First base, starting pitching and Andrew Cashner are among the topics in this week's Inbox. Submit your questions, and please include your name and hometown.
I've read all the reports about the Cubs going after or not going after Prince Fielder. One player I would like to see them go after is Anthony Rizzo, from San Diego. With Mat Latos traded to the Reds, the Padres have Yonder Alonso and Rizzo at first. I could see the Cubs potentially trading a couple of young arms and/or Josh Vitters for him. Agree? He was drafted by Mr. Epstein & Co. in Boston.
-- Jake B., DeKalb, Ill.
Good observations. Rizzo was a sixth-round selection in the 2007 First-Year Player Draft by the Red Sox -- and Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were in Boston's front office at that time. In December 2010 he was dealt to the Padres in the blockbuster Adrian Gonzalez deal. Now Rizzo, 22, finds himself No. 3 or 4 on the Padres' depth chart at first base after the Reds-Padres deal on Saturday in which San Diego acquired Alonso, pitcher Edinson Volquez and two Minor Leaguers in exchange for Latos.
This year Rizzo batted .452 with six homers in his first 15 games, was called up to the Padres in June and batted .143 in 35 games. He was then recalled in September and finished with a .141 average in 49 games. At Triple-A Tucson he hit .331 with 26 homers and 101 RBIs.
Rizzo and Cubs outfielder Tony Campana have something in common, as Rizzo was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in May 2008 and was successfully treated with chemotherapy. McLeod once said that Rizzo has the best makeup of any player he's ever drafted.
On Saturday, Jim Bowden of ESPN.com and MLB Network Radio tweeted that the Padres have some interest in acquiring Matt Garza from the Cubs in a package that would include Rizzo. The Cubs would have to be overwhelmed to part with Garza -- and receive a package of players similar to what the Padres got from the Reds. Epstein has said that Garza is the type of pitcher to build around.
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Or the Cubs could give Bryan LaHair the first-base job. LaHair hit a two-run homer, his 10th, in Magallanes' 8-0 win over Caribes on Saturday in Venezuelan Winter League play.
Why not bring back Derrek Lee? He hit close to .320 while with the Pirates last season and could provide great leadership. He wouldn't cost much, and he and LaHair could split time.
-- Chris B., St. Louis
Lee did bat .337 with the Pirates, but that was in 28 games (101 at-bats), and it followed an 85-game stint with the Orioles in which he hit .246. As much as I like his Gold Glove defense at first, he hit .251 in his last season with the Cubs (2010), ground into 23 double plays and batted .234 for the season with runners on base. Last season he hit .214 with runners on, and .206 with runners in scoring position.
I have not seen anything on who the Cubs gave up for Theo and Co. Do you know or have some idea on who we lost?
-- Ken D., Chattanooga, Tenn.
The compensation matters -- between the Cubs and Red Sox for Epstein, and the Cubs and Padres for Hoyer -- have not been resolved.
What are the Cubs doing about adding rotation depth? There are some quality pitchers out there who could end up playing for pretty cheap. I could see guys like Joel Pineiro, Joe Saunders and Paul Maholm flourishing with the Cubs. Are the Cubs looking at anyone in particular?
-- Adam N., Elkhart, Ind.
There are reports that the Cubs are talking to Maholm's representatives. The lefty, who has a 6-2 record and 5.48 ERA in 11 career starts at Wrigley Field, became a free agent when the Pirates chose to not pick up his option for 2012. Pineiro, 33, went 7-7 with a 5.13 ERA last season for the Angels. He is 19-12 with a 3.94 ERA in 39 starts against National League Central teams. Saunders went 12-13 with a 3.69 ERA in 33 starts with the Angels. As for who the Cubs are eying -- and how you define "cheap" -- the front office is keeping the search very private.
What are the chances that the Cubs made an offer for Yu Darvish? Grabbing a potential solid starter for a while is what the Cubs are looking for, right? How much does Kosuke Fukudome's production weigh in on a decision like Darvish?
-- Justin M., Washington
The Cubs did bid but the winner of the Darvish derby has yet to be announced. Fukudome, 34, and Darvish, 25, are completely different, and keep in mind that Epstein does have experience with Japanese pitchers and is very familiar with the process, having successfully bid for Daisuke Matsuzaka in Boston.
Is Andrew Cashner going to be healthy, and do you think he'll be in the starting rotation in 2012?
-- Stan M., Tampa, Fla.
Cashner showed that his shoulder has recovered during a successful stint in the Arizona Fall League. As to whether he'll start or pitch out of the bullpen, that may not be determined until Spring Training. Hoyer has said that Cashner can do either. Hopefully, Cashner's shoulder can handle a starter's workload.
When was the last time the Cubs had a Rule 5 pick stick on their roster for a full year? I think Jeff Stevens did a few years ago, but that was only because they were able to put him on the disabled list midseason and never reactivated him.
-- Steve M., Albuquerque, N.M.
Actually, David Patton was the Cubs' last Rule 5 pick, selected in the December 2008 Draft, and he missed time because of a severe groin injury. The Cubs acquired Stevens from the Indians in December 2008, in the Mark DeRosa deal. Earlier this month the Cubs selected recently converted right-hander Lendy Castillo from the Phillies in the Rule 5 Draft. In 38 Minor League games, Castillo went 7-4 with a 2.43 ERA after being converted from a shortstop after the 2009 season.
How many times in Cubs/White Sox history have both teams started the season with a new manager?
-- Dan B., Evergreen Park, Ill.
I counted nine times, most recently in 1992, when Jim Lefebvre and Gene Lamont were the new managers on the North Side and South Side, respectively. This year will be the 10th, with Dale Sveum and Robin Ventura.