Mike Quade's hiring as Cubs manager, Andrew Cashner and a leadoff man were among the topics in this week's Cubs Inbox. E-mail your questions to email@example.com, and please include your full name and hometown.
Why? Why hire Ryne Sandberg to manage in your Minor League system for four years and then have no place for him in your system? The explanation I read was that it would be awkward for Mike Quade. Heck, we only gave him a two-year deal. That's awkward. And I know he was a baseball lifer and all that, but Ryno is (was, I guess) a Cub. Hard to believe that didn't matter at all.
-- Darrell H., Kansas City
Yes, Sandberg did what the Cubs asked and managed in the Minor Leagues. What he didn't factor in -- and couldn't have prepared for -- was the way the players responded to Quade when he took over or how well "Q" handled all aspects of the job. What would've been awkward would be to tell Quade on Oct. 3 that he did everything right and exceeded expectations in a very public audition but, sorry, you didn't get the job. This was not an easy decision for Jim Hendry or the Ricketts. It's not that there's "no place" for Sandberg. I hope he stays with the Cubs in some capacity. Some cheered Quade's hiring. Read on.
Wonderful news about the hiring of Mr. Quade. I believe he's the right choice for where the Cubs are headed, and I also feel the veterans will work with him. Will Tyler Colvin get a shot at first base? Or will a big left-handed power hitter be the main focus this winter?
-- Joe G., Oak Lawn, Ill.
The Cubs want Colvin in the lineup, and he may work out more at first this offseason, but I get the feeling he'll stay in the outfield in 2011. Where he plays could depend on what offseason moves the team makes. The Cubs do want another left-handed bat in the lineup and first base would be the perfect spot.
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What do you think about the Cubs trading Alfonso Soriano to the Giants for Barry Zito? I think this trade has the same potential for success the Milton Bradley-for-Carlos Silva deal had. Both Soriano and Zito have big contracts and both are wearing out their welcomes. A change of scenery may help Zito, and by trading Soriano, it will open up left field for Colvin.
-- Robert, Rosemount, Minn.
The Cubs would like an innings-eater type of starter, and Zito has done that. Zito has $64.5 million guaranteed remaining on his contract, which includes a $7 million buyout in 2014. Soriano has $72 million left over four years, so money-wise, it's fairly even. Zito, 32, was left off the playoff roster this year, but he has been healthy and was two outs away from reaching 200 innings this year for the first time since '06. Career-wise, he's 11-19 with a 5.22 ERA in 41 games (40 starts) against NL Central teams. (He's made two starts at Wrigley Field, and is 1-1 with a 3.75 ERA.) But the catch -- and the reason this wouldn't get done -- is both Zito and Soriano have full no-trade clauses.
What are the chances of Kerry Wood returning to the Cubs? They need another arm, Wood is set to hit the market, and the Cubs could pick him up cheap, I'm sure. Has there been any discussion about him coming back?
-- Andrew E., Chicago
Wood's contract includes a club option of $11 million. That's not cheap. As much as the Cubs would like another veteran pitcher in the bullpen, he's not on their radar.
What role do you see for Cashner in 2011? Do you think he'll be eased into the rotation at some point?
-- Bill W., Crest Hill, Ill.
Cashner was used as a starter in the Minor Leagues, but I think he's staying in the bullpen for now, using his 99 mph fastball and improving offspeed stuff to set up Carlos Marmol.
Is there any chance the Cubs will try to get a real leadoff hitter this offseason? They haven't had a fast leadoff hitter since Juan Pierre was on the team.
-- Josh P., Los Angeles
I hope so. They seem to have plenty of No. 2 hitters (Starlin Castro, Blake DeWitt, Colvin). This season, the Cubs' leadoff men combined to bat .251, which, unfortunately, was the same average as their No. 4 hitters (one reason the team sputtered offensively). Their No. 1 batters ranked last in the National League in runs scored, totaling 81. The other teams whose leadoff hitters didn't top 100 runs included the Nationals (82 runs), Padres (86), Pirates (93), Cardinals (96), Astros (97) and Mets (99). Kosuke Fukudome has said he likes hitting first, but this season, he batted .193 in 48 games there with a .313 on-base percentage, which ranked 21st among NL leadoff men. That won't get it done.