Chicago Cubs new general manager Theo Epstein is willing to allow their ace, Carlos Zambrano, to earn his way back.
The last two seasons Zambrano has clearly been frustrated with his performance, as well as his teams. In late June 2010 he erupted at Cellular Field in Chicago after allowing the White Sox to score four runs in the first. Then in August 2011 he was ejected against the Atlanta Braves for throwing at Chipper Jones.
After the eruption against the White Sox, Cubs then GM Jim Hendry said they would play with 24 players before tolerating that kind of behavior. I felt then, and still do, that Hendry, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella and Cubs first baseman Derrek Lee sort of threw Zambrano under the bus.
The latest incident led to Zambrano cleaning out his locker and telling team personnel he was quitting, prompting Hendry to place him on the disqualified list for 30 days.
While Zambrano's behavior is a problem, some of the blame belongs to both former Cubs managers (Piniella and Mike Quade) for not taking control of their team.
According to Bruce Levine of ESPNChicago.com, Epstein met face-to-face with Zambrano Monday afternoon at Zambrano's request.
"It went well," Epstein said. "He expressed a strong desire to be a Cub (again) and an even stronger desire to have a strong 2012 season. He's in great shape. He's working out twice a day, pitching down in Venezuela. I told him that we'd let him earn his right back to being a Cub."
Levine also wrote that Epstein stayed the course when asked if this decision precludes him from trying to trade Zambrano this offseason.
"Right now, we're going to give him the right to earn his way back as a Cub," Epstein said.
Sounds as though Epstein would entertain offers for Zambrano whom the Cubs owe $17.8 million for 2012 and are subject to an automatic $19.4 million vesting player option if he finishes in the top four for the CY Young award in 2012.
If Epstein is willing to trade him, how would he fit into the Reds rotation? I believe the four points below indicate he would fit in nicely:
- He would be reunited with Dusty Baker who managed him to the best seasons of his career. (That may be what the doctor ordered).
- The Reds rotation is strong, but Big Z would add strength at the back end and Jocketty has publicly stated that the Reds first priority is finding starting pitching.
- The Cubs most likely realize they would need to send some compensation along with him.
- At the age of 30, the three time all-star should still have something left.