Carlos Zambrano returns

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If the Cubs have any hope of unloading Carlos Zambrano on anyone, they’re going to have to showcase him as a starter. That showcasing began last night. It wasn’t pretty, but it could have been way uglier.

Zambrano gave up only two runs over five innings, but that was deceiving: only 49 of his 96 pitches were strikes and he walked seven. The Giants were 2 for 14 with men in scoring position and left 15 men on base. If they had an inkling of where to find a timely hit last night this thing could have been seriously ugly.

But the Cubs have no choice: they have to run Zambrano out there every fifth day no matter what happens. If he can put together a handful of at least arguably respectable starts, there’s a chance that someone will take a chance on the guy (even then, I suspect they’d only take a fraction of the contract). If he can’t get anyone out and/or has another meltdown, the guy may very well be out of baseball next season.

Phillies, Red Sox interested in Carlos Santana

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The Phillies and Red Sox appear intent on pursuing free agent first baseman Carlos Santana, MLB Network’s Jon Morosi reports. Santana rejected a one-year, $17.4 million qualifying offer from the Indians on Thursday and is expected to draw widespread interest on the market this winter. The Mets, Mariners, Angels and Indians could make a play for the infielder, though no serious offers have been made this early in the offseason.

Santana, 31, is coming off of a seven-year track with the Indians. He batted .259/.363/.455 with 23 home runs and 3.0 fWAR last season, making 2017 the fourth-most valuable year of his career to date. Although he was primarily stationed at first base over the last year, he could step back into a hybrid first base/DH role with the Red Sox, who are hurting for infield depth with Hanley Ramirez still working his way back from shoulder surgery.

As for Santana’s other suitors, the Mariners are far less likely to pursue a deal after trading for Ryon Healy last Wednesday. Neither the Mets nor the Phillies have a DH spot to offer the veteran infielder, and the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins appears to be blocking the way at first base. Then again, Santana may not find a more enticing offer outside of Cleveland, where Edwin Encarnacion might otherwise be the club’s best option at first base. During the GM meetings, Indians’ GM Mike Chernoff said he “love to have both [Santana and Jay Bruce] back” in 2018, but hasn’t backed up that love with any contract talks just yet.