11/26/07 5:16 PM ET
Mailbag: Practicing offseason patience
Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
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Are the Cubs going to make any big moves soon? We know what we need, but is the front office just going to sit back for awhile and wait?
-- Mike S., Columbus, Ohio
The offseason is like waiting for Christmas morning -- and you have to be patient. The Cubs have been sorting through the roster, and they did deal Jacque Jones and Craig Monroe. General manager Jim Hendry has also been meeting with free agents (Kaz Matsui, for example) and agents for free agents, such as Wood's rep, Pat Rooney. Baseball's Winter Meetings will be held Dec. 3-6 in Nashville, and the activity level will likely pick up. Hendry has said he has "inventory" in case there's a trade to be made.
Who's next for president? I hope someone with baseball knowledge and possibly a former player. Earlier this year, I wrote John McDonough expressing my displeasure with the poor start of the Cubs. He actually called me, and we talked for a minute or so. He assured me the Cubs will win, and they did win the Central Division. That was a nice gesture from him. The 2008 season will be interesting with a new owner and new president.
-- Mike S., Springfield, Ill.
That sounds just like McDonough. He'll be missed at Wrigley. Because of the pending sale of the team, the Tribune Co. has decided not to name a president, according to Crane Kenney, who has been the liaison between the team and the company for nearly six years. Kenney and Hendry say it's business as usual while the sale is resolved, and that may not be finalized until mid-2008. The payroll will increase from what it was in '07 ($110 million), although Kenney would not say how much, just "enough." I don't sense Hendry has changed his approach, and he is just as aggressive as he has been in the past.
I've read lately about putting Dempster in the rotation, which leads me to ask why? He is, in my opinion, a five-inning pitcher at best. He seemed to have high pitch counts in two innings of relief. When was the last time he started and how many innings did he pitch?
-- Nick B., Keystone, Iowa
Dempster opened the 2005 season in the Cubs rotation and made six starts before he was switched to closer. His last start was May 4 that year against Milwaukee, and he gave up three runs on six hits and five walks over 6 2/3 innings while striking out six. He went at least six innings in four of those starts. Why put him in the rotation now? The Cubs feel it's worth trying. Manager Lou Piniella was ready to make the switch in mid-May after Dempster blew a four-run lead and gave up five runs in the ninth against the New York Mets. This way, Dempster has an offseason to prepare and build up endurance.
If the season started today, among the candidates for the rotation are Dempster, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Jason Marquis, Rich Hill, Kevin Hart, Sean Gallagher, Sean Marshall and Mark Holliman. The final five will be determined this spring.
What do you think the chances are of Kerry Wood being a starting pitcher in 2008?
-- Brittany W., Michigan City, Ind.
Wood -- and his right arm -- seem a better fit as a reliever, and that's how he is being perceived. He will get the opportunity to close this spring and could take over the role for the Cubs in 2008. Other big league teams wanted Wood in their 'pen, too (including the Red Sox).
I heard we were trading Zambrano for Big Papi [David Ortiz], only for him to DH 12 games during the Interleague. Is this true?
-- George T., Chicago
That trade is not going to happen.
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What's the story on the Cubs catchers? I haven't heard anything about it. Are the Cubs interested in Jason Kendall to back up Geovany Soto? Will Koyie Hill be back? There aren't many options in free agency. Are the Cubs interested in anyone?
-- Alex N., Chicago
Kendall has signed with the Milwaukee Brewers, and he'll get more playing time there than he would if he stayed in Chicago. Soto is projected as the regular catcher with Henry Blanco as the backup. Plus, the Cubs signed Hill to a Minor League contract, and he'll be in camp this spring, competing for a spot on the 25-man roster as well.
I have to admit, I'm not on the Felix Pie bandwagon. I know the kid is a decent outfielder and is lightning quick, but other than on defense, how can the Cubs utilize his quickness? He doesn't get on base, so he's not an offensive threat. What are the Cubs going to do to help him hit the ball -- or even take a walk -- and how long are they going to let his lack of offense go on before they look at other options (like Torii Hunter -- hint, hint)?
-- Cody C., Virginia Beach, Va.
Hunter is no longer an option, having signed a megadeal with the Angels. You're right -- Pie needs to get on base, and the Cubs sent hitting coach Gerald Perry and Minor League hitting coordinator Dave Keller to the Dominican Republic to work with the young outfielder. Through Friday, Pie was batting .203 in 20 games for Licey, with four doubles, one homer, six walks and 14 strikeouts. He's still struggling against lefties, hitting .160 compared to .227 vs. right-handers, and, for some reason, he's thriving in road games, hitting .304 compared to .152 at home.
On the positive side, he has four walks and has struck out five times in his last 10 games, after beginning with two walks and nine K's in his first 10. It's a start. He's young (22) and has to learn to make adjustments.
What chance does Sam Fuld have to stick with the big club next season? I love his defense, and I think he will hit for average and OBP but not power. I think he would have a chance as a defensive replacement, pinch-runner or pinch hitter-type player. Agree or disagree?
-- Jim M., Lena, Miss.
Agree. Fuld may not have done much offensively during his brief stint with the big league team (0-for-6), but he definitely impressed the front office with his defense and followed that with a strong Arizona Fall League performance. Fuld hit .402 in 29 games for the Mesa Solar Sox, including 11 doubles, and stole 10 bases. He also drew 17 walks.
Who did the Cubs acquire from the Pirates in the Cesar Izturis trade?
-- Stephen S., Blacksburg, Va.
Nobody. The deal, which was made July 19, has not been completed yet.