Monday, April 02, 2007

zambrano's contract on hold

it's opening day, dear reader, and an especially bright one with news of the impending sale of the cubs franchise hitting the wire just hours before the season opener kicked off in cincinnati. but as the day has worn on, some of the shine has been taken off what should be a day for optimists.

first came the game, where ace carlos zambrano issued five walks and six hits in five innings, with two adam dunn homers leading the offense for cincinnati to a 5-1 victory. his counterpart, aaron harang, clipped the vaunted new-edition cub offense, holding it to eight baserunners (six singles and just two walks) in seven innings. while just one game, zambrano's performance served as a reminder of the terrible disparity between walks taken and allowed, an issue which has haunted this club and promises to be a continuing issue in 2007.

but secondly and perhaps more importantly, during the game news surfaced that zambrano's contract negotiations are going to be backburnered in light of the franchise's unsettled ownership situation.

Just when it looked like the Cubs were oh-so-close to signing ace pitcher Carlos Zambrano to a contract extension, the impending sale of the team has changed all that, at least for now.

Cubs president John McDonough admitted today that he and general manager Jim Hendry would have to get together on the Zambrano situation.

“Ideally, in a perfect scenario, we’d like to keep Carlos, who represents, I think, what we’re looking for,” McDonough said this afternoon during a conference call with reporters covering Opening Day at the Great American Ball Park. “It’s that incredible passion and enthusiasm… I think, however, all of this needs to be addressed at the appropriate time.

“Jim and I need to dialogue a little bit more. There is going to be a process that takes place, and all of this will be addressed at the appropriate time. When exactly that is, I don’t know."

zambrano earlier in the day had extended by 24 hours his preseason deadline for negotiations and soundings indicated that a deal was close. but it would seem the repercussions of another monster contract just could not be ignored by soon-to-be-temporary-owner sam zell.

this page noted how unlikely the outpouring of contractual obligations was this offseason in light of the possible sale of the club, considering the potential obstacle that future cash-flow restrictions place on potential bidders for the team. tribco perhaps didn't see it that way, and jim hendry in a mad flight to implement an improbable job-saving one-year turnaround certainly didn't, but zell -- one of the shrewdest businessmen in chicago -- and his team apparently do, and it isn't too much to now wonder if the heavily backloaded deals offered to ted lilly, jason marquis and alfonso soriano have not stacked the deck against resigning zambrano.

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