Chicago Deal or No Deal: Carlos Zambrano heading out?

With the recent fisticuffs between P Carlos Zambrano and C Michael Barrett, one has to think the Cubs are doomed to repeat another franchise mistake, that of trading away a quality player or two.

In this case, I’ve heard stories on 670 The Score in Chicago of Carlos Zambrano being a possible candidate, since he is a free agent at the end of the year. This would be a deal that would require a significant price back, if it were to be consummated. Something along the lines of a high-caliber position player or several top prospects to sway me.

The Cubs made a strategic error in not signing Zambrano before 2007. As a result, the cash that would have kept him is now in players like Derosa, Izturis, Floyd, Ward and, of course, Soriano, Lilly and Marquis. The Cubs flubbed by not trying to attempt a legit deal – 5 years at 75-85 million – on a guy that has actually performed better than any other Cub since Greg Maddux was in Chicago the first time around.

In actuality, the Cubs have had the luck (2003-2006) in having two pitchers, Maddux and Zambrano, pitch consistently for them. Zambrano numbers stack up well against the Santanas, Oswalts, Halladays and Smoltzs of the MLB. The Cubs also could have had Dontrelle Willis, since they drafted him, but traded him to get Matt Clement.

Zambrano’s recent attitude comes from fiery disposition. He also feels cheated, most likely, and wants a paycheck in line with performance. He also won the sliver slugger award for pitchers in 2006, in much the same vein as Dontrelle did, and likely feels the Cubs overlook him while fawning over Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, whose injuries are amongst the annals of major league history now.

It is pretty clear Zambrano is an elite pitcher at only 26 years old. (Table right) While the Cubs went gaga over Mark Prior, they forgot about Big Z. As a result they will likely trade away a long-term helper to a team that needs it sorely.

But that is the Cubs tradition…

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