Both the Astros and Cubs are going through similar situations as each organization has faltered a great deal over the past few years. Their downturns have caused massive changes and in the Astros’ case, a complete overhaul starting from the top. Both franchises have adopted new philosophies and will look to trim payroll making this a perfect time to rid themselves of Carlos Zambrano and Carlos Lee, two of the main reasons for the mess they are currently in. Big Z and Caballo have massive contracts that have handcuffed their respective front offices however each fits a need for the other club and would help both move on from a dark period that has lasted far too long.
While the Astros will look to trim salary, acquiring Zambrano would accomplish an even swap of money and provide the rotation with a former Cy-Young candidate. True that Zambrano has lost a mile or two on his velocity and has issues with emotions but getting him out of the high pressure environment of Chicago might be the key to resurrecting his career. If he returns to 75 percent of his former self, the Astros would have a bona fide middle of the rotation caliber pitcher and a valuable asset at the trade deadline. Zambrano has plenty of motivation as he goes into potentially the final year of his mega deal and will be looking for a new contract next offseason, nothing like putting your best foot forward during a contract year. Now, there is a clause that could extend his deal into 2013 but he would need to finish 4th or higher in Cy-Young voting, which is a longshot at best. If he does happen to pitch well enough to potentially qualify for that vested extra year, the Astros would have a goldmine that could bring in valuable pieces to an improving farm system or a front line starter to lead the rotation for another year.
The Cubs are also in a cost cutting mode but do need a 1st baseman as Carlos Pena is a free agent and his return is uncertain. It appears they aren’t going to be in the Pujols or Fielder sweepstakes so Carlos Lee would fit a need. Lee would also bring a breath of fresh air to a clubhouse that has been worn down by Zambrano’s antics during and after games for the past few years. Theo Epstein has already stated that Zambrano would have to follow strict rules to stay on the team and new Cubs manager Dale Sveum has said Zambrano is “out of strikes” with the Cubs. Moving him for a need that would not negatively impact Chicago’s overall long-term gameplan would seem like an easy out to a long standing problem.
Whether you do or don’t like Carlos Zambrano or Carlos Lee, each can serve a purpose and help the other’s franchise. Zambrano can help resurrect his career while becoming a valuable asset to a rebuilding organization while Lee can help bridge the gap to the next Cub 1st baseman and neither causing payroll concern. Getting rid of constant headaches that have been shadows over Chicago and Houston for quite some time should be something that both groups should be actively looking to achieve.