CHICAGO – Carlos Zambrano’s Cubs’ career most likely ended Friday when the team announced its mercurial starter, currently on the disqualified list, agreed not to return when he becomes eligible to do so on Sept. 11.
The Cubs will pay him the remainder of his 2011 salary, while negotiating with the players’ union about the 30 days he was on the disqualified list. The Cubs are on the hook for $17,775,000 for 2012 if they can’t find a team interested in trading for Zambrano.
Although Zambrano is listed at age 30, there’s plenty of reason to think that he can continue to pitch if he puts his mind to it. The Cubs will do their best to trade him in the offseason. Other GMs will convince themselves they wouldn’t want a volcanic personality like Zambrano’s in their clubhouse. Come early winter, however, a lot of teams will realize that there is a dearth of quality pitching on the free-agent market. A discounted version of Zambrano’s hefty contract – assuming the Cubs are willing to eat some salary – will not look as daunting an acquisition when teams begin to realize they lack depth at the back of their rotations.
Zambrano can still pitch if he wants to. The fact that he’s easily distracted during his starts is a concern. A change of address, however, might be the best thing for the former ace.
Moving Zambrano would certainly be a positive development for the Cubs, who will no longer have to talk about a very nice guy who had trouble being a good teammate on the playing field. It would not shock me if Zambrano won 15 games for another team in 2012.
Zambrano might fit nicely in Ozzie Guillen’s pitching staff in South Florida if the mouth from the South Side does indeed leave the White Sox. Guillen and Zambrano have an extremely close relationship; Ozzie is one guy Zambrano typically turned to when he made mistakes on the baseball field. Guillen is not afraid of Zambrano, and he won’t be afraid to tell him the truth when he gets out of line.
Cubs fans should respect Zambrano’s 125 wins and his charitable efforts away from the game, but neither fans nor players will miss the guy who walked out on his team in Atlanta.