Chicago Carlos Zambrano's long wait paid off. The Chicago Cubs' talented and emotional ace agreed Friday to a $91.5 million, five-year contract extension that features a 2013 option that could make the deal worth $110.75 million over six seasons.
Zambrano skipped a shot at free agency and its lucrative payday to stay with the only club he's ever known.
"Not everything is about money, you know," Zambrano said. "I know if I got to free agency there were a lot of things that would come to me and offer me. I feel comfortable here. I feel good here and my family feels good here."
The 26-year-old righty, a two-time All-Star, is 14-9 with a 3.86 ERA this season and 78-51 in his big league career. His deal's $18.3 million average annual value is the highest for a pitcher with a multiyear contract and No. 5 overall behind Roger Clemens ($28 million), Alex Rodriguez ($25.2 million), Manny Ramirez ($20 million) and Derek Jeter ($18.9 million).
Zambrano had hoped to have a new deal in place by opening day. He extended that deadline but contract talks stalled after Tribune Co., which owns the team, announced in April that it was selling itself for $8.2 billion to Chicago real estate mogul Sam Zell. The Cubs are expected to go on the auction block at the end of the season.
"We were within earshot of this thing, completing a deal near opening day. But due to the sale of the Tribune, it changed everything," said Zambrano's agent, Barry Praver. "The one thing that did remain constant was Carlos' burning desire to remain a Cub."
Zambrano may have gotten more on the open market from a big spender but he didn't fare poorly in his new deal with the Cubs.
He has a full no-trade clause and gets a $5 million signing bonus. If he finishes first or second in Cy Young Award voting in 2011 or finishes in the top four in Cy Young balloting in 2012 and is healthy at the end of the fifth year, he has the option for a sixth year at $19.25 million.
He will make $15 million next season, $17.75 million in 2009, $17,875,000 in each of the following two seasons and $18 million in 2012.
"It's not too often that one player can play his whole career with one organization, and Carlos has a chance to do that," Cubs manager Lou Piniella said.
"Carlos certainly can relax. There's a lot of security there. But at the same time, he can concentrate now on helping us win a division."