Cincinnati Reds v Chicago Cubs

Marlins acquire Carlos Zambrano and $15 million from the Cubs for Chris Volstad

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UPDATE, 7:31 PM: ESPN Chicago’s Bruce Levine says the deal is done. It’s Zambrano for Volstad, with the Cubs eating $15 million of the $18 million remaining on Zambrano’s contract.

UPDATE, 7:12 PM: According to CBS Sports’ Jon Heyman, the Marlins are sending right-hander Chris Volstad to the Cubs as part of the Big Z trade, which could be finalized sometime Thursday.

UPDATE, 5:40 PM: So much for Zambrano staying in Chicago. Just hours after Epstein’s radio interview Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports that the Marlins are close to acquiring Zambrano from the Cubs.

He’d have to waive his no-trade clause first, but Rosenthal believes Zambrano would do so to pitch for manager Ozzie Guillen and it’s no secret that the Marlins have been shopping for another veteran starter.

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Carlos Zambrano’s odds of remaining with the Cubs increased significantly when Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over the front office from Jim Hendry, but he’s still far from a sure thing to be with Chicago on Opening Day.

During an interview with WGN radio today Epstein was asked about Zambrano’s status and gave a pretty interesting answer:

The Carlos Zambrano of 2011 and years previous can’t fit into the culture that we have here. Change needs to happen and change will happen. Either he’ll change and buy in and fit into this culture–and I understand there are a lot of skeptics around about that, and I understand that, and frankly, I’m skeptical as well.

He needs to prove to us that he can change and be part of this culture or we’ll change the personnel and move forward with people who are proud to be Cubs and treat their teammates with respect, treat the fans with respect and can be part of a winning culture in the Cubs’ clubhouse.

Epstein focusing on the clubhouse culture is … well, let’s say noteworthy considering how the Red Sox’s clubhouse culture fell apart in the month or two before he left Boston.

Clearly if the Cubs can get any kind of decent prospect or meaningful payroll relief in exchange for Zambrano they’ll gladly trade him, but there isn’t a whole lot of benefit to eating his entire $18 million salary just to make him go away.

Report: Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on Sonny Gray

OAKLAND, CA - AUGUST 06: Sonny Gray #54 of the Oakland Athletics pitches against the Chicago Cubs during the first inning at the Oakland Coliseum on August 6, 2016 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Jason O. Watson/Getty Images)
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The Astros remain in contact with the Athletics on starting pitcher Sonny Gray, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. The Astros have added Charlie Morton this offseason, but the club has been trying to add a big-name starting pitcher to put at the top of the rotation behind Dallas Keuchel.

Gray, 27, was limited to 22 starts in the 2016 season due to a forearm issue. His stats left a lot to be desired, as he finished with a 5-11 record, a 5.69 ERA, and a 94/42 K/BB ratio over 117 innings. Considering how Gray pitched in the previous three years, he’s a good bet to bounce back.

Gray is under team control through 2019, which is a big draw for the Astros. Needless to say, the Athletics would want a haul in terms of prospects. Gray will earn $3.575 million in 2017, having avoided arbitration in his first year of eligibility.

President Obama Welcomes the Cubs to the White House

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As we noted last week, The Chicago Cubs took the unusual step of not waiting until the summer after winning the World Series to make their customary White House visit to meet the president. They did it today, seeing President Obama a few short days before he leaves office.

Despite the fact that Obama is a White Sox fan, he met the Cubs with diplomacy and grace. It’s almost as if he’s been in that business for the past eight years. In return, he was given some gifts by the Cubs: Theo Epstein presented Obama with a No. 44 Cubs jersey, a tile from the center field scoreboard at Wrigley Field, and a lifetime pass to Wrigley as well.

Obama is staying in D.C. after he leaves office this week, hanging around so his daughter can finish high school in the same place she started. Even so, he’s likely going to be back to Chicago a good bit over the rest of his life, so he’ll likely be able to put the free pass to work. Assuming it comes with, like, six companion passes for his Secret Service detail.