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Zambrano's New Deal
by Phil Bencomo
It's one of the biggest Cub stories of the year, and The Griddle beat me to it: Carlos Zambrano has finally signed a contract extension, five years for $91.5 million.
One has to wonder how much he would have made as a free agent -- Zambrano himself had been talking $20 million a year -- and how much he's really worth, but a pitcher of Z's caliber, age and history is going to receive top dollar. The man has his flaws, like all people do, and this season will be remembered for more than his on-field performance (that itself with ups and downs), but there is no doubting his tremendous talent and achievements past and present.
Every year, questions arise about his health and how long he'll last. Again, one has to wonder whether such concerns will soon be validated, but the Cubs would have been foolish to let Carlos, of age 26 and career ERA+ of 130, walk away from the team.
And the fact that Zambrano was so willing, like Aramis Ramirez before him, to sacrifice free agency -- more money be damned -- and stay with the Cubs speaks volumes about the Cubs, players and executives both, especially with the team's sale looming. The organization must be doing something right if its star players are walking away from millions of dollars to stay put. Yes, $91.5 million is an awfully large amount of money regardless, but money is money, and many players so despise their organizations that free agency can't come fast enough. Apparently, such is not the case with the Cubs, which can only mean good things.
Now, with the contract hoopla settled, Zambrano should be able to fully focus on what he does best: Pitch. And it couldn't come at a better time. The Cubs are in the midst of a four-game series with red-hot St. Louis, a team left for dead months ago that is now only 2.5 games out of first. Add the Cards to the list of NL Central teams that have pulled a 180, right behind the Cubs and the tanking Brewers.
UPDATE: Excerpts from the press conference:
Jim Hendry:Certainly the relationship factor that Carlos has with all of us in the Cubs was vital to us getting this done. I don't know of too many cases in history that a young man would have passed up the opportunity to hit the streets. I think we all know there was bigger pots of gold out there for him. The higher market clubs in need of great young pitching. The market would have been totally significant.
Carlos always assured me he wanted to stay here, and he wanted to win here.
It would have been a lot easier for him to just say, "Well, you know what, I'll give you a good shot in November, but I'm going to go out and see what's out there."
It certainly is a big statement. Other players have made that statement that have been here. Derrek Lee have that statement after the year that he had. It's no secret that Aramis could have made more money in the offseason. I think you see a group of people, which happens at a lot of premier franchises, they enjoy where they're at, the don't want to leave, they feel good about the direction that we're going, and they love the fans here. The city's the greatest, the ballpark's the greatest. I don't think that he takes lightly the amount of dollars this is, or does anybody look at that with any kind of non-serious mode. I think that this is a great place to play, and most players that are quality major league players that have been here, they like it here. You see it all the time. The new players that come in, the Jason Kendalls, Nomar when he was here, high-profile guys. Eric Karros. They loved their experience here. I think that bodes well moving into the future, if we can continue to have a balance that we have now of our home-grown players playing well and augmenting that with outside people that really want to be here.
My strong belief is that we certainly couldn't have replaced Carlos. I didn't have an appetite to be on the free agent pitching market all winter. There was nobody close to his ability available.
Barry Praver: We understand that in this era of extraordinary player contracts, that it's easy to become jaded by the numbers that we see out there today. But we want you all to know that we do not take your commitment lightly. We know this is a huge commitment on the part of the Cubs.
It became very apparent to all of us, from the beginning and throughout these negotiations, that we were dealing with two people, namely Jim and Carlos, who have a very strong relationship, none that we've ever seen between a player and general manager, cultured by ten-plus years in the Cubs organization.
I can't sit here and tell you tell you that this deal gets done without the trust and respect that these two have for each other.
But the one thing that did remain constant through this entire endeavor was Carlos' burning desire to remain a Cub, and certainly he has demonstrated that here today by entering into this agreement with the Cubs on the doorstep of free agency, in which, as Jim mentioned, clearly he would have been the premier pitcher in this year's class. And Carlos, what I hope for you is that you become in this era one of the rare players that has the opportunity to stay with the entire organization throughout his whole career.
Carlos Zambrano: I feel happy right now, and I feel comfortable right now. But it's not enough. I have a mission to complete, and I have a lot of ways to go with my teammates to lead my team to the promised land. That will complete the mission. It's not enough when you retire and you don't have your ring. When you come to play baseball, you have a team that you can win.
We have everything to take this team to the promised land. That's the main concern right now, the main thing that we have to finish this year and through the years.
Not everything is about money. I know that if go to the free agency that there's a lot of teams that will come to me and offer me more, but I feel comfortable here, I feel good here, my family feels good here, my wife. This is my town, my home, my city, and I love Chicago. I love the Cubs. Jim known me since I was 16 years old. So, I like to stay here, and thank God that I'm staying here for a longer time.
It's something that was on my mind, and I was thinking about that. But now, a fresh mind, and I'm ready to go, I'm ready to lead this team to the World Series.