Carlos Zambrano signed a five-year, $91.5MM extension with the Cubs in August of 2007. At the time, I had mixed feelings – the Cubs received a discount in the number of years, but still committed a big salary to a pitcher whose best years were behind him. Talking to Gordon Wittenmyer of the Chicago Sun-Times, Cubs GM Jim Hendry defended the contract yesterday:
"There was nothing wrong with the investment. This guy was an outstanding pitcher in the National League, in the game, for the four or five years before that. And there's no question that the deal was a solid one in the industry. He certainly would have been one of the hotter tickets on the street if that thing went to the end of the season."
Wittenmyer says the Cubs now have an "obvious desire" to unload Zambrano and his remaining $45.4MM. You may recall that the Cubs had a similar obvious desire with Milton Bradley last winter, and they eventually found a match. Hendry may find trading Zambrano a bigger challenge. For the moment, we'll toss aside Z's full no-trade clause.
- Carlos Lee is owed $46.85MM through 2012, his contract matches up quite well with Zambrano's. However, the Cubs don't need an outfielder and Lee has a full no-trade clause this year. It's impossible to imagine Lee and Alfonso Soriano in the same outfield, even though the Cubs liked Lee in the past.
- Aaron Rowand and Edgar Renteria are owed a total of $35.7MM. The Giants would be adding $9.7MM in salary, though that's not a bad price for Zambrano over the next few years. But as far as team needs, this makes little sense for either side.
- Oliver Perez and Luis Castillo are owed a total of $27.6MM. The Mets would be taking on nearly $18MM to own Zambrano through '12 and finally ditch this pair of bad contracts.
- Any deal with the Braves would have to involve Derek Lowe, who is owed $38MM through 2012. I don't see why the Braves would want to make the switch.
- The Indians could match the Cubs' Zambrano commitment almost perfectly with Travis Hafner, Kerry Wood, and Jake Westbrook. It seems pointless, though, and Hafner isn't able to play first base.
- The Royals' three bad contracts – Gil Meche, Jose Guillen, and Kyle Farnsworth - have $27.7MM remaining. It's a poor match, though ESPN's Buster Olney tweets that the Royals are pushing to move Guillen and will eat a lot of dollars.
- One last idea, perhaps the craziest yet. The Yankees owe A.J. Burnett $58.3MM through 2013. Burnett isn't faring well in the second year of his deal, and the Cubs would be taking on almost $13MM to make the swap. The Cubs would assume less than $6MM if they included Derrek Lee, though.
- As you can see, I failed to find a reasonable Zambrano trade scenario involving other overpaid players. Feel free to speculate in the comments.