When Theo Met Carlos: A Cubs Story [Kindle Edition]

“We met today at his request,” Epstein said. “It went well. He expressed a strong desire to be a Cub (again) and an even stronger desire to have a strong 2012 season. He’s in great shape. He’s working out twice a day, pitching down in Venezuela. I told him that we’d let him earn his right back to being a Cub.

“We said he’d have to work hard and that we aren’t welcoming him back unconditionally. We said he’d have to earn his way back.” – ESPN

Last summer Tom Ricketts said that he couldn’t envision a scenario in which Carlos Zambrano returned to the Cubs, but Theo sees one. It’s possible, and maybe even quite likely that this is just posturing on the Cubs part. It does sound as if as Zambrano has to meet certain standards so at any point in the next few months we could learn he has not earned the right to return to the team.

“Most of the details will stay confidential,” Epstein said. “But there are steps he needs to take to earn his way back. If he does so, we will see him in spring training and welcome him back.”

Epstein said that Zambrano seemed sincere and contrite in the meeting, but he’s taking a wait-and-see approach.

“From what I understand, he’s seemed that way before,” Epstein said. “So this is a trust-but-verify situation.”

This could be one of those situations where you put on a game face and say you intend to keep the player so that teams aren’t expecting you to pay all of his salary. It could be genuine. Zambrano may meet all of the criteria necessary to return. He might still be traded. He might actually be a Cub next season.