Monday, Oct. 4, 2010
By Patrick Mooney
Aramis Ramirez stood in front of his locker and sort of laughed and shook his head late Sunday afternoon when a reporter mentioned Carlos Zambranos latest comments.
The night before, on the other side of the visiting clubhouse at Minute Maid Park, Zambrano responded to a question about offseason needs by saying he wants the Cubs to sign 6-foot-6-inch, 285-pound slugger Adam Dunn as a way to protect Ramirez and Marlon Byrd in the lineup.
After being Zambranos teammate for parts of eight seasons, Ramirez is almost numb to all this. Ramirez can be a bit of a loner, but hes honest, and even at the end still realized the implication was calling out someone else in the room.
When you add a guy like that he hits 40 homers every year it wont hurt, Ramirez said. But like I say, thats not my job and we got a guy right now playing first that I dont want to disrespect. Zambrano can say whatever he wants, but (Xavier) Nadys (been) playing there every day now and hes a free agent and I dont know what theyre going to do.
Ramirez is certain what hes going to do with his 14.6 million player option for next season, and that might be the easiest decision surrounding the Cubs the next four months.
Ill be here next year, he said Sunday after Game 162 in Houston.
And that is as good a place as any to start looking ahead to Opening Day 2011, the Cubs subject to Zambranos whims, needing Ramirez to again play like an All-Star and not knowing what they can and cannot afford.
The team charter flying back to Chicago wasnt crowded Sunday night, with most of the players already moved out and scattering across the country from Houston. By Monday afternoon, the Wrigley Field clubhouse was almost entirely empty, and Zambrano was said to be involved in a minor car accident leaving the parking lot.
Fair or not, whatever Zambrano says or does will make news. No one can match what he did in his final 11 starts 8-0 with a 1.41 ERA for an entire season. Everyone will be curious to see how he responds after a few bad games, and if those anger-management sessions will have a lasting impact.
Id like to think hell never have any adversity again, but we know thats not true, Mike Quade said. This has been a really, really nice couple months for him and I think hell take it into this winter and Im confident that hell come back next spring not forgetting whats happened.
If Quade returns as manager and he likes the odds of that happening then he will likely see many of the same faces in Mesa, Ariz.
In the final weeks of the season, Nady was the only player getting questions about his upcoming free agency. He will turn 32 next month and the Cubs have liked him as a prospect since he was in high school.
All of Nadys numbers this season .256 average, six homers, 33 RBI come with an asterisk because of the elbow-reconstruction surgery he underwent in July 2009. He enjoys playing in Chicago and expects to be at full health in 2011.
But realistically first base might be the one position where the Cubs can upgrade. The outfield is still crowded and the middle infield will be young and cheap.
The Cubs are already committed to around 102 million next season for Zambrano, Ramirez, Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Ryan Dempster, Carlos Silva, Byrd, Jeff Samardzija and John Grabow.
The Seattle Mariners will continue to pay for part of Silvas salary, and maybe general manager Jim Hendry can get creative again with Fukudome, who has no-trade protection and is entering the final year of his 48 million deal.
Carlos Marmol, Sean Marshall and Geovany Soto all enjoyed outstanding seasons and will be eligible for arbitration and nice raises. Each was signed and developed by the organization, which is supposed to be the model going forward.
The only indication chairman Tom Ricketts has given is that payroll will probably be lowered from its 2010 level (approximately 145 million). That will again place the burden on the players you already know, guys like Zambrano and Ramirez.
If youre going to start with a club thats going to contend, or youre putting something together, its wonderful to have a bunch of young guys, Quade said. But nine times out of 10 you better have some stalwarts. (You) start with guys who have a history and you say, Look, here are our guys that we can quote-unquote count on. All those veterans will be a huge part of (this).
Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.