The Cubs and White Sox both have a problem.
And strangely enough, the solution to each might be found in the other team's trouble.
On June 25, Carlos Zambrano melted down in the Cubs dugout in a tirade against his teammates, and was placed on the restricted list and ordered to undergo anger management counseling. He's currently on a rehab assignment at Triple-A Iowa and expected to rejoin the team for their series that begins Friday at Colorado. And he will have to continue such counseling for the rest of the season, at the very least:
Zambrano still will undergo anger-management sessions at various times the rest of the season, sources said, and the Cubs remain extra cautious about his comeback.
On July 6, Jake Peavy was cruising in the second inning of a start at home against the Angels when something popped in his shoulder. He left the game and was diagnosed with a complete detachment of the latissimus dorsi muscle, and just when he was turning around a rough start -- he had posted a 4-2 record and 1.67 ERA in his last six starts before this ugly injury. The recent surgery to reattach it was successful:
[Dr. Anthony] Romeo was tabbed to perform Peavy's surgery because of his experience with the latissimus tendon, which he often uses as a replacement tendon in shoulder surgeries.
"Sometimes these tendons tear and they look like the end of a mop, all frayed pieces, but with Peavy it was a clean, straight tear, right off of the bone and it was easy to prepare the bone and insert it right back to the same place it came from in a safe way without being close to any nerves or blood vessels and secure that down with techniques we use with a lot of other tendons," said Romeo, a member of the Sox's medical staff.
Peavy is expected to be ready to pitch again next February when spring training begins.
But in the meantime, the Sox are down a starting pitcher. Dan Hudson, a top Sox prospect, has made one good start and one bad one, and Freddy Garcia, who has also been up and down, got blasted out of Saturday's game in Oakland in the second inning.
So why not trade for Zambrano? The Cubs have made it clear that Big Z won't come back to their rotation; the "experiment" sending Z to the bullpen earlier in the season only gave him a negative attitude and was also a failure pitchingwise. It won't help him and likely won't help the team either.
Peavy was traded to the White Sox last year while he was on the disabled list, so that isn't an obstacle. He has a full no-trade clause this year -- but a year ago last winter, when trade rumors had him linked to the Cubs and he was being trotted out like a show horse in front of local media by then-Padres GM Kevin Towers, he reportedly was telling friends he wouldn't mind being traded to the Cubs. Right now, the Cubs' rotation is doing fairly well, but if Ted Lilly is traded or not offered arbitration and not re-signed, the Cubs will need another starter come spring 2011.
As it turns out, the dollars left on Zambrano's and Peavy's contracts are nearly identical. For the sake of this discussion, assume that one-third of the contract dollars remain for 2010 -- there's a little more than a third of this year left, but that isn't significant.
2010: $ 6,000,000
There's a vesting option for 2013, but it is extremely unlikely to vest;
thus the (approximate) total remaining is $41,875,000.
2010: $ 5,000,000
This deal has a club option for $22 million that is extremely unlikely to be
exercised; there's a $4 million buyout, making the (approximate) total value
That's not even a minimum-salaried player's worth of difference. If Peavy's injury is such that he can't play for a season or longer, insurance would pick up that part of the contract, reducing the Cubs' financial exposure.
Why do this from a White Sox standpoint? Because the Sox need starting pitching. And Ozzie Guillen, a close personal friend of Z's, is probably the only manager in the major leagues who truly understands him and could handle him. Maybe they could sit together in a room once a week and let out all their frustrations at each other, and then Z would go out and channel his energy into pitching. That isn't an option with Lou Piniella and the Cubs, nor would it be for any other manager. This deal would also give Kenny Williams, Jerry Reinsdorf & Co. a real chance to stick it to the Cubs and Cubs fans if Big Z turned it around as a member of the South Siders.
Kenny Williams is a GM who isn't afraid to take chances. His waiver claim of Alex Rios' contract last August was laughed at and derided at the time. Who's got the last laugh now? Rios is having the best year of his career and is a key contributor to the Sox's renaissance. So why not roll the dice on Carlos Zambrano?
Why do this from a Cubs standpoint? Because the relationship between Big Z and the Cubs and Cubs fans seems irreparably broken. They're planning on putting him back in a situation where he's likely to fail, which would cause more bad feelings (not to mention bad losses). In many sports relationships between players and teams, there often becomes a time when a player must move on, for the good of all involved. This appears to be one of those times.
The last time the Cubs and White Sox made a major league trade, it turned out to be one that didn't really help either team -- the swap of Neal Cotts for David Aardsma on November 16, 2006. Trading Peavy for Zambrano would have more impact, and I believe a positive one for both clubs. Get it done, Kenny and Jim.