When Cubs president Theo Epstein talks about changing the culture of the long-suffering team, he's not kidding.
On Wednesday, he put his money—literally—where his mouth is, trading controversial pitcher Carlos Zambrano to Florida in exchange for pitcher Chris Volstad. The trade, first reported by foxsports.com, unites Big Z with the Big Mouth, Ozzie Guillen, who parted ways with the White Sox in September.
Epstein himself hinted Big Z might be on the way out in an interview on WGN-AM 720 earlier Wednesday before news of the trade broke.
"The Carlos Zambrano from 2011 and the years previous can't fit into the culture that we have here," Epstein said. "So change needs to happen and change will happen. Either he'll change and buy in and fit into 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 and treat the fans with respect and can be part of a winning culture in the Cubs' clubhouse."
So, what is the price of culture change? At least $15 million—that's the portion of Zambrano's $18 million contract the Cubs will have to pay, according to the Fox Sports report.
The last straw for Zambrano in a Cubs uniform appears to be the Aug. 12 early exit, a la Sammy Sosa. That day, he was ejected, then cleaned out his locker and talked about retiring before leaving Wrigley Field. He was suspended without pay and then it was decided he would sit out the rest of the season.
It wasn't the first time Big Z ran afoul of Cubs coaches and management. There was the time he yelled at first baseman Derrek Lee in June 2010 at U.S. Cellular Field. And don't forget the time he assaulted two Gatorade coolers in June 2008. Or when he punched catcher Michael Barrett in June 2007 in the clubhouse after giving up five runs to Atlanta. Or when he called out fans in September 2007. Or … we'll stop there.
He's Florida's problem now. TRIBUNE CONTRIBUTED.