Mailbag: Who's on second? Soriano?

Mailbag: Who's on second? Not Soriano

The Cubs' starting rotation, Alfonso Soriano's spot in the order, new Peoria manager Ryne Sandberg, Carlos Zambrano's next paycheck and the Rule 5 Draft were some of the hot topics for this week's mailbag.

It was impossible to keep up with all the e-mails during the Winter Meetings because things changed so quickly. Please send your questions to the mailbag, and please include your name and hometown.

Why don't the Cubs put Soriano at second base, Matt Murton in left, Jacque Jones in right, and find a new guy in center?
-- Matt S., Chicago

There's a reason the Nationals moved Soriano to the outfield: He has averaged 21 errors at second base for five straight seasons.

I've heard a lot of speculation about the starting rotation for next season and was wondering what Mark Prior's status is? Will he be healthy and ready to start the 2007 season?
-- Brian K., Iowa City, Iowa

That's the plan. Prior is working with a specialist in San Diego six days a week, strengthening his right shoulder. But it's December, and the Cubs won't know for sure how Prior is until he gets on the mound in Mesa, Ariz., in February.

In all of the articles about the Cubs' starting rotation, Zambrano, Rich Hill and possibly Sean Marshall are mentioned. I have not read anything about the plans for Wade Miller. What are the Cubs' plans? They did sign him to a contract.
-- Michael H., Joliet, Ill.

Yes, they did, but that contract is loaded with incentives because the Cubs aren't sure exactly what Miller can do. Usually players are better the second season after surgery. That would be 2007 for Miller. As the team learned last year, you can never have enough starting pitching.

While I applaud Jim Hendry and the Cubs for spending the money in order to get some good free agents, I wonder what that means for Zambrano. If Barry Zito receives a $100 million contract this offseason, it's almost a sure thing that Zambrano will receive at least as much if he hits the free-agent market next year. Is there enough left to re-sign Zambrano to a lengthy extension?
-- Vince I., Chicago

Zambrano likely will be a very wealthy man. His contract simply isn't on the Cubs' front burner. That's why there's no news. Hendry is very much aware of how much he'll have to pay Big Z.

Why didn't we keep Josh Hamilton? I know he's really rough around the edges, but he is a left-handed-hitting outfielder who has a ton of potential to be a great power hitter. Why wouldn't the Cubs try to keep him?
-- Cory D., West Des Moines, Iowa

Have a question about the Cubs?
Carrie MuskatE-mail your query to MLB.com Cubs beat reporter Carrie Muskat for possible inclusion in a future Inbox column. Letters may be edited for brevity, length and/or content.
First Name, Last Initial:

Hometown:

Email Address:

Question:

First, understand that any player selected in the Rule 5 Draft must stay on the Major League roster the following season. The Cubs decided there wasn't anyone available whom they felt fit their needs. Second, the Cubs went into the draft with no intention of keeping Hamilton. He was drafted at the request of the Reds, and then dealt to them. You're gambling that the player selected is ready. It could be good news for the three players selected off the Triple-A Iowa roster: Edward Campusano, Lincoln Holdzkom and Jason Smith. If they don't make the big-league club, they are returned to the Cubs.

I just read that Freddie Bynum was traded to Baltimore for a player to be named later. What is the point of trades like this? Do the Cubs just not want Freddie or can Baltimore not decide who they want to part with?
-- Rick M., Decatur, Ill.

Bynum was dealt the day before the Rule 5 Draft. The Cubs' roster before that deal was at 40. If they were to select a player in the draft, they had to be below 40 and have an opening. The Orioles were interested in Bynum, and a deal was made.

I am thrilled that Ryno will be managing the Peoria Chiefs. Do you think that in the bigger picture, they are grooming him for the post-Lou Piniella-era Chicago Cubs?
-- Brian C., Palatine, Ill.

Let's see how Ryne Sandberg feels about managing after a few bus rides in the Midwest League. He did sound genuinely enthused about Peoria. His family is supporting him, and he recognizes he needs to start at this level.

I heard that Jacque Jones has formally requested a trade. Is there any truth to that?
-- Kayle K., West Lafayette, Ind.

No, he did not.

I recently saw a piece on Sammy Sosa trying to get back into baseball and wishing to come back to the North Side more than any other option. Have the Cubs thought about inviting him to Spring Training?
-- Eric K., Richton Park, Ill.

No.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.