Mailbag: Plenty of hot topics on tap

Mailbag: Convention over, but questions remain

CHICAGO -- Center field, Jacque Jones, Mark Prior, Derrek Lee bracelets, Carlos Zambrano's money, and Jeff Samardzija's future were all hot topics in this week's Mailbag.

Send your questions to, and please include your name and hometown.

Obviously, you've been getting a million questions about center field. I keep reading that the Cubs are trying to trade Jacque Jones and, given the possible replacements (Felix Pie or Alfonso Soriano/Matt Murton if they sign Cliff Floyd), I ask myself why? Jones did fairly well last season. I can't see another guy on the Cubs currently who would be a better fit. Would this rumor of Ryan Church coming to Chicago be just that, a rumor? Or is it a strong possibility?
-- Justin K., Marietta, Ga.

There have been lots of rumors. As for center field, the issue may have been resolved this weekend at the Cubs Convention. Soriano said he'd like to play center field, and that would solve a lot of problems. Why didn't this happen sooner? When manager Lou Piniella met with Soriano on his recruiting trip in November, they talked about him playing the corners. Piniella was hesitant to say anything publicly until he had a chance to talk to Soriano privately in Spring Training. Said Piniella: "The worst thing you can do to a player is tell them one thing and do another." Kudos to Piniella for that. If Soriano plays center field, then Murton would start in left, Jones in right, and Pie, 21, would have time to develop.

Is Jones truly disgruntled with the fans and the city? I know he took a lot of heat last year, but does he still want to be a Cub?
-- George P., Buffalo Grove, Ill.

I'm not sure where the rumor started, but Jones is not disgruntled and does not want to be traded. And I'd take a left-handed hitter who can bat .285 and provide 25-plus homers and 80 RBIs. Jones was considered a good fit in Wrigley Field when he signed, and he still is.

Is Mark Prior going to be ready by Opening Day?
-- Gil M., Waukegan, Ill.

He very well could be. Prior has been throwing off the mound for a couple weeks, and threw on Saturday for pitching coach Larry Rothschild.

"You won't know much about Mark until the grass is green," Rothschild said when asked about Prior's progress during the Cubs Convention.

That prompted Piniella to ask: "Larry, when does the grass turn green?"

Is Cubs management out of their minds? How can they lowball Carlos Zambrano in arbitration? It reminds me of another young Cub pitcher about 15 years ago. That guy's name was Greg Maddux. We all know how that worked out for the Cubs. They need to take care of Carlos and make him a career Cub.
-- Dan R., Mason, Ohio

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First of all, the Cubs didn't lowball Maddux. The contract he signed with the Braves did little more than match the Cubs' offer. Secondly, the Cubs' offer to Zambrano is simply part of the process. Let it play out. Negotiations are ongoing.

I saw that Lee is going to sell bracelets to raise money to find a cure for his daughter's illness. How can we purchase these if we don't attend the Cubs Convention? I'd love to help out the Lee family.
-- Paco H., Terre Haute, Ind.

Because of the interest, Lee will offer the bracelets online, starting this week. Go to for information. There were some problems connecting to the website this weekend, but keep trying. The bracelets will be sold for $5 apiece. Thanks to everyone who purchased them during the Cubs Convention -- the staff at the booth was overwhelmed by the response.

The bracelets have "Believe the Unseen" on one side, and "Project 3000" on the other. Proceeds go towards Project 3000, which was created to help find a cure for Lebers Congenital Amaurosis (LCA), a rare disease which causes severe vision loss and blindness. Lee's 3-year-old daughter Jada was diagnosed with LCA.

After seeing Samardzija sign with the Cubs and pass on the chance to play pro football, what are the chances he ends up with the Cubs sometime this year? Every time I hear people talk about him, I hear he throws in the mid 90s and, after playing at a very competitive college, it seems he wouldn't be too far away from the Major Leagues.
-- Matt H., Oak Park, Ill.

It would seem that way, but Samardzija is not expected in the big leagues this year. He has thrown some on the side since the football season ended, but the Cubs want him to take his time and not try to throw 97 mph on March 1. This kid is special. When he was pitching for the Cubs' Boise team last summer, he would do all his agility work and running after the games to get ready for Notre Dame's football season because he said he knew coach Charlie Weis would be able to tell if he didn't do his drills. Samardzija stayed in touch with the Boise players after he left. Be patient.

Am I seeing a card on Ebay correctly -- did we let another great player go? Did Albert Pujols actually play for the Peoria Chiefs and was he actually signed by the Cubs to a Minor League contract? If so, why did we let him go and how did the Cardinals come about acquiring him?
-- Robert R., Chandler, Ind.

Pujols did play in Peoria, but that's when the Chiefs were the St. Louis Cardinals' Minor League team. By the way, check the 2007 schedule to see when the Peoria Chiefs play Fort Wayne. It'll be a matchup between two former Cubs. Ryne Sandberg now manages the Chiefs, and his former teammate, Doug Dascenzo, is manager of the Wizards.

I'd just like to say I feel Slammin' Sammy coming back to baseball is a great thing. I'm glad to see him get another chance and wish him the best of luck.
-- Corey K., LaPorte, Ind.

I'm sure Sosa fans will make the trek to Arlington, Texas, June 19-21 for the Cubs' Interleague series against the Rangers. Many will get a sneak peek at Sosa this spring in Surprise, Ariz.

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