Cubs Turned Down Mets Offer For Zambrano

John WoelfelContributor IAugust 2, 2010

CINCINNATI - MAY 08:  Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs is pictured after giving up a hit in the 7th inning during the game against the Cincinnati Reds at Great American Ball Park on May 8, 2010 in Cincinnati, Ohio. The Reds won 14-2.  (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)
Andy Lyons/Getty Images

The Mets offered the Cubs Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo for Carlos Zambrano before the Trade Deadline on Saturday according to Sports Illustrated’s Jon Heyman.  The Cubs rejected the deal. 


Yes, you read that right.  The Cubs said no.


Perez and Castillo are owed about $24 million combined in 2011 and then their contracts would come off the books at the end of the season.  Zambrano still has over $60 million left through 2013 meaning that in 2012 and 2013 the Cubs would free up about $36 million.


Is it just me or does this make no sense?  Yeah, Zambrano could probably prove to be more valuable than Perez and Castillo.  But unless the Cubs want to pay most of his salary, is it worth the risk to hold on to him? 


With Lilly gone, there is a spot in the rotation for Zambrano again.  The Cubs have chosen to call up Thomas Diamond from Iowa to take Lilly’s first start at least.  Most likely, Zambrano will return to the rotation in the next few weeks.


To me, this was the perfect opportunity to shed some salary long term and go in a different direction.  Yes, Perez is bad.  He is 0-4 with a 6.70 ERA after going 3-4 in 2009 with a 6.82 ERA.  His best year was 2004 when he went 12-10 with the Pirates with a 2.98 ERA and struck out 239 guys.  He did win 25 games total between 2007-2008 with the Mets and struck out 354 hitters.  But injuries have limited him to just over 100 innings since 2008.


The point is, Oliver Perez has some talent.  But even if he didn’t and the Cubs had no intention of using him and wanted to outright release him, what’s the downside? 


Zambrano could very well have some useful innings left in him.  But his numbers have been declining fast as well.  It is almost a foregone conclusion that Zambrano will never be a top of the rotation guy again.  Sure, he may bounce back and be a solid #3 guy.  But would that be worth holding onto at $18 million a year?


I would have rather seen the Cubs make this move and release Perez outright and let Castillo play 2B or backup DeWitt for 2011 than to continue to pay the remaining $60 million on Zambrano’s contract. 


I don’t see what the harm would have been in pulling the trigger on this deal and sticking Perez in the rotation for the rest of the year to see if he could earn a rotation spot in 2011.  If he comes in and stinks up the joint, oh well.  The Cubs still would have saved $36 million in 2012 and 2013.


It’s possible that Perez could have come in and found some version of his stuff again and pitched well enough for the remainder of the season and earned the #5 spot for 2011.  Some though Carlos Silva wasn’t going to make the team, let alone the starting rotation this year. 


But even if Perez never threw one meaningful pitch in a Cubs uniform, this deal seems like it would have been a win!  When you give out bad contracts, you have to get some in return sometimes to get rid of them. 


Worst case scenario:  Perez never throws a pitch for the Cubs and Luis Castillo sits on the bench for 2011 (or is traded) and you pay nothing for Zambrano in 2012 and 2013.


Best case scenario:  Perez earns a spot in the 2011 rotation and Castillo plays 2B and leads off.  Yeah, the Cubs would actually have a guy that can steal bases. 


Castillo has battled injuries this year but hit .302 with a .387 OBP in 2009.  He walked 69 times while striking out only 58, and stole 20 bases.  He’s not the All-Star caliber player he once was, but he would have been an upgrade from Ryan Theriot!


The Cubs may have missed their chance at finding a taker for Zambrano without having to pay him in 2012 and 2013.