The $15M dollars the Cubs are paying to rid themselves of Carlos Zambrano is worth every penny of Tom Ricketts’ money.
Although it’s not the big-splash move Cubs fans had hoped for at the Winter Meetings, or the looming trade of Matt Garza, it’s certainly the most critical move Theo Epstein has made this offseason—and I couldn’t be happier.
Epstein, all too familiar with the benefits of a winning clubhouse culture that he experienced in Boston (and the downside of a troubled one for that matter) had a no-brainer decision in dealing Zambrano to the Marlins.
The Cubs, unquestionably, needed a change of culture after two consecutive losing seasons, and it doesn’t take a baseball mastermind like Epstein to understand trading Zambrano was not only critical in re-booting the Cubs’ clubhouse chemistry, but a most necessary one at that.
The fact the Cubs got something in return (RHP Chris Volstad) makes of little difference compared to the immediate breath of fresh air into a clubhouse long fractured by Zambrano’s lengthy history of childish and immature behavior.
Parting with Carlos is the first major step in re-establishing the beautiful clubhouse chemistry that existed when the Cubs won back-to-back division titles in 2007-08, but has since vanished due to Jim Hendry’s decision to replace then-clubhouse leader Mark DeRosa with malcontent Milton Bradley, and then trading Derrek Lee the following year.
Suffice to say, the Cubs have yet to regain that ‘Cubbie Swagger’ since.
Now more than ever, the Cubs have a clean slate to rebuild a winning culture around high character players like Ryan Dempster, Kerry Wood (hopefully), Carlos Pena (possibly) and David DeJesus. Nor can the importance of such leadership be over-stated given the on-going youth movement to the roster.
Obviously, the Zambrano trade should have come to fruition long before Zambrano quit on his teammates last summer in Atlanta, and long before the arrival of Epstein & Co. this fall.
But now that it’s done, we can exhale a huge sigh of relief. El Toro has left the building—and this time it’s for real.
Sound reasoning has seemingly returned to the North Side with Ricketts and Epstein both staying true to their word.
Makes me believe it will only get better from here.