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.

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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,
Hendersonville, N.C.

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.