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Tuesday, September 27, 2011
Would Marlins want Zambrano?

By Bruce Levine

SAN DIEGO -- Once Ozzie Guillen is announced as the manager of the Florida Marlins in the next couple of weeks (as a major league source says he will be), the next major step for the Marlins may be a trade that brings Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano to South Florida.

Marlins owner Jeffery Loria is opening up a brand new ballpark in 2012, with a brand new team logo and a brand new name (Miami Marlins) and the franchise will now be represented by a brand new manager.

Certainly, the buzz created by Guillen’s anticipated signing will help sell plenty of tickets next season. However, that alone will not get the job done in a city that has yet to embrace major league baseball.

High-profile players will be needed and Zambrano’s fiery temperament could be just the thing to keep South Beach hopping during the summer months.

Venezuelan natives Guillen and Zambrano have a close personal relationship. It was Guillen who counseled a distraught Zambrano after the pitcher’s dugout fight with teammate Derrek Lee at U.S. Cellular Field in June of 2010. After that game, the Cubs immediately suspended Zambrano and Guillen helped him calm down over dinner at a downtown restaurant.

Guillen has told me on many occasions that if he ever got Zambrano on his team that he and his staff would help Zambrano to the best season he ever had. Zambrano has one year remaning on his original five-year, $91 million extension with the Cubs, who owe him $18 million for 2012. After Zambrano walked out on the team after allowing five home runs on Aug. 12, the Cubs would gladly eat a portion of that money to trade Zambrano if they got a decent minor league player in return.

Also, don’t count out the possibility that Aramis Ramirez could be a candidate to end up with the Marlins as a free agent. Part of the allure of Ozzie Guillen to the Marlins is that he would attract a lot of attention from high-profile baseball players. If Guillen signs with the Marlins as expected, ownership will want to make him -- and the fan base -- happy, putting out a contending team in hopes that Miami can become a real baseball town.