Inbox: Will family ties lead to prize?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
The Ricketts family, Spring Training, Carlos Marmol's backup, and center field and second base options are among the topics in this week's Inbox. We'll try to stick to a regular Monday schedule. Please send your questions and include your full name and hometown to firstname.lastname@example.org.How much influence does the Ricketts family have on the Cubs as the new team owners? You seem to have alluded that all the previous businessmen couldn't bring a World Series title to Chicago, so do these former bleacher bums set a new tone?
-- Mason R., Austin, Texas Absolutely. The biggest difference is that the Cubs now are owned by a family, not a corporation. The Ricketts' primary focus is the team and Wrigley Field, and they plan on re-investing any profits back into the Cubs and the ballpark. On Friday, Tom Ricketts stressed the need to have "world class facilities," which means upgrading Wrigley Field for the fans and the players. There's also a face -- actually four, counting Tom's brothers and sister -- to relate to. Everyone in the organization will be held accountable. Whether their efforts result in a World Series title ultimately will be up to the players. If the Cubs stay in Mesa, Ariz., for Spring Training, is there any likelihood they will stay in the same area? We recently bought our house and it's within walking distance from HoHoKam Stadium. The Cubs are the reason we bought it. Who do I need to talk with to keep the club in my neighborhood?
-- Phil N., Mesa, Ariz. You can send a letter to new owner Tom Ricketts, but it probably won't do any good. The team is going to move, and the only question now is whether it's going to Arizona or Florida. The Cubs have outgrown their current site in Mesa, which is why they're considering other options, including Naples, Fla. The team wants a larger stadium, room for six practice fields, a state-of-the-art training facility, and parking for 4,000 cars. The Florida folks talked about the chance to create a "Wrigley village." There isn't room for expansion at Fitch Park or HoHoKam Stadium, and you know that since you now live in the area. Team officials will tour sites in Mesa this week during the Cubs' organizational meetings. Tom Ricketts was to get a helicopter tour of potential Spring Training sites as well as a sales pitch from the governor of Arizona and other state executives. I've heard there are four to 10 different locations to consider in Mesa. The Collier County people in Florida showed Tom Ricketts and team president Crane Kenney three possible sites near Naples.
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-- Zach B., Woodstock, Ill. Yes, Marmol will be the closer. Secondly, I don't see a gaping hole. Some of the candidates for the main setup guy include Esmailin Caridad, Justin Berg, Angel Guzman, Aaron Heilman, Jeff Stevens, David Patton, John Gaub, and, probably the best choice, John Grabow, who is a free agent. E-mailers who have suggested the team keep Rich Harden for the setup job should forget that idea. The job requires a durable arm. What happened to hitting coach Von Joshua?
-- Pete C., Forest Park, Ill. Joshua, who took over for Gerald Perry in June, was offered the chance to return to Triple-A Iowa, and accepted. Everyone is saying Mike Fontenot or Jeff Baker should play second base next year. Where's Andres Blanco in all of this? He's great defensively, a switch-hitter, and picked it up later in the season, taking his batting average from near .200 and finishing at .252 with a push. Why is no one talking about him?
-- Bob S., LaPorte, Ind. Lou Piniella likes Blanco's glovework, but the infielder has to show he can handle big league pitching. He's doing well in Venezuela with Magallanes, and he'll get a good look this spring. Check out MiLB.com or my blog for Winter League updates. Which free agent outfielders are going to be available to replace Milton Bradley in right or center field? How about second basemen?
-- Ken F., Huntley, Ill. In a perfect world, Kosuke Fukudome moves back to right field for the Cubs, which means the team needs to figure out center. Here's a list of potential free agent center fielders and their 2009 stats: Rick Ankiel, .231/11 HR/38 RBIs
Rocco Baldelli, .253/7 HR/23 RBIs
Marlon Byrd, .283/20 HR/89 RBIs
Mike Cameron, .250/24 HR/70 RBIs
Endy Chavez, .273/2 HR/13 RBIs
Coco Crisp, .228/3 HR/14 RBIs
Darin Erstad, .194/2 HR/11 RBIs
Ryan Freel, .193/0 HR/5 RBIs
Jerry Hairston Jr., .251/10 HR/39 RBIs
Reed Johnson, .255/4 HR/22 RBIs
Andruw Jones, .214/17 HR/43 RBIs
Mark Kotsay, .278/4 HR/23 RBIs
Corey Patterson, .103/0 HR/0 RBIs
Scott Podsednik, .304/7 HR/48 RBIs
Dewayne Wise, .225/2 HR/11 RBIs As for second base options, the Cubs most likely will stick with their in-house guys, Baker, Fontenot and Blanco. Here are the free-agents-to-be at second: Ronnie Belliard, .277/10 HR/39 RBIs
Jamey Carroll, .276/2 HR/26 RBIs
Alex Cora, .251/1 HR/18 RBIs
Craig Counsell, .285/4 HR/39 RBIs
Mark DeRosa, .250/23 HR/78 RBIs
Jerry Hairston Jr., .251/10 HR/39 RBIs
Orlando Hudson .283/9 HR/62 RBIs
Akinori Iwamura, .290/1 HR/22 RBIs
Adam Kennedy, .289/11 HR/63 RBIs
Felipe Lopez, .310/9 HR/57 RBIs
Mark Loretta, .232/0 HR/25 RBIs
Pablo Ozuna, .282/3 HR/45 RBIs (career)
Placido Polanco, .285/10 HR/72 RBIs
Luis Rodriguez, .202/2 HR/16 RBIs
Juan Uribe, .289/16 HR/55 RBIs Speaking of free agents, nobody asked, but you can cross the Cubs off the list of teams interested in Cuban left-handed pitcher Aroldis Chapman. He has met with several big league teams and the Cubs did talk to his agent, but Chapman doesn't fit in their budget.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.