation, along with Ryan Dempster and possibly Garza.

If not, the old rumors about Zambrano being moved are likely to resurface. First of all, Zambrano has 5-10 veto rights on any possible trade. That means the team must come to him before any deal is made and ask for permission. Zambrano has been adamant about not being moved.

"I want to stay in Chicago and help the Cubs win a World Series," he told ESPNChicago.com at the end of the 2010 season.

Sources close to Zambrano said his commitment to his family, which includes having his daughters go to a private school in Chicago, is an even stronger motivating factor.

Trading starting pitching for anything less than other top starting pitching or minor-league pitching talent close to being finished products doesn't really make sense for the Cubs, whose rotation is iffy as it stands beyond the steady Dempster.

It would be difficult to project a 15-game winner on the staff other than Zambrano or Dempster. Zambrano's 8-0 record to close last season is encouraging for the Cubs and Zambrano, but not really that exiting to other major-league teams, considering Zambrano's contract is $36 million for the next two years.

An interesting fact is if he finishes first or second in Cy Young voting in 2011 or '12, another year automatically kicks in in his contract at $19.25 million in 2013.