Does Ian Stewart have third base locked up, or are the Cubs going to have him battle with Josh Vitters and Jeff Baker? It seems the Cubs showed a lot of confidence in Baker last year, and Vitters has been in the Minors for a while. I think they should give Vitters a chance because of his good numbers in the Minors.
-- Mark N., Elkhart, Ind.
The Cubs consider Stewart their everyday third baseman, but Vitters, 22, will get a good look, and he might be the surprise of Spring Training. He's coming off his best year, in which he batted .283 at Double-A Tennessee (14 homers, 28 doubles, 81 RBIs, .770 OPS), and he then hit .360 in 100 at-bats in the Arizona Fall League (.923 OPS). He benefited from working with hitting coach Mariano Duncan at Tennessee and having an injury-free season. With the Smokies, Vitters hit .299 against lefties, .275 against right-handers. It's been tough for Baker to be considered more than a platoon player because of his lopsided numbers (career .309 vs. lefties, .239 vs. righties).
What was the point in sending Sean Marshall to Cincinnati? I know we got another lefty and a few Minor Leaguers in return, but hasn't Marshall been one of the Cubs' most consistent pitchers/players in the last couple of years?
-- Ryan C., Vernon Hills, Ill.
No question, Marshall will be difficult to replace. However, the new front office is looking at ways to improve the depth and talent in the Minor League system, and Marshall was an asset they could deal to help that effort.
"[The Marshall trade] fits our general direction," said Theo Epstein, president of baseball operations.
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.
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, there also was the chance that the Cubs might lose Marshall to free agency after the 2012 season and not get Draft pick compensation in return. The lefties in line to replace him include James Russell, Scott Maine and John Gaub.
We've all heard the rumors about Matt Garza being on the trading block. My question is, why are we even considering trading him? He's our best pitcher, supports the team on and off the mound, shows a lot of heart and has a winning attitude. To me, that's someone you would want to build a team around. Why even consider trading him? In my opinion, he should be off-limits.
-- Zachary S., Fairfield, Ill.
Epstein has said exactly that -- Garza is the type of pitcher to build around. But the motive for moving Garza is the same as the thinking behind dealing Marshall. Look at how the Padres benefited in their deal with the Reds involving Mat Latos, and the package of prospects San Diego received, or what the Athletics got from the Nationals for Gio Gonzalez. Teams interested in Garza know that the Cubs will have to be overwhelmed to move him. The right-hander is very attractive to pitching-needy clubs. In addition to being under team control through 2013, Garza has a career 23-15 record and 3.34 ERA in 56 career games against American League East teams.
Would you explain what Manny Corpas' and Andy Sonnanstine's split contracts mean? Is this similar to a non-roster invite to Spring Training? I've never heard of a split contract non-guaranteed before now.
-- Kevin B., Indianola, Iowa
A split contract means that a player makes "X" amount of money if he's in the Majors, and "Y" if he's in the Minors. Those amounts are prorated based on days of Major League and Minor League service during that particular contract.
Guaranteed money means that the player gets the whole sum if he's in the Majors, and no prorating. So if the money is guaranteed and the player is released, he would still receive all of it. Non-guaranteed, obviously, means it's not guaranteed.
When will the Cubs announce who will be at the Cubs Convention?
-- Paul M., Longmont, Colo.
In the past the team released a list a week before the event. We'll post it as soon as it's available. The convention will be held from Jan. 13-15 at the Chicago Hilton.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter@CarrieMuskat. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.