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Zambrano to the Sox? Thanks but no thanks

by Mike DePilla
Tuesday, September 15, 2009

In case you haven't heard, things haven't exactly gone to plan this baseball season in Chicago. Last year both teams made the playoffs for the first time in over a hundred years. A combined 1-6 postseason run and sputtering 2009 of misery make that feel like a very distant memory.

On the list of Chicago baseball problems this summer: the Sox can't solve no-name pitchers, Alfonso Soriano can't take instruction, Carlos Quentin can't stay healthy, Carlos Zambrano has the mentality of a 5-year-old, Alex Rios can't hit, Lou Piniella looks like he doesn't care, Jermaine Dye wears down in the second half and Milton Bradley is a total headcase. There's more, but that'll do for now.

The Cubs, who are drawn to offering horrible contracts like the Sox are to drafting football players, have a mighty mess to clean up before coming north in 2010. One possibility that is apparently being discussed is trading their headcase ace (headc-ace?) Zambrano to rid the team of its $50+ million obligation to an under-performing pitcher who shies away from abs crunches, Gatorade and rule-following.

One problem. Actually, many problems, but here's the first: Zambrano has a full no trade clause and there's only a handful of teams to which he would accept a trade. One team on that list, according to Steve Stone, is the White Sox.

Zambrano has expressed a fondness for Ozzie Guillen in the past, and if he's traded no doubt he'd like to stick it to the Cubs in their own city. Plus, knowing Kenny Williams' so-called "gambling" nature and constant thirst for aces, it's not impossible that the Sox would sniff around the situation. Imagine no-nonsense Guillen knocking some sense into Big Z to create a rotation of:

Peavy
Buehrle
Zambrano
Danks
Floyd

Not bad. But, ultimately, probably not gonna happen. If Zambrano gets traded, especially to a National League team, I think he is a good bet to turn things around and be very productive. He's been "off" this year, but he's still sporting a 3.77 ERA and no significant arm injuries, not horrible for a down year. He's clearly lost focus and boundaries in the Cubs organization; a more-structured environment could net positive results.

But there are just too many distractions in Chicago that wouldn't be alleviated by simply changing ballparks from Wrigley to the Cell. Plus, I am wary of a lifetime NL pitcher changing leagues and facing the much more formidable AL lineups. I'm not saying he would all of a sudden become Todd Ritchie, but he might become the $50+ million, 4+ ERA 3rd starter.

Considering his off-the-field issues, this quote isn't exactly reassuring either: "Maybe if I go to a different city next year, if I get traded, I can do what I want."

Do what he wants? What is that exactly, and how is he not doing that already in the Cubs free-wheelin' clubhouse?

Williams has been known to look into some off-the-beaten-path scenarios, and I'm sure he'll explore some crazy ideas this winter. Even though the Sox' glaring need is offense, I wouldn't be surprised if Trader Kenny did make a play for a starting pitcher. And how much buzz would there be around baseball in this town if Zambrano was traded from the Cubs to the Sox?

So hey, while I might say "thanks, but no thanks," you can never say never.

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