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Cubs’ decisions might hinge on Marlins’ moves

The Miami Marlins are rumored have interest Carlos Zambrano but only if Cubs elarge part his salary. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

The Miami Marlins are rumored to have interest in Carlos Zambrano, but only if the Cubs eat a large part of his salary. | Tom Cruze~Sun-Times

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Updated: January 8, 2012 10:35AM



DALLAS ­— As the $200 million question involving Albert Pujols’ South Beach or St. Louis decision crept into the late-night hours Tuesday, some of the Cubs’ bigger ideas for the offseason crept along in the shadows.

Not that the Cubs have been anywhere near real discussions for the Cardinals’ free-agent slugger, beyond a smirking tire-kick or two.

For that matter, don’t believe every tweet or sound bite about any Cubs’ ‘‘serious’’ or ‘‘sincere’’ interest in the other big free-agent slugger, Prince Fielder, either.

Even his pal and former hitting coach Dale Sveum says the Cubs haven’t gone down that road.

‘‘We’re not even in any kind of process, talking to him or anything like that yet,’’ said the Cubs’ new manager.

For the Cubs, the ramifications are linked to the Miami Marlins’ most aggressive offseason since Wayne Huizenga on at least two
potential fronts.

A successful push for Pujols —on the heels of the Heath Bell and Jose Reyes signings — would turn the Marlins’ focus toward addressing their rotation and also makes young All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez expendable.

Sources continue to say the Marlins have serious interest in Carlos Zambrano, assuming the Cubs eat most of his $18 million salary for the final year of his contract — making all the Marlins’ spending on hitting more sensible if tied to the belief that they have potential low-cost pitching upgrades up their sleeve.

‘‘In general, eating money on a deal, if the return is right, sometimes it can make sense,’’ Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said.

And new Miami manager Ozzie Guillen, a close friend of Zambrano, has said repeatedly over the years he’s confident Zambrano would thrive under his management, and the two have talked extensively since the end of the season.

Then there’s Sanchez, a right-handed hitter with 19 home runs each of the last two seasons who has another season before he reaches arbitration eligibility. The Cubs are at least first in line for a phone call from the Marlins if Pujols lands in Miami, with the names Matt Garza and Zambrano certain to be raised in the dialogue.

As the Cubs try to acquire pieces to bolster the farm system and build a big-league roster that’s younger, versatile and more athletic, Sanchez fits the plan.

Hoyer downplayed the significance of the Cubs waiting out bigger industry moves.

‘‘To wait around for things to happen, you can miss out,’’ he said.

But in this case, they don’t appear to be missing out on anything. And their actions already have given strong indications of a deliberate approach to long-range plans.

Regardless, the Cubs figure to be winners either way with a Pujols signing in Miami.

‘‘That’d be nice if we don’t have him [in the division], no doubt about it,’’ Sveum said. ‘‘He’s definitely the best hitter in baseball right now and what he did in the playoffs and all that stuff speaks for itself.’’

NOTES: Sveum, when asked about projected high-priced Japanese free-agent pitcher Yu Darvish: ‘‘There hasn’t been much talk of him at all in our camp.’’

◆ The Cubs are expected to name their first-base coach in the next day or so. Chris Bosio (pitching coach) and Jamie Quirk (bench coach) have already been hired to join three holdovers: Pat Listach (third base), Lester Strode (bullpen) and Rudy Jaramillo (hitting).



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