Carlos Zambrano 'In Best Shape Of His Life': Stop Me If You've Heard This Before

Over at MLB Trade Rumors, Nick Collias has helpfully translated a Spanish-language article about Carlos Zambrano indicating that Big Z is getting into the best shape of his life:

"I'm preparing like when I was a rookie, climbing mountains, running on the beach, and exercising hard so that I can arrive at Spring Training in optimal shape," he said, as relayed by Joiner Martinez at Líder en Deportes. "I want to stay in Chicago for the two seasons I still have with the team. I'm not a coward who would take the back door out of the majors."

This all sounds great! The Cubs will have an ace for their $18 million! But wait... where have we heard this before?

It was Zambrano's first Cubs offseason in which he stayed in Chicago full time and did not travel to his native Venezuela, a period of time in which he shoveled snow, stayed away from bad habits such as fried foods and sweets, and suddenly noticed that his three girls -- ages 9, 6 and 5 -- were growing up fast.

That was two winters, and two meltdowns, ago. Earlier that same winter of 2009-10:

"I rest only for about two weeks after the season," Zambrano said. "After that, I've been working in the gym.

"I stayed here [in Chicago] until Dec. 12, and I went to Venezuela for three weeks and came back yesterday. When I was here in the winter and fall, from October, November and half of December, I was training with a guy I met in a gym, and I was training boxing."

So you'll forgive this longtime Cubs fan and Zambrano observer for being somewhat skeptical of the 12,768th time that Big Z has vowed to change. Even more interesting, though, is this part of Zambrano's quote from this winter:

I want to stay in Chicago for the two seasons I still have with the team.

Two seasons? Most Cubs fans are under the assumption that the team will have Z's contract off the books after 2012. Here's what Cot's Baseball Contracts says about Zambrano's deal:

08:$15M, 09:$17.75M, 10:$17.875M, 11:$17.875M, 12:$18M, 13:$19.25M vesting player option

Zambrano receives 2013 player option if 1) he is first or second in 2011 Cy Young vote or if he finishes in top 4 in 2012 Cy Young vote and 2) he is healthy at end of 2012

Obviously, he didn't meet the 2011 Cy Young qualification. But that 2012 qualification? Pretty hard to reach for any pitcher, and especially for Zambrano -- as good as he has been at times in his career, he has received votes on just three Cy Young ballots (2004, 2006, 2007), never finishing higher than fifth.

So he'd have to do something he's never done before, after having promised to do something he has promised to do several times before (stay in shape and not melt down), without ever accomplishing either.

Oh, Carlos. Redefining "hubris", you are. Hey, good luck on that second season in Chicago. If you do get that vesting option, the Cubs are going to have a very good season.

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