Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A New Perspective on Zambrano's Contract Demands

The news about Carlos Zambrano’s “mini tantrum” on WGN Radio is all over the news. Yesterday’s post detailed Z’s remarks, but in a nutshell he said he wants a long-term deal from the Cubs at Barry Zito-type money, or he’s walking away from the Cubs after the 2007 season.

Jim Hendry responded today with what I thought were rather low-key, unconcerned comments:

"Basically, that statement has never been conveyed to me," Hendry said. "Carlos and his representatives have always made it clear that the Cubs are where he wants to be. I certainly have no problem with a player with five-plus years wanting to have a deal by Opening Day, but if you don't have one, it doesn't necessarily mean there will be a parting of ways."

I spent the day thinking about this, and I think it would be a mistake to sign Z to a long-term deal right now. There really is no reason to sign him long-term. If we’ve learned anything from Kerry Wood and Mark Prior, it’s that even the most promising pitchers get injured. What if the Cubs sign Z to a five (or six or seven) year deal and then Z blows out his elbow and needs Tommy John surgery? I know it could happen anytime, and that’s just my point. Why sign Z long-term if you don’t have to.

Instead, if I was Jim Hendry I would avoid arbitration with Z by agreeing to a one-year, $13-14 million deal. Heck, pay him the $15.5 million he’s asking for. The goal is to keep him happy for a year so the Cubs can negotiate a long-term deal late in the season or early next off-season. And if he gets hurt or pitches horribly during the 2007 campaign, the Cubs have the luxury of re-evaluating their needs before negotiating with Z. Sure, it might cost a couple of million dollars extra to handle things this way, but it will be worth it if it keeps Z happy and in love with the Cubs.

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I’m a big Steve Stone fan. I think he is one of the best analysts I have ever heard and I really wish he was back doing Cubs games on CSN/WGN. Alas, that is not to be this year anyway. Stone remains close with Cubs President John McDonough, so maybe something can be worked out in the future.

In the meantime, Stone has signed on to do analysis on Chicago’s WSCR radio. Having more Stone on “the Score” is welcome if for no other reason than to get a little more Cubs talk on the White Sox flagship station. The steady diet of White Sox talk frustrates some Cubs fans, so Stone’s excellent commentary will be a nice break from all of the Southside banter.


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