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.

Ohtani keeping watch on Angels’ offseason moves from afar

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SAN DIEGO – Even though Shohei Ohtani is back in Japan for the offseason, he has been in frequent contact with Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian about the team’s offseason moves.

“We talk a lot. He’s asking me daily who we’re getting,” Minasian said during baseball’s winter meetings. “He’s into it. We have a lot of players like that. Mike (Trout) and Anthony (Rendon) are like that. I think it’s a very motivated group.

“They want to see activity. They want to see the organization making a commitment to making the team better. We’ll see how it shakes out when we get to spring training what exactly we have, but we’re going to continue to look for opportunities to improve,” he said.

Minasian also reiterated his support for Ohtani taking whatever role he deems best for Japan during the World Baseball Classic in March. Ohtani said he is open to being a reliever.

“I don’t have any issue with whatever he does. He’s not one I’m worried about,” Minasian said. “He knows what he needs to do to get ready for the season. I know when the bell rings, he’ll be ready to go. There’s a comfort and trust to that.”

The Angels’ offseason moves, their future owner and the team’s performance will all be under the microscope as the two-way Japanese superstar begins his final season before hitting free agency.

Ohtani agreed to a $30 million contract for next season in September. After winning the AL MVP award in 2021, Ohtani finished second to New York Yankees slugger Aaron Judge after going 15-9 with a 2.33 ERA on the mound and batting .273 with 34 home runs and 95 RBIs.

Despite Arte Moreno putting the team up for sale, the Angels have been proactive since the season ended. They acquired outfielder Hunter Renfroe from the Milwaukee Brewers and infielder Gio Urshela from the Minnesota Twins. They upgraded the rotation by signing Tyler Anderson and added to the bullpen with Carlos Estevez.

Minasian said the message from ownership has been business as usual.

“I know we’ve spent more money, I guess. But I mean nothing’s been drastically different for me. I think there have been more things that have presented themselves that made sense, compared maybe in previous offseasons, where we were and what we were trying to do,” Minasian said.

Commissioner Rob Manfred said on Tuesday that multiple groups have expressed interest in the Angels with a possibility that a sale could be completed by opening day.

Manager Phil Nevin also is on a one-year deal as the Angels try to end a string of seven consecutive losing seasons and eight consecutive years out of the postseason after going 73-89 this past season. Both are the longest active skids in the majors.