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Mark Prior and Carlos Zambrano Stories Show: When New York Talks, People Listen

Two separate stories featuring two quite distinctive Chicago Cubs pitchers -- one current, Carlos Zambrano, and one former, Mark Prior -- wound their way across the Internet today. Along with the fact that both players have worn the blue and white pinstripes at one point in their respective careers, the stories have something else in common: New York City. And when New York talks, people listen.

First, there's Prior. News hit the wires (and our Starting Lineup) today that the former Cubs ace, who had a Cy-Young-worthy season for the team in 2003 (18-6, 2.43 ERA, 7.6 WAR) had been signed to a minor league deal by none other than the New York Yankees. For those of us who obsess over the North Siders, this wasn't exactly news.

That is to say, it wasn't surprising. Prior's name surfaced this past summer when he agreed to play for the Orange County Flyers, an independent league club. With a few weeks, he raised eyebrows again when the Texas Rangers grabbed him for one of their minor league teams. Prior also labored in the San Diego Padres organization for a long while after finally cutting ties with the Cubs. It's not exactly like the guy is J.D. Salinger finally coming out of hiding. (Or back from the dead, as the case may be.) But this is New York. And it's not just New York; it's the New York Yankees.

So national sports outlets are picking up the story and everyone is all a-Twitter. Just be advised that Prior joins the ranks of a multitude of former big leaguers and almost big leaguers trying to secure a spot on an MLB team. And he's really not, forgive the pun, coming out of the blue. For the record, we wish him the best. His comeback would indeed make a remarkable story -- especially if it is with the Bronx Bombers. Hey, if Mark can make it there ... well ... you know the rest.

As for Carlos Zambrano, Cubs fans have visions of him in a Yankees uniform because of this New York Daily News article by Bill Madden stating that Big Z will be "a likely [trade] target" for Yanks GM Brian Cashman. Madden's prized quote is:

... [Zambrano] experienced a turnaround both in temperament and results under the tutelage of new Yankee pitching coach Larry Rothschild the last six weeks of last season ...

Never mind that Rothschild was also still the Cubs' pitching coach when Z had his epic meltdown in the dugout during that game with the White Sox, nor that Larry was completely on board with, if not largely behind, the awful decision to move Carlos to the bullpen in 2010.

Again, for many Cubs fans, a "Zambrano to New York" rumor should sound familiar. Granted, it's usually the Mets who are mentioned as the interested party, though there have been murmurings of the Yanks being interested in the past few years as well. But this is the Yankees, man. The Yankees. So the websites explode (this one included) and the sports radio hosts go nuts. And, naturally, there's no shortage of, let's call them, "Z rips." SI.com's Jon Heyman, for instance, tweeted:

i know the #yankees are desperate for pitching. but carlos zambrano? he's playing with full no-trade & without full deck

Hardy har-har, Jon. Will Carlos Zambrano wind up a Yankee? If the Cubs do indeed trade for Matt Garza of the Tampa Bay Rays, maybe. But it's still a big maybe. Big Z has "10-and-5 rights" to veto any trade, and -- even with Garza -- the team would still likely need Zambrano to have any real shot at contending for their division. And, for what it's worth, Z's agent apparently has received no phone calls from the Big Apple just yet. But, remember, this is the New York Yankees we're talking about here. (Have I mentioned that?) So, if this story has legs, expect it to run for a long, long time.