Mailbag: Is Kosuke on the block?
Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions
Kosuke Fukudome rumors, left-handed hitters, the Cubs rotation and player options are among the topics in this week's mailbag. Make sure you include your name and hometown in e-mails.
I've been hearing that the Cubs are trying to shop Kosuke Fukudome. I'm not sure why they're trying to do this. He came from where they play  games a year over in Japan, and then coming over here to America and they play 162 games. I think they should give him at least one more year to see if he does any better.
-- Josh E., Springfield, Ill.
Not sure where that rumor started about wanting to deal Fukudome, but I've been told by several sources that it's not true. Fukudome will be the player to watch in '09. If he can hit as he did in Japan, he could stay in right field and the Cubs could platoon Reed Johnson and Felix Pie in center.
The Cubs obviously need another lefty-hitting outfielder. I don't think trading for one is the answer because I would be reluctant to get rid of Mike Fontenot or some other valuable bench player. Have the Cubs looked at Mark Kotsay? He fits mostly of what we need. He's a career .282 hitter, hits about 15-20 home runs a season, plays excellent defense, and can play a variety of positions.
-- Steve M., Chicago
Kotsay's versatility is a plus, but I don't think you can expect 15-20 home runs. His personal high was 17 in 2002, and he hit seven in 2006, one in '07 and six last year. He's also had some back problems. As for finding the perfect left-handed bat, the Cubs may not add a big name, or anyone. This was a pretty good offensive team in 2008 -- with five players with at least 20 homers (not counting Jim Edmonds, who hit 19 with the team) and four players with at least 80 RBIs (Alfonso Soriano had 75) -- that won 97 games.
What are the chances Ken Griffey Jr. could play for the Cubs? I remember hearing he wouldn't mind playing for the Cubs last year. The White Sox declined his option, plus he's a right fielder, bats left-handed and still has some power. I doubt he'd be that expensive.
-- Robert M., Orange Park, Fla.
Griffey batted .249 with the White Sox and Reds combined last season, and at this point in his career is probably better suited to an American League team so he could be used as the designated hitter.
With Ryan Dempster back, why would the Cubs stop the Jake Peavy trade talks with San Diego? You could trade Jason Marquis and have, no doubt, the best pitching staff in MLB. I think they do have the best pitching staff, but it would be even better with Peavy.
-- Justin P., Davenport, Iowa
The Padres are trying to cut costs, and acquiring Marquis wouldn't do that. He's owed $9.875 million in 2009. The Cubs headed into the offseason knowing they could afford either Dempster or Peavy, but not both.
Have a question about the Cubs?
E-mail your query to MLB.com Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
After signing Dempster, I feel our rotation is fine where it is. What I believe we need to make a push to the World Series is a veteran like Manny Ramirez. It's the same atmosphere as Boston. If we can sign him, we can plug him into left, move Soriano to second, and as for Mark DeRosa, we can place him in right. For the left-handed hitter, we could maybe trade for David DeJesus from Kansas City in center. Do you think this can be a possibility?
-- James M., Berwyn, Ill.
No. Just as there is no room in the Cubs' payroll for Peavy, there is definitely no room for Ramirez. And Soriano is in the outfield for a reason. In five seasons as a second baseman, he averaged 21 errors. DeRosa is a good outfielder, but he'll be the first to tell you he's a better second baseman.
Is it possible we will see Rich Hill during the 2009 season?
-- Matt M., Chicago
It depends on how Hill progresses this winter and spring. He's pitching in Venezuela this winter and has gone 1-2 with a 7.45 ERA in six sarts. The Cubs would definitely like to have the lefty back. He led the team in strikeouts in 2007. But they're also not counting on him.
What does it mean when you say Pie is out of options? You've written this several times but I've never seen an explanation as to why, or what implications this may have. Please explain.
-- Jeremy D., Chicago
What it means is that Pie has been on the Cubs' 40-man roster during three different seasons. The 2009 season will be his fourth as a pro, and if he is sent down to the Minor Leagues again, he'll have to clear waivers.
Let me try to explain: After three years as a pro, a player must be protected on a team's 40-man roster or he is eligible for the Rule 5 Draft. Once the player has served those three years, and assuming he is added to the 40-man roster, the club then has what are called "options." If a player is on the 40-man roster but not on the 25-man Major League roster (like when Pie was at Triple-A Iowa last year), he is on what's technically called an "optional assignment." Players have three option years, and can be sent up and down to the Minors as many times as the parent club chooses within those three years.
Pie was added to the Cubs' 40-man roster prior to the 2006 season, so his three option years were 2006, '07 and '08. He's now out of options. If he comes to Spring Training in '09 and does not make the big league roster, the Cubs would have to put him on waivers if they want to send him to the Minor Leagues. That's even more complicated than options, and bottom line is the Cubs would likely lose him to another team that could claim him.
Kerry Wood, thanks for the memories. My oldest son shares the same B-day as you -- June 16, 1994. My youngest son was born May 6, 1998, and my wife and I watched the whole 20-strikeout game while she was having contractions. We were cheering every strikeout (I still say it was a no-hitter). Thanks for all the loyal years with the Cubs. We need more loyalty in sports these days.
-- Pat D., Rockford, Ill.
Just curious -- did you call your youngest son "Kid K?"
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.