Carlos Zambrano has declared, "Show me the money" to the Chicago Cubs, saying he either wants a long-term extension now, or he's walking after the season.
And really, unless Zambrano really wants to spend his career with the Cubs, walking after the season is probably the way to go.
I don't think there is anyone this coming offseason who will benefit more from the spending insanity of the 2006-07 free agent class than Zambrano.
Zambrano, if he doesn't re-up with the Cubs, will be the best pitcher to hit the free agent market since...well, possibly since Roger Clemens in 1996. And if you factor age into the equation -- Clemens was 34 then, while Zambrano will be 26 this offseason -- Zambrano is probably the best pitcher to hit the market since a 26 year old Cub pitcher named Greg Maddux became a free agent after the 1992 season.
Zambrano has been ridden hard at a young age, but he's stayed healthy while teammates Mark Prior and Kerry Wood have gone down. In his four full seasons in the Cubs rotation, he's never pitched less than 209 innings, and has finished in the top 10 in ERA and ERA+ each season -- the only N.L. pitcher who has done so.
Zambrano is a horse, a legit young ace, more valuable than either Barry Zito or Dice-K. If he doesn't get hurt this season, he's looking at more than $20 million per year for a minimum of 7 years in the free agent market.
Given how the Cubs have splurged this offseason, it would seem strange that they wouldn't pay to keep the one young pitcher who has managed to stay healthy with the club.