Carlos Zambrano, the temperamental pitcher known by Cubs fans for smashing water coolers and clashing with teammates, is on the verge of joining the Marlins.
Zambrano was close Wednesday night to being traded to Miami for Chris Volstad, the Marlins' top draft pick in 2005 out of Palm Beach Gardens, according to multiple sources.
"I've been with them since 2005, so it's kind of weird to think about it,' said Volstad, who went 5-13 with a 4.89 ERA last season.
The deal, which waits approval from the commissioners' office, essentially allows the Marlins to bolster their starting rotation without giving up a key position player or prospect.
Zambrano, 31, would have to waive his full no-trade clause, but that is not expected to be a problem since the move would unite him with Marlins manager Ozzie Guillen, his close friend and Venezuelan countryman.
Zambrano is owed $18 million in the final year of his contract. The Marlins would pay just $3 million of that - roughly the same money Volstad is likely to get in arbitration - with the Cubs picking up the difference.
Money didn't seem to be an issue for the Cubs, who seemed eager to part ways. Earlier Wednesday, new Cubs President Theo Epstein said Zambrano, who was suspended in each of the past two seasons, would need to make significant changes to remain with the team.
"The Carlos Zambrano of 2011 and years previous can't fit into the culture we have here,' Epstein said on WGN radio.
"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. Frankly, I'm skeptical as well.'
Zambrano last pitched on Aug. 12, when he was ejected from a game in Atlanta after serving up five home runs. He abruptly cleaned out his locker and left the team, which led to his suspension.
Zambrano will join left-hander Mark Buehrle and right-handers Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez in the Marlins' rotation. He'd likely slot into the fifth spot, behind either Sanchez or Nolasco.
The Marlins are counting on Zambrano, known as "Big Z," to return to the form that made him one of the top pitchers in the National League.
He went 9-7 with a 4.82 ERA in 24 starts last season after going 11-6 with a 3.33 ERA in 2010 in a season spent partly in the bullpen. He last pitched 200 innings in 2007 when he finished fifth in NL Cy Young Award voting.
Overall, he's 125-81 with a 3.60 ERA in 11 seasons, all with the Cubs. More recently, he has pitched in the Venezuelan Winter League, going 0-1 with a 2.45 ERA in his first five starts.
On Nov. 18, Zambrano was struck in the head by a line drive, an injury that required 18 stitches. But he returned to action, pitching most recently on Dec. 27.
Buehrle has said he signed with the Marlins in large part because of Guillen, his former manager with the White Sox. Guillen no doubt played a similar role in getting the Marlins to go after Zambrano.
Guillen told reporters at the winter meetings last month that he was in almost daily contact with the pitcher, although he said the two had not discussed Zambrano pitching for the Marlins.
"I got a bet with somebody, I will tell you, he will win a lot of games for the team,' Guillen said.
Although the Marlins hope Guillen will be a calming influence on Zambrano, their friendship actually added to the friction Zambrano felt with the Cubs.
In 2010, Zambrano caught the ire of Cubs manager Lou Piniella for having dinner with Guillen the night after Zambrano erupted at his Cubs teammates in the dugout during an interleague game against the White Sox.
Zambrano was not Miami's first option for adding to their rotation. The Marlins tried but failed to sign left-hander C.J. Wilson at the winter meetings. They also tried but failed to trade for Gio Gonzalez, who went to the Washington Nationals because Miami balked at Oakland's demand for left fielder Logan Morrison.
Volstad, 25, pitched at times better than his record indicated in 2011. After going 0-4 with a 5.01 ERA in August, he went 0-1 with a 2.32 ERA in September.
He showed promise as a rookie, going 6-4 with a 2.88 ERA in 2008, but followed that up by going 9-13 with a 5.21 ERA in 2009. He went 12-9 with a 4.58 ERA in 2010. He spent time in the minors in each of his past two seasons.
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