Carlos Zambrano says the Cubs need some “changes”

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Yesterday afternoon there were several reports about the Cubs trying to convince a contending team to take Carlos Zambrano and his contract off their hands, which predictably didn’t go very well.

Then a few hours later Zambrano took the mound against the Brewers and threw 6.2 innings of two-run ball in a tough-luck loss, looking visibly upset as manager Mike Quade removed him from the game and then telling anyone who would listen in the clubhouse afterward that the Cubs need to make “changes.”

Here’s how Carrie Muskat of MLB.com described the scene:

“I do want to stay here,” Zambrano said. “At the same time, I want this team to make some changes. If we want to win here, we need to make changes. If I have to go, I have to go but I’ll still have the Cubs in m heart. If the change has to be me, that’s OK.”

The Cubs haven’t approached him about any possible trade. “If it comes, it comes and I’ll think about it,” Zambrano said.

What kind of changes would he like to see the team make? “Change. A lot of change,” he said. “A lot of changes to win.”

Does that mean change the players? “Change,” Zambrano said.

Just connecting the dots, it seems pretty obvious that Zambrano is talking about Quade, although he might also be talking about various under-performing players. You know, like Carlos Zambrano.

Zambrano has a career-worst 4.59 ERA in 21 starts while striking out a career-low 6.1 batters per nine innings. He’s still a decent mid-rotation starter, but his arm has been worked a whole lot harder than most 30-year-olds and with one more year and $18 million remaining on his contract he’s obviously being paid like a top-of-the-rotation stud.

Somehow being able to trade Zambrano, either for a decent prospect or just to wipe his contract off the books, would be a very positive “change” for the Cubs. Short of that miracle taking place, however, firing the guy who gave Zambrano the contract might be a worthwhile “change” and it sure seems like Quade’s supporters are rapidly shrinking in number as well.

UPDATE: Our friends at CSNChicago.com have the video of Zambrano’s “changes” rant.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.