01/11/13 11:10 AM ET
Inbox: Could Willis crack Cubs' roster?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat responds to fans' questions
By Carrie Muskat / MLB.com
What exactly were the terms of the Willis deal? Can he compete for a job in the Majors, or is it a Minors deal only?
-- Wayne S., Indianapolis
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Willis, who turns 32 on Saturday, signed a Minor League deal and will be in the Cubs' Minor League camp. He may get some innings in Cactus League games, depending on how he does. Last year, Willis was 0-3 in four games with the Orioles' Triple-A Norfolk team before leaving, and he is a long shot to make the Cubs' bullpen.
Given the new depth in the rotation and lack of depth at third base, as well as the apparent relationship with the Rangers' front office after the Ryan Dempster and Geovany Soto deals, would trading Matt Garza for Mike Olt and another prospect be an option? It seems like it would be a win-win for both organizations.
-- Adam B., Harlingen, Texas
All speculation about Garza being traded needs to be put on hold until he shows that he is fully recovered from the elbow injury that sidelined him last year. I'm sure the rumors will start as soon as Garza takes the mound at Fitch Park in Mesa, Ariz., for his first throwing session.
What are the chances the Cubs work out a trade with the Marlins for Giancarlo Stanton? Over the course of the next five years, he could easily be the best pure power hitter in all of baseball and would be a worthwhile player to sign long term.
-- Brett L., Indianapolis
Stanton is a stud, but you'd have to give up one of the Cubs' young impact players to get him. The Marlins, like the Rangers, aren't going to part with one of their top young players unless they receive a lot in return. Are you willing to deal Starlin Castro?
Have the Cubs signed Carlos Villanueva? I don't see him on the roster, but the last item on the web indicates they have.
-- John B., Kalamazoo, Mich.
Villanueva has not officially signed with the Cubs. The 40-man roster is full, so the delay is most likely related to the need to open a spot for the pitcher.
If the Cubs' season were to start today, what would be the starting lineup and rotation?
-- Ismael V., Chicago
Manager Dale Sveum will be asked this at next week's Cubs Convention, but here's an early guess: CF David DeJesus, 2B Darwin Barney, Castro, 1B Anthony Rizzo, LF Alfonso Soriano, 3B Ian Stewart, C Welington Castillo, RF Nate Schierholtz. A possible rotation: Jeff Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Garza (if healthy), Scott Baker (if healthy) and Scott Feldman.
What happened to the left-hander the Cubs signed from Cuba? They dropped him from the 40-man roster.
-- Terry L., Sun City Center, Fla.
Gerardo Concepcion, who signed a five-year, $6 million deal in March 2012, was removed from the 40-man roster in December to make room after the team added Schierholtz. He was then outrighted to the Kane County Cougars, so he's still in the Cubs' system. Last season, Concepcion made 12 starts at Class A Peoria and posted a 2-6 record and 7.39 ERA, giving up 70 hits and walking 30 over 52 1/3 innings. He turns 21 on Feb. 29.
What is the projection and progress of Hayden Simpson?
-- Tim S., Du Quoin, Ill.
Simpson, 23, has had a tough time regaining his strength since being sidelined with mononucleosis following the 2010 Draft. Last season, he pitched for Boise and Daytona and was a combined 4-7 in 29 games (five starts) with a 6.56 ERA. Hopefully, he was able to add some weight this offseason. In an interview last summer with the Idaho Statesman, Simpson said he hasn't given up. Said Simpson: "So many guys get to the top without any bumps in the road, and when they start having trouble, they don't know how to react. Well, I've had every bump in the road. I'm never going to take anything for granted ever again."