Theo Epstein, first base and double plays are among the topics in this week's Inbox. Send your questions to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your name and hometown.
I'm confused about the turn of events. Theo is accepting a job as president instead of GM. While Jim Hendry was here, he was the architect of the team (I couldn't tell you who the team president was -- Crane Kenney?). It seems like the GM position really molds the team, and by making Theo president, we're taking the architect's pencil out of his hand. Could you explain the different responsibilities that will be handled by Theo and new GM Jed Hoyer?
-- Andy A., Peoria, Ill.
There should be no confusion: Epstein will be the key architect for the Cubs. He also emphasized that it won't be one person who will build his "foundation for sustained success," and allowing him to add Hoyer and Jason McLeod will further that. Epstein, Hoyer and McLeod were together in Boston, and you saw the success they had there.
Epstein's job will be to oversee everything, from the new Spring Training facility to the statistical analysis system to the Major League roster. Hoyer, named on Wednesday as the GM, will handle the day-to-day duties associated with the big league club, as well as deal with agents, free agents and trades. McLeod will oversee the player development and scouting departments.
Everyone is talking about the compensation sent to the Red Sox for Theo Epstein. But if Jed Hoyer joins the Cubs, what is the rumored compensation that we'll be sending to San Diego?
-- Andrew P. Naperville, Ill.
The Cubs have sent the Padres a list of possible players available as compensation, and it would be a Minor League player, most likely not someone on the 40-man roster. That was the reason for the holdup in the negotiations between the Cubs and Red Sox in that no parameters were set, so Boston could ask for Matt Garza or Starlin Castro in exchange for Epstein. The Red Sox will receive a yet-to-be-determined Minor Leaguer.
Who is the front runner for the Cubs' first-base position in 2012 -- Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Carlos Pena, Tyler Colvin or someone else?
-- Scott H., St. Paul, Minn.
Have a question about the Cubs?
E-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.
I don't think Pujols or Fielder are on the Cubs' radar, basically because of the high price tag. Pena did play briefly for the Red Sox in 2006, so Epstein is familiar with him. If Colvin were playing first base in the Dominican Republic or Venezuela, I'd say he's a possibility. He's not, though. Maybe the "someone else" is Bryan LaHair, who is playing in Venezuela. Epstein wants to do more research on LaHair, who hit 38 homers for Triple-A Iowa last year.
As for free agents, here's Epstein's take:
"I think the impact free agent, the free agent who requires the long-term substantial commitment, there's a time and a place for that type of investment," Epstein said. "I think it's important to understand when the right time is. It's also important to understand the player. The player has to check every single box that you look for. He has to be an impact player offensively, you'd like him to be an impact player defensively. In an ideal world, you'd love for him to be an up-the-middle player. You'd love for him to be a player of high character who you can put your faith in and will represent the organization well over the years.
"You want to make sure the player is young, so you're buying a lot of prime years. There will be a time and place for that. I'm not going to say it's now, or down the road. Even if we don't sign a significant free agent, we'll be active in free agency. It's an opportunity. Understanding the supply-and-demand dynamic, discovering small opportunities to make the organization better might mean signing a released player to a one-year, $1.25 million deal, if his name happens to be David Ortiz. That's probably not going to happen again. There's a time and a place for a big impact player, and also a time and a place for the smaller, more nuanced moves."
With the Phillies declining the options on Roy Oswalt and Brad Lidge, do you think Epstein will pursue those two pitchers aggressively in the offseason? With the thin pitching market and lack of arms coming out of the farm, I think those would be bargain deals instead of signing C.J. Wilson for three years.
-- Antonio K., Chicago
Oswalt's option was for $16 million. He battled back problems, and totaled 139 innings this season. He's 34, and he set career highs in numbers pitchers don't want to have go up: WHIP (1.34), hits per nine innings (9.9) and percentage of pitches in play (21.4). Lidge, who turns 35 in December, was limited to 25 games and 19 1/3 innings because of rotator cuff problems. His option would have paid him $12.5 million. Phillies GM Ruben Amaro Jr. said that he would consider bringing both back, but not at those prices. I don't see the Cubs aggressively pursuing either, but I'm still getting to know the Epstein-Hoyer regime.
Which double-play combination (second and shortstop) has turned the most double plays for the Cubs all-time?
-- Marc-Andre C., Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada
I called Cubs historian Ed Hartig for this one, and he said that pair-wise, fielding stats are not readily available. Imagine the combos: most shortstop-second base-first base double plays, most third-second-first, most shortstop-second, etc. For the Cubs there are only two possible second-shortstop choices: Don Kessinger-Glenn Beckert and Shawon Dunston-Ryne Sandberg. A Billy Jurges-Billy Herman duo would be a distant third; Jurges' double-play total at shortstop (562) is too low to challenge the other two.
Kessinger holds the Cubs' shortstop mark for double plays, with 982; Sandberg holds the second-base mark, with 1,157. Beckert's 742 double plays at second tops Dunston's 641 at short, so the nod goes to Kessinger-Beckert, especially because all of Beckert's Cubs career overlapped Kessinger's. Dunston had 51 double plays in 1995 when Sandberg was briefly retired.
From 1965 to 1973, when Kessinger and Beckert played together on the Cubs, they turned 794 and 742 double plays, respectively. When Dunston and Sandberg were together on the Cubs, from 1985 to 1994, they turned 590 and 761 double plays, respectively.