January 2007

Cubs miscalculate with Big Z

While some applaud the Cubs’ free spending this winter, Chicago made a big mistake.

Signing Jason Marquis to a big-money deal.

No, not that.

Was it signing Ted Lilly to a $40 million deal? Not it.

The Cubbies overpaid Alfonso Soriano, Mark DeRosa, Lilly and Marquis this offseason. But they should have overpaid one of their own — Carlos Zambrano.

Now thanks to Barry Zito’s ridiculous $126 million contract with the Giants, Zambrano is in line to become baseball’s 15th $100 million man. The Cubbies should have locked up Zambrano before GMs started writing blank checks for mediocre pitchers. If the Cubs don’t get anything done with Zambrano before next fall, Big Z will be one of the biggest free-agent prizes of the offseason. The Yankees and Mets — who wisely took a pass this offseason — will have money to burn, while the Dodgers and Red Sox will join the fray, too.

If the big righty does become a free agent, expect a fierce battle for his services. And expect a contract worth more than Zito’s deal.