By Mark Gonzales, Tribune reporter
9:51 AM CST, February 10, 2014
What happens when Javier Baez comes up? Does Starlin Castro get traded? -- Hank, Rock Island
There are many considerations. Assuming Castro rebounds and Baez earns a major league promotion, I believe Baez would move to second or third base. If Darwin Barney struggles, second base could look more promising to Baez. If the Cubs don’t get production out of third base like they did last season, then third base falls under consideration.
For Castro to get traded, the Cubs would have to be convinced that Baez could handle shortstop defensively and that they could get fair market value for him (he is under contract for several seasons). There are other considerations down the road, such as Arismendy Alcantara, Jeimer Candelario, and Kris Bryant, of course.
At any rate, I think Castro stays at shortstop.
How much better do you think the Cubs will be in 2014? They lost 101 games in 2012. The team was a little better in 2013, but not much better, winning only 66 games. How much better do you feel the team will be in 2014? -- Paul Hostetter, Fort Wayne, Ind.
It wouldn’t surprise me if they duplicated last season’s 66-win total, especially if Jeff Samardzija is traded and considering their interleague games against the formidable American League East.
I think 72 wins is a realistic goal, although missing out on Tanaka and Milwaukee’s acquisition of Matt Garza likely secures last place for the Cubs. The assumption is that Castro and Rizzo rebound from subpar seasons, and Edwin Jackson can return to at least a .500 pitcher and pitch deep into games with more regularity.
Do Epstein, Hoyer, and Ricketts really expect Cubs' fans to buy another year of "rebuilding" without even trying to put a viable team on the field? Hundreds of dollars for tickets to watch another 90+ losses? Ridiculous! Why not just play all these future phenoms now instead of yet another incredible list of B-level has-beens?
They would get "experience" at the highest level. I'm tired of LOSING! -- Dan Salvatore, Roanoke, Va.
Funny that you mention the idea of playing the phenoms now rather than make them dominate each level before receiving a promotion. There have been some greats, such as Willie Mays, who struggled immediately and terribly at the major league level before dominating. But the Cubs have invested so much in their young talent that they don’t have the luxury of rushing these top guys, especially when Baez is the only player who has a semblance of experience at the Double-A level.
Oh yes. They preach patience until the "Core Four'' arrive.
Who do you think should be the Cubs’ third baseman for 2014? Also, do you think this season is a make-or-break year for Josh Vitters and Brett Jackson? -- Justin Nettro,
I’d like to see how Mike Olt performs this spring. Otherwise, we’re looking at a platoon of Luis Valbuena and Donnie Murphy.
I completely agree with Jason McLeod’s assessment that Olt was a virtual untradeable player for the Rangers after the 2012 season, and I thought he was a can’t-miss player after watching him in the Arizona Fall League in 2011. We’ll have to see how he recovers from vision problems caused by a concussion suffered last winter.
As for Vitters and Jackson, I think there’s more at stake for Jackson than Vitters, who needs to stay healthy and made the transition to left field. Jackson’s high strikeout rate has been alarming, and team officials seem curious as to watching Vitters develop in the outfield.
Why does it seem Junior Lake has no place in the Cubs’ plans? -- Jim Jones, Las Vegas
He’s an interesting study, and I still believe he’s learning to become a better outfielder. I think his upside is big, and I think he’s going to get better. I’m curious to see how much he improves this season. He’s one of the organization’s best athletes.
I think he’s in the Cubs’ plans, for now.
As a Cubs fan since 1953, I'm kind of thinking that we hired the wrong San Diego Padre to be manager. Bud Black would've better fit the current, ailments motif: Ricketts Disease, Epstein-Hoyer Virus, and The Black Plague! -- Mike Fares, San Diego
I couldn’t see Josh Byrnes letting the Cubs get Bud Black without lopsided compensation. And Bud has the comfort of living in North San Diego County on a year-round basis. But I like the fact that you respect Bud’s managing skills, as he and his staff (which included Rick Renteria) got the most out of their players and never whined about the deeper pockets of teams north of them.
I guess you could call me a spokesperson for thousands of other Cub fans. I am 86, have been a fan since 1938. My health is now deteriorating, so don't have time for still another rebuilding mode. About 15 years ago I said I wasn't going to die till the Cubs won a pennant! My only opportunity to see the Cubs is on WGN. And now that too will be coming to an end. God help all the Theos and Ricketts of the world when they grow old. -- Betty M. Lux, Beech Grove, Ind.
Theo has a few gray hairs, and he knows fans are getting antsy.
Dale Sveum gets fired by the Cubs even though they give him basically nothing to work with. On top of that, they deal some of their better pitchers for future prospects. How was Dale expected to compete? Even their so-called future stars Rizzo and Castro were busts.
The White Sox give Ventura a contract extension even though their record was worse than the Cubs. As far as I'm concerned, Sveum got the shaft. -- Bob Ungar, Des Plaines
I agree he should have been retained, but I’m sure there are New York Jets fans who wish Pete Carroll wasn’t fired after only one season. Theo and Co. pointed to a bigger picture that was based more on talent and wins and losses. We’ll see how this shakes out, but all parties have moved on.
Several years ago the Cubs signed a pitcher lefty Conception out of Cuba for a lot of money. He never is mentioned or talked about as potential player that will coming to the big club. -- Jim, Clarendon Hills
And I don’t think he’ll be arriving any time soon. Gerardo Concepcion received a five-year, $6 million contract but was outrighted off the 40-man roster after only one season and pitched in only two games in the Arizona League in 2013.
He’s only 21, but I wouldn’t be buying a Cubs jersey with his name on the back anytime soon.
At a time when many teams are actively trying to expand their fan base, the Cubs seem intent on shrinking theirs. They limit caravans to the Chicago area and will probably not renew with WGN, so fans outside Chicago will no longer be able to watch games. Theory: Tom Ricketts has a very controlling personality and wants establish a fiefdom in Chicago. What are your thoughts? I realize you have to be tactful. -- Jaime Sommers Goldman, Universal City, Texas
I’ve covered a few organizations who have sent players and officials to locations as far as three hours away from their city to conduct charity events and schmooze with fans. This goes a long way toward building goodwill and enticing fans to make the trip to their park on weekends. I feel bad for the people of the Peoria area, but you could changes were imminent when the Cubs’ Class-A affiliate moved from Peoria to Kane County.
I think the Cubs want to fortify their fan base in the Chicagoland, which is starting to become crucial with declining home attendance. The plan usually is to rally the locals by making visits to schools and parks, and parents are more tempted to bring their kids to games and spend their disposable income at Wrigley on a more frequent basis. But the product on the field must get better soon.
Why don't the cubs simply raise the height of the right field advertising above the sightline of the rooftops? Second, I've been a Cub fan since the mid-60's, and I loved the ambiance of Wrigley before the advertising behind home plate, in the dugouts, on the outfield doors, around the scoreboard and against the grandstand façade, not to mention the lights and night games.
My point is Wrigley is not really Wrigley for many fans anyway, so how about replacing the center field scoreboard with a Jumbotron about twice its size for revenue and using the manual scoreboard somewhere else on the project as a fan experience/history exhibit for fans. Just sayin’. -- Brady Smith, Peoria
Can you imagine how high that signage would be? I would suggest an airline put some advertising up there because it would go well with the planes flying into O’Hare.
With apologies to the manual scoreboard operators, I’m all for a new modern scoreboard with larger type and enough space to list all the out-of-town games.
I see the Cubs are still in the flipping mode. When, in your opinion, will they reach .500, make the playoffs and reach the World Series. -- Stan, Frankfort
I’d say reaching .500 by 2016 is realistic. St. Louis will remain a force in the National League Central for several years, and Pittsburgh still has the power arms to remain competitive. The extra wild card gives everyone a better chance of reaching the playoffs, but the Cubs need more power arms before declaring when it would be realistic to reach the playoffs.
I can see the .500 mark as a possibility in 2015 only if Castro and Rizzo rebound, Baez makes a sudden impact, Samardzija is still here and develops into an ace in his contract year, and Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta continue their ascent.
I would rather the Cubs move out of Wrigley and let ALL of the business' suffer for being stubborn. Thoughts? -- D Stafford, Ottawa
During the strike of 1994, one politician suggested that negotiators for the owners and players be locked up in a room and be served with nothing but cheese and not allowed to leave until they struck a deal.
I think we’re getting close to that point. So much in the neighborhood depends on the success of the Cubs, and these haven’t been good times for the team and ticket brokers. You wonder how close is the breaking point, especially after Crane Kenney revealed at the Cubs’ Convention there was progress.
Of all the minor league players that the Chicago Cubs have, which players have a shoot of making the club out of spring training? -- Korey Geiken, Mesa, Ariz.
I’m curious to see what impact Mike Olt can make in spring training. Kyle Hendricks has an outside shot in the rotation, but I don’t see many openings for rookies.
Could you tell me who the Cubs received for David DeJesus? He is a good player, and they should have received a decent prospect. But I have heard nothing mentioned. -- Bill Burwell, Watseka
They received cash considerations, or a savings of about $2.5 million.
Having watched the Cubs struggle mightily over the last 40 years, I find the build for sustained success approach taken by Theo refreshing. I understand the impatience of Cub fans who do not feel like the team has done enough to get a decent major league team on the field, but my desire is to see something better than decent. My semi-local team, the Nationals, have provided a blueprint that I sincerely hope the Cubs continue to follow, building a solid core through drafting and player development (Harper, Desmond, Strasburg, the Zimmermans and Rendon) and completing the rebuild with smart trades and free agent acquisitions (Gio Gonzalez, Denard Span, Jason Werth, Rafael Soriano, Doug Fister).
The 2005 Nats were right where the Cubs were when Theo came to town two years ago -- horrible on the major league level but building a strong group of prospects in the low to middle minor leagues. By 2011, the Nats were approaching respectability and in 2012 they had the best record in the NL. After a dip last year, they look like a World Series favorite. After 40-plus years of following a loser, I'm excited about watching this team bring up the prospects in the 2014 to 2016 timeframe, and only THEN adding the last pieces through smart trades and free agent moves. Impatient Cub fans need to recall past moves of impatient Cubs teams (Soriano, for example) and develop some patience of their own. -- Mike Wagner, Richmond, Va.
You’ve developed a tremendous amount of patience over the past 40 seasons.
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