Carlos Zambrano: Kansas City Royal?

CINCINNATI - APRIL 11: Carlos Zambrano #38 of the Chicago Cubs is pictured during the game against the Cincinnati Reds on April 11, 2010 at Great American Ball Park in Cincinnati, Ohio. (Photo by Andy Lyons/Getty Images)

Monday, the Royals made a deal for Jonathan Sanchez. But they've got more work to do. For one thing, Sanchez isn't really so good. For another, he might be their best starting pitcher next season if nothing else is done this winter. Really, at this point the 2012 rotation looks something like this:

1. Jonathan Sanchez
2.
3. Luke Hochevar
3. Felipe Paulino
5. Danny Duffy

Bruce Chen will fill a slot if he's re-signed, but he might not be re-signed.

All of which leaves the Royals casting about for more help, at least if they've designs on a winning season.

So what about Carlos Zambrano? You know that Theo Epstein would love to jettison Zambrano, and he might. Would Royals general manager Dayton Moore be interested in Zambrano, were he available? Moore was on the radio Monday, and David Kaplan was taking notes:

"We would have to be interested. We would have to explore it because that's what you should do. You should explore every opportunity. Carlos Zambrano is a heckuva competitor," said Moore. "Carlos Zambrano has had a lot of success in the major leagues. Carlos Zambrano is actually a very pleasant, easy going, classy person off the field. Sometimes, as with all of us the competitiveness takes over and brings out qualities in us that we are not proud of. Obviously the Cubs grew tired of some of his outbursts but I believe in our coaching staff and we'll always take a chance and a risk on certain players. We'll see how that particular situation unfolds," he said.

Hey, if you don't take a risk you can't win. There is one other little problem, though: Carlos Zambrano is going to earn $18 million next season. Which means you're not going to acquire Zambrano unless the Cubs are willing to eat a huge portion of that salary.

So you can trade for Zambrano, if the Cubs include a hefty check in the deal. Or you can wait for the Cubs to release Zambrano, and try to snag him. There are complicating factors, too. Zambrano's got a full no-trade clause (nice work, Cubs!). And he's got a vesting option for 2013 that probably won't come into play -- he would have to pitch exceptionally well in 2012 -- but hey, you never know.

The odds are against Zambrano pitching for the Royals, simply because if he's available there will be other interested parties. But he's worth a flier, considering he should be highly motivated in the last year of his lucrative deal, his career at a crossroads.

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