Garza predicts Zambrano will be a Cy Young contender

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Garza predicts Zambrano will be a Cy Young contender

MESA, Ariz. As soon as the Cubs acquired Matt Garza from Tampa Bay last winter, there were questions about how he would control his emotions, fit into the clubhouse and handle a bigger market. There were suspicions that he could be Carlos Zambrano 2.0.

One year later, the Cubs are under new management and at least considering the possibility of signing Garza to a long-term extension. Zambrano has been shipped to the Miami Marlins, where he will be reunited with Ozzie Guillen, an old friend from Venezuela.

The Cubs kicked in roughly 15 million to get rid of Zambrano, and the comparisons to Garza didnt really prove to be accurate.

When this idea was mentioned minutes before the 2012 Cubs went through their first formal workout for pitchers and catchers on Sunday at Fitch Park Garza predicted big things for his former teammate.

Id love to get compared with Zambrano on the field, the way his numbers were, the way he threw the ball, Garza said. Hes one hell of a pitcher. But that guy I tell you what hes going to have one hell of a year. I kid you not hes going to go out there and go down to Miami and surprise a lot of people. His stuff is still electric. It still bottoms out.

I wouldnt be surprised to see him in the Cy Young race (this) year. I kid you not. Hes got (good enough) stuff and I think just playing with Ozzie, getting his own comfort zone, hes going to have one hell of a season. I wish nothing but the best for that guy.

To complete last months deal with the Marlins, Zambrano had to waive his no-trade clause and void a potential vesting option for 2013, which could have been triggered with a top-four finish in this seasons Cy Young vote.

Zambrano has never won 20 games in a season, and hasnt reached 200 innings since 2007. He went 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA last year before packing up his stuff and walking out on the team in a moment of frustration.

That night in Atlanta last August was the point of no return. The Cubs will pay almost all of Zambranos 18 million salary this season, minus the 2.655 million owed Chris Volstad, the intriguing 6-foot-8-inch right-hander they got back in the deal.

Volstad, who grew up in Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., is still only 25 years old and a former first-round pick. The sense around camp is that he will benefit from a change of scenery and become a good bet to make the rotation.

Either way, it wont be nearly as entertaining or as potentially explosive as the reality show Ozzie and Big Z will put together in Miami.

Sights and Sounds from Cubs visit to Donald Trump's White House

Sights and Sounds from Cubs visit to Donald Trump's White House

The 45th President of the United States Donald Trump welcomed the 2016 World Series champion Cubs to The White House on Wednesday afternoon.

While attendance was optional due to the Cubs already holding a formal ceremony with former President Barack Obama last January, several Cubs players and manager Joe Maddon attended Wednesday's gathering. 

Check out some of the sights and sounds from the Cubs busy day in D.C.

Vice President Mike Pence gets his own Cubs jersey.

Trump wants to know who the best hitter on the Cubs is so he can pick them up for his fantasy baseball team (we made up that last part).

Cleveland Cavaliers owner Dan Gilbert crashes the party.

The Cubs display a card displaying No. 45 for President Trump.

Who is the Cubs owner in this picture?

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Who is Victor Caratini? Breaking down the Cubs' new catcher

Miguel Montero is out and Victor Caratini is in.

The Cubs made a shakeup at catcher Wednesday and will have to forge the last half of the 2017 season without the presence of veteran Montero, who has 1,149 MLB games under his belt and was hitting .286 with an .805 OPS this year.

But Montero talked his way out of town and Caratini is the immediate choice for a replacement behind starting backstop Willson Contreras.

[Where it all went wrong with Miguel Montero and the Cubs]

Caratini is a 23-year-old switch-hitter whom the Cubs acquired from the Atlanta Braves in 2014 as part of the Emilio Bonifacio/James Russell deadline deal. The Braves initially selected Caratini in the second round of the 2013 MLB Draft out of Miami-Dade College.

The Puerto Rican native has mostly played catcher (297 games) in his minor-league career, but has also seen time at first base (76 games) and third base (57 games). 

Caratini got his first taste of big-league spring training action this season, impressing with a .379 average and 1.175 OPS in 16 games (29 at-bats).

He is enjoying the best offensive season of his career in Triple-A Iowa, hitting .343 with a .384 on-base percentage and .923 OPS.

Caratini has already set a career high with eight home runs while clubbing 20 doubles and driving in 54 runs in 68 games. He also has only 40 strikeouts in 245 at-bats.

The Cubs named Caratini the organization's minor league player of the month in May after he drove in 17 runs in 24 games while hitting .366 with a .573 slugging percentage.

Caratini also should help the Cubs running game — an area where Montero was 0-for-31 in throwing out baserunners. Caratini has nabbed 28 percent of would-be basestealers in Iowa, a mark that is directly even with the MLB average.

Contreras is throwing out 34 percent of would-be basestealers in 2017.

Caratini figures to be the short-term answer for the Cubs at catcher given the organzation doesn't have many other options. Kyle Schwarber has not been a viable option behind the plate after recovering from major knee surgery that sapped almost his entire 2016 season. Taylor Davis — a 27-year-old catcher/infielder — is currently on the disabled list and has yet to make his MLB debut.