Cubs GM Jim Hendry says Carlos Zambrano's contract wasn't a bad deal … and he's right

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At this point anything having to do with Carlos Zambrano seems like a disaster, but general manager Jim Hendry said yesterday that the five-year, $91.5 million extension the Cubs gave the now-suspended right-hander in mid-2007 was a perfectly reasonable deal:

There was nothing wrong with the investment. This guy was an outstanding pitcher in the National League, in the game, for the four, five years before that. There was no question that the deal was a solid one in the industry. He certainly would have been one of the hotter tickets on the street if that thing went to the end of the season.

This guy pitched a lot of innings, won a lot of games. Really, over the body of work, pitched as well as anybody in the National League for a three, four year period. He certainly pitched well enough to earn that contract whether it’s here or somewhere else.

And you know what? He’s right.

At the time of the deal there were certainly some signs that Zambrano wouldn’t age particularly well, because his performance had already slipped a bit and he’d racked up a ton of mileage on his arm. However, he was a 26-year-old workhorse with an 82-55 record and 3.41 ERA in nearly 1,200 career innings, including five straight 200-inning seasons and top-five Cy Young finishes in three of the previous four years.

There’s some room for debate about whether the Cubs should have committed themselves to five more years of Zambrano, but there’s no question $91.5 million represented significantly less than he would have received on an open market that was much more flush with cash than the current version. That was $35 million less than Barry Zito got from the Giants just six months earlier, and that same offseason the Cubs gave $136 million to Alfonso Soriano.

Perhaps the Cubs should have seen this coming, whether from a performance or personality standpoint, but if anything investing $91.5 million over five seasons in a 26-year-old Zambrano was a bargain in the ’07 market.

Steven Souza says the Oakland Coliseum dirt caused him to hurt his hip

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Tampa Bay Rays right fielder Steven Souza blames the field conditions at the Oakland Coliseum for hurting his hip. He left Wednesday’s game after sliding into second base on a steal attempt and says the dirt was to blame:

“I went to slide, and it was extremely muddy around second base. My leg got stuck in the ground, and I just kind of felt a jump in my hip. That didn’t feel very great . . . “I don’t know how it got real muddy out there, but it was not OK. I’ve never actually slid into a major league base like that and stuck and felt like I was going deeper in the ground.”

He wouldn’t be the first person to find fault with the Coliseum, but he’s the first person I can remember lodging this particular complaint. At least before the Raiders start playing and mess up the field for football season. Souza had a hip injury last year, though, so it’s understandable if he’s a bit more sensitive to it all. At the moment he’s day-to-day.

In other news, the A’s are said to be closer than ever to getting a new stadium. Like, way closer than they have been for the past decade in which they’ve been looking to get a new stadium.

The Brewers have been “aggressive” in their trade talks for Justin Wilson

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I love the trade deadline. Yeah, it’s cool that players get traded, influencing pennant races and all that jazz, but I also love it for the terminology.

So many “internal discussions” and so much tire-kicking. Just today I heard that a team has “gotten some feelers” for a player. That sounds kinda dirty, but in a good wholesome PG-13 sort of way. It’s two solid weeks of euphemism, really.

Sometimes, though, it gets scary. Like the way the Brewers are said to be talking about Justin Wilson of the Tigers:

I suppose if you’re “hanging on for dear life” that even the worst behavior can be excused, but I do hope that Brewers GM David Stearns is not threatening to rough up Tigers GM Al Avila or anything. Can a trade made under duress caused by threats of physical force be vetoed by the commissioner? An interesting analysis to be sure, even if it’s only speculative for now.

As for Wilson, I suppose the Brewers would have to be aggressive. He’s probably the most sought-after pitcher on the market at the moment. The Detroit Free Press reported earlier this week that 10-12 clubs were in on the left-handed reliever. He has a 2.75 ERA in 38 appearances and is striking out 12.5 batters per nine innings. He’s textbook trade deadline fodder, and the Tigers will likely get a nice return for him.

But please, Stearnsy, don’t hurt ’em.