1/5 Cubs deal Big Z to Marlins
The Cubs knew they were committed to spending $18 million in 2012 on Carlos Zambrano one way or another, but Theo Epstein wasn’t convinced the right-hander could win back the trust of his teammates.
“The calculus for us was would we rather spend that $18 million on one year of Carlos and try to make it work with him here,” Epstein said. “Best case scenario is that if it did work, he’d be leaving as a free agent at the end of the year.
“Or, if we had to spend that money anyways as a sunk cost, would we rather spend it on a 25-year-old who we can put in our rotation and control for three seasons?” he said. “That made a lot more sense.”
On Thursday, the Cubs’ roller coaster ride with Zambrano came to an end when the team dealt the volatile right-hander to the Marlins for pitcher Chris Volstad. Zambrano, 30, waived his no-trade clause and also the $19.25 million option for 2013 to join good friend and Venezuelan countryman Ozzie Guillen, the new Marlins manager, who will try to keep the pitcher’s emotions in check.
Epstein was unable to find a trade partner until three days ago. Zambrano did not want to even discuss a trade during a face to face meeting with Epstein in November in Chicago. But Epstein, who took over as Cubs president of baseball operations in late October, discovered a recurring theme in conversations with players and front office executives regarding Zambrano. None of them trusted the mercurial pitcher to change his ways. Epstein had outlined steps Zambrano needed to take to earn his way back with the Cubs but said he was skeptical it could happen.
“Every player who I talked to articulated to me that Carlos had violated their trust,” Epstein said. “When you’re talking about physical altercations with teammates repeatedly, when you’re talking about physically walking out on the team, it’s very hard to have that player come back into the clubhouse and be trusted.
“I think to be a good teammate there has to be a certain degree of trust and accountability,” he said. “Do I believe in second chances? Yes. Do I believe in third chances? Yes, in come cases — even fourth chances. I think you have to be realistic about it and recognize that players don’t dictate decisions like this but you’re trying to establish a certain sense of unity in the clubhouse and a certain sense of purpose, you have to have accountability and trust between the players.”
The risk of having Zambrano become a distraction again was too high, and his departure ends a tumultuous 11-year career in Chicago.
Pitcher Kerry Wood did wish Zambrano well with a tweet on Thursday, saying: “Best of luck to Big Z in Miami. Played together for 9 seasons. Wish him all the best!”
Now, Big Z will get a fresh start in Miami.
“We’re glad for him that he has a chance for a new start and a place where he can build new relationships and establish a new reputation for himself,” Epstein said of Zambrano. “We think he has the chance to do that in Miami.”
– Carrie Muskat