Cubs

Kaplan: Zambrano doesn't want worldwide draft

Kaplan: Zambrano doesn't want worldwide draft

Wednesday, April 20, 2011
Posted: 9:22 p.m.

By David Kaplan
CSNChicago.com

Cubs star Carlos Zambrano talked with me before Wednesday's doubleheader about how he came to sign with the Cubs and why he is not a fan of the concept of a worldwide amateur draft.

Currently players from outside the United States are treated as free agents and can sign with the highest bidder, often times commanding deals in the millions of dollars.

"I think a worldwide draft would be bad for the kids from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela because we are late developers. We don't have little league or a system of organized baseball to help us learn the game," Zambrano explained. "When I was a kid we played maybe once a week, that's it. If kids from my country were drafted and then didn't develop quickly enough they wouldn't be around long. This way they develop and grow and then sign a little later than when they would be drafted," Zambrano said.

Zambrano was not a hot-shot prospect when he was a teenager and he was not a guy who saw himself playing professional baseball.

"In fact, I never really played baseball as a child. I was a soccer player and because of my size and athletic ability I had a chance to play at a few baseball academies. I played in front of scouts from the Marlins, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks and the last team I played for was the Cubs.

"I had never pitched and when I was at the Cubs facility, their scout (Alberto Rondon) saw me throw a ball in from right field and noticed that I had a strong arm. He asked me if I had ever pitched and I told him, 'no.' He watched me workout and eventually we flew to the United States and I signed with the Cubs in Arizona. I was the first player from Venezuela to sign his contract in the United States. All of the other guys signed back in our country," Zambrano told me.

Cubs in first place?

Okay, admit it Cubs fans and baseball experts. I know that it is only April 20th, but did any of you think that the Cubs would be in first in the NL Central at any point during the 2011 season? C'mon admit it....

Rose or Isiah?

I was asked this question Wednesday morning. If I was coaching the Bulls in Game Seven of the NBA Finals who would I want as my point guard. Isiah Thomas or Derrick Rose?

That is a great question because both players are amazingly talented and both have radically different skill sets.

Isiah was a phenomenal shooter and he also had a great ability to run an offense in a half court set. However, he was not a high-flying athlete who could finish at the rim and thus he was limited in the ways that he could score. He was quick and had a great basketball IQ, which made him the perfect player to run the Pistons physical, half-court style of offense.

At this point in his career Rose is nowhere near the perimeter shooter that Thomas was in his prime. However, Isiah was never the ridiculous athlete that Rose is and he never was able to complete plays at the rim against bigger players the way that Rose does consistently.

Rose is a savvy leader and a tremendous team guy and his perimeter shot is certainly much better than it was when he entered the league in 2008-09. It is a very tough question to answer, but because of the way the game is played today I would lean towards Rose due to that incredible athleticism.

Tom Glavine trying to buy the Atlanta Thrashers?

A big name in Atlanta baseball could possibly play a role in keeping Atlanta's professional hockey team in town.

Former Atlanta Braves All-Star pitcher Tom Glavine is working actively to keep the Atlanta Thrashers from leaving, according to Atlanta Business Chronicle broadcast partner WXIA-TV 11Alive. Glavine said he is extremely interested in keeping professional hockey in Atlanta. Read the rest of the article here.
Read more from The Kapman on Friday at CSNChicago.com

David Kaplan is the host of Chicago Tribune Live on Comcast SportsNet. Follow him on Twitter @thekapman.

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

No momentum yet on potential Cubs-Zobrist reunion

SAN DIEGO — Theo Epstein's front office has a lot of difficult decisions to make this winter, but Ben Zobrist has yet to come up with his own tough answers.

The 2016 World Series MVP is currently a free agent after wrapping up his four-year deal with the Cubs. He played a major role on the team in September following a four-month absence to deal with a family matter. 

Zobrist, 38, said at the end of the season that he was unsure if he would call it quits after an impressive career or return for another season on the diamond. More than two months since he last put on a uniform, he still has not reached an answer:

If he does play another season, it would have to be in the right situation for his family. He's made enough money in his career and accomplished plenty — including hoisting a couple championship trophies — but he clearly still had the drive and desire to play, as he said in his September return.

The Cubs figure to be on the short list of teams that would make sense for Zobrist given the mutual familiarity, a home in Chicago and how the entire organization supported him as he stepped away from the team to address his personal life.

It would seem to fit from the Cubs' perspective as well, since they talked all season long about how they missed Zobrist's professional at-bats and his presence inside the clubhouse. 

But there is no traction on the reunion front at the moment.

"I haven't talked to him recently," Epstein said Monday. "I've talked to him since the season ended, but it was more just checking in on his family. As far as baseball, he hadn't made a decision at that point. He was gonna wait a while before deciding what to do. He left open the possibility, but that was it."

The Cubs have an avenue for playing time next season at second base and potentially in the outfield for Zobrist and they are currently searching for leadoff options. He proved he can still play at his advanced age by hitting .284/.388/.377 in September after months away from the game. He isn't an everyday guy anymore, but can still provide value as a role player.

If Zobrist decides to give it one more go, the price would have to be right for the financially-hamstrung Cubs, but a reunion would make a lot of sense for both sides.

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

maddon_contreras.jpg
USA TODAY

Angels' search for catching help could lead them to Willson Contreras

Could we see a Willson Contreras-Joe Maddon reunion in Los Angeles?

According to Maria Torres of the Los Angeles Times, the Angels are “heavily engaged in the catcher market,” and are having “active conversations with two teams” regarding a trade for a catcher.

Torres didn’t specifically mention Contreras, but he’s one of several Cubs who have been linked to trade rumors this offseason. The Cubs aren’t looking to enter another all-out rebuild, but they’re keeping the future of the organization in mind following a disappointing 84-win season.

The Cubs farm system has grown barren of impact talent. They’ve struggled to develop big-league starting pitching under team president Theo Epstein. Their payroll is projected to exceed MLB’s luxury tax threshold for a second straight season, meaning they’d encounter a 30 percent luxury tax on their overages and see their draft position drop 10 spots, should they exceed the $208 million threshold by $40 million or more.

Trading Contreras — who’s projected to make $4.5 million via arbitration next season — won’t solve the financial problem. However, trading him could net the Cubs the type of blue-chip prospects they desperately need to replenish their farm system.

Contreras is also under team control through 2022, so there’s not a huge rush to deal the two-time All-Star. But if the Cubs sense he’s unlikely to sign a contract extension now or in the future, they must do their due diligence on him and see what they could acquire in a potential trade. The same is true for Javier Báez, Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Angels have one top 100 prospect, (outfielder Jo Adell — No. 5 overall), according to MLB Pipeline, so what Los Angeles could offer the Cubs is questionable. Epstein and Co. won’t trade their backstop for the sake of doing so, especially if they deem any offers to be unsatisfactory.  

Contreras hit .272/.355/.533 with 24 home runs and 64 RBIs last season. He’d be a major addition for the Angels, whose catchers posted a combined .221/.293/.344 slash line with 15 home runs and 61 RBIs. The 27-year-old also has a special bond with former Cubs/current Angels manager Joe Maddon.

Contreras posted a heartfelt good-bye to Maddon on Instagram after the Cubs announced they weren’t retaining the manager for 2020. Contreras later commissioned a painting of he and Maddon as a gift for his former skipper.

Monday, Maddon said it’s “weird” to hear Bryant and Contreras mentioned in trade rumors, adding that he likes both players. 

The Angels aren't definitively linked to Contreras and Epstein recently advised to take rumors with a "mouthful of salt." But considering the Angels are reportedly seeking a catching upgrade, it won't be a surprise to see that change soon.