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Ozzie Guillen’s non-denial denial links Marlins and Carlos Zambrano

The Cubs have been involved trade talks with Colorado Rockies for third baseman Ian Stewart.  |  Ed Andrieski~AP

The Cubs have been involved in trade talks with the Colorado Rockies for third baseman Ian Stewart. | Ed Andrieski~AP

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Updated: January 9, 2012 10:15AM

DALLAS — Ozzie Guillen won’t say who bet against it, but the new Miami Marlins manager said he recently bet someone that his buddy Carlos Zambrano will win more than 14 games — for the Cubs — in 2012.

In fact, he denied recruiting the Cubs’ on-double-secret-probation pitcher or having designs on Big Z being part of the rapid arms buildup going on in Miami.

But when a skeptic told Guillen it was more likely Zambrano wins 15 games for the Marlins in 2012, Guillen smiled and said, “I’d take that.’’

As the Cubs and Marlins prepare to go conspicuously separate ways with the conclusion of the annual winter meetings Thursday, it remains an open secret that baseball’s most aggressive team this week — and best natural fit for the final year of Zambrano’s big contract — sees the 30-year-old right-hander as a feasible upgrade for their rotation.

One source close to the Marlins believes that involves a push for Prince Fielder (after losing out on Albert Pujols) that would, in turn, put first baseman Gaby Sanchez on the block.

But it also could be done independently of that. And it could wind up being the sexiest move the Cubs make all winter if it gets done.

Meanwhile, the Cubs look to leave Dallas as admittedly a small player at the meetings.

General manager Jed Hoyer uncharacteristically went so far as to call some of the loose rumors linking the Cubs to Fielder as “overblown’’ during an interview with

Team president Theo Epstein said, “We’re working on a few small deals, and there’s one that’s maybe making more progress than the others.’’

That appears to be the potential trade with the Colorado Rockies for once-promising but underachieving third baseman Ian Stewart.

Sources say the Rockies asked for infield prospect DJ Lemahieu, but the Cubs refused, with the talks moving to Tyler Colvin. By late Wednesday the talks had cooled.

In other news, free agent corner infielders Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena have formally declined the Cubs’ arbitration offers, assuring compensation draft picks if they sign elsewhere.

Epstein said he sees “strong multiyear markets’’ for both players but is leaving the door open for a possible return of Pena at a more limited commitment.

NOTES: Theo Epstein said there’s no update on talks to re-sign reliever Kerry Wood and anticipates more getting done when all parties are in Chicago after the winter meetings.

◆ Epstein on what he told friend and Boston GM Ben Cherington after Cherington referred to the team’s talks over compensation for Epstein as akin to the drudgery of “cleaning the garage”: “I offered him two bags of ice melt and an old rake.”

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