Zambrano’s contract issues have been public for a while now as both sides continue to be millions of dollars apart in the pitcher’s arbitration negotiations. The two sides are set to have their arbitration hearing on February 20 with the Cubs offering $11.025 million and Zambrano looking for $15.5 million. But this isn’t the only contract issue the two are having. Zambrano doesn’t just want work out this one year deal, he also wants to work on a long term contract similar to what fellow National Leaguer Barry Zito received when he signed with the Giants. Now with the season approaching and pitchers and catchers reporting to Florida and Arizona all this week, Zambrano laid down the proverbial gauntlet in an interview on Chicago’s WGN-TV.
“I’m ready to sign, and I would do my job anyway with the Cubs this year. Whatever happens, I don’t want to know [anything] about a contract during the season. I want to sign with the Cubs before the season starts. If they don’t sign me, sorry, but I must go. That’s what Carlos Zambrano thinks.”
Now anytime contract issues are made public it can only complicate things. Whether is making things messier at the table or if its fans taking sides, I hate to see things like this happen, especially with such a talented player.
As I’ve said many times before (in particular in this article I wrote), I think Zito’s contract is horrible. Not only for the fact that this is way too much money for someone who isn’t even one of the top 15 pitchers in the game for way too many years, but more importantly because this throws off the scale for all other pitchers. While I think Zambrano is a superior pitcher to Zito, it still is an awful lot of money. But what is money to the Cubs? From Carlos’ viewpoint, he saw his club throw around $300 million in contracts this winter. And now that their ace pitcher needs a new contract, they are hesitating. So I can see his frustration in the matter.
I honestly think the Cubs have no choice but to give in to his demands and offer him a giant sized contract. Not because of how he handled the situation (which could have been done a little better), but for the simple fact that they would end up losing a very good pitcher that still hasn’t reached his full potential despite going 16-7 (on a team that only won 66 games), a 3.41 ERA, and 210 strikeouts in 2006. This entire situation becomes even more dire due to the Cubs’ getting disappointing careers from players like Mark Prior and Kerry Wood who were supposed to be the future of this organization’s pitching staff. This club can’t afford to let an ace like this go as it would be almost impossible to replace him next season if he bolts for greener pastures.
So the bottom line is that the Cubs will need to bite the bullet on this one and pay the superstar before someone else does. He’s still young and, believe it or not, still learning. Zambrano has all the talent to be one of the best pitchers in baseball and once he learns to control his emotions a little bit better on the mound, should be able to accomplish this. Because for a player who is only 25 years old and has a career 3.29 ERA over his first 5 seasons, not signing him long term will just cause regret and pain for many, many years to come.
Especially the first time he accepts his Cy Young award or holds up his new team’s World Series trophy.