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09/08/11 12:41 PM ET

Inbox: Could Aramis return next season?

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions

Aramis Ramirez, the general manager search and Carlos Pena are among the topics in the latest Cubs Inbox. Send your questions to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your first name, last initial and hometown.

Most of what I have been reading says the Cubs will not pick up Aramis Ramirez's club option and instead pay him the $2 million buyout. Why would the Cubs do this? He's their best power/RBI man, and there is no third basemen in the system whom he is blocking playing time from. He has at least three more good years in him and he wants to stay in Chicago, so why should they not give him a three-year contract or maybe a four-year deal if they get a little hometown discount? Is it out of the question for the Cubs to give Ramirez a contract like this?
-- Ben W., Monticello, Iowa

A four-year deal may be a stretch -- Ramirez is 33 -- but the main question is whether he wants to stay with the Cubs. Ramirez had a very good relationship with former general manager Jim Hendry. He likes Chicago. But what direction will the Cubs take next season? Player personnel decisions are why the Cubs need to move expeditiously to get the next GM in place.

Why would owner Tom Ricketts sign player development director Oneri Fleita to a four-year extension before hiring a new general manager? Ricketts said the new GM would bring in his own people, so why saddle him with a guy he may not want?
-- Chris P., Chicago

Whoever is hired will have the power to say whether he wants to keep Fleita in the same role. Ricketts likes what Fleita has done with the Minor League system, the scouting department and his efforts in the Dominican Republic, where the Cubs are building a new academy. Ricketts also is high on scouting director Tim Wilken, who could also get an extension.

In last Friday's game, the Pirates put on a massive shift when Carlos Pena came to bat, and the entire third-base side was wide open. I understand Pena is a power hitter and a pull hitter. But if teams are going to give him that big of an opening, wouldn't it make sense if he learned how to lay down a push bunt or how to smack a slow ground ball down the third-base line? Why doesn't he take advantage of the ridiculous defense played against him to get on base?
-- Josh O., Wyatt, Ind.

Pena has bunted and is tied with Tony Campana for the team lead in bunt hits with seven. And Pena also is leading the team in home runs, hitting No. 26 on Wednesday off Reds lefty Bill Bray.

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Is there a good chance Pena could come back in 2012? What about Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder coming to the Cubs?
-- Bradley B., Durant, Iowa

There's a better chance of Pena returning to the Cubs than there is of the team signing Pujols or Fielder.

Instead of all the hoopla about Pujols or Fielder, fans should think more about pitching. What pitchers will be on the free-agent market after this season?
-- Jerry C., Orland Park, Ill.

Agreed. Here's a list of potential free-agent starting pitchers, according to Cot's Baseball Contracts: Mark Buehrle, Chris Carpenter, Bruce Chen, Aaron Cook, Kyle Davies, Ryan Dempster, Justin Duchscherer, Zach Duke, Jeff Francis, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Aaron Harang, Rich Harden, Livan Hernandez, Edwin Jackson, Kenshin Kawakami, Scott Kazmir, Hiroki Kuroda, Rodrigo Lopez, Paul Maholm, John Maine, Jason Marquis, Kevin Millwood, Scott Olsen, Roy Oswalt, Brad Penny, Oliver Perez, Joel Pineiro, CC Sabathia, Javier Vazquez, Adam Wainwright, Tim Wakefield, Chien-Ming Wang, Brandon Webb, C.J. Wilson and Chris Young. Several of these players have contracts that include an option for 2012, including Dempster.

What is Carlos Zambrano's status with the Cubs for next year? Will he be with the team?
-- Beth G., St. Louis

As of now, he's under contract for 2012. It's unlikely Zambrano will be back after his unfortunate departure from the Braves game on Aug. 12, and what to do with the right-hander is another item on the new Cubs GM's "things to do" list.

Randy Wells pitched a complete game on Aug. 29 against the Giants. This just doesn't happen any more. I remember in the '50s and '60s, I was concerned about how many complete games a pitcher had. Now it's rare. Is there a logical explanation for these changes?
-- Daniel G., Amsterdam

Teams invest a lot of money in starting pitchers, and yes, they'd prefer to have them go deeper into games. But they also want to avoid injuries. Pitchers are kept on strict pitch counts in the Minor Leagues and don't build up the arm strength to last nine innings. In 1971, Fergie Jenkins threw 30 complete games. This year, the Rays' James Shields leads the Major Leagues with 11 complete games; it's the first time a pitcher has reached double digits since Randy Johnson went the distance 12 times in 1999 for the D-backs. Plus, the way bullpens have evolved, a team would rather have a fresh arm in the seventh, eighth or ninth than have someone on the mound who is tiring. P.S.: It's nice to hear from a Cubs fan in Amsterdam.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.