Carlos Zambrano had a problem-free bullpen session yesterday, clearing the path for him to return from the disabled list when eligible tomorrow against the Marlins.
Zambrano has been out since July 1 with a lower back injury, but allowed zero earned runs over four innings in a rehab start last Friday at Single-A and will slot in behind Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster in the Cubs’ second-half rotation.
While he wasn’t particularly effective before the injury, posting a career-worst 4.34 ERA in 18 starts, Zambrano’s return will be a big help to the Cubs if only because it presumably will bump Ramon Ortiz from the rotation after the 38-year-old predictably went 0-2 with a 7.20 ERA in a pair of fill-in starts.
Ortiz simply doesn’t belong in the majors at this point, although in fairness I’ve been writing that since around 2007 and he’s earned about $5 million while throwing 144 innings during that time. With a 5.75 ERA, of course.
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.