Jeff Samardzija's prospects for starting in 2009, the Cubs' lack of left-handed hitting, Kosuke Fukudome's struggles, the team's need for a true leadoff man and Rich Hill's offseason plans are among the topics in this week's edition of the Mailbag. Keep those e-mails coming -- the Mailbag is back on a weekly basis.
Will Jeff Samardzija be given a chance to make the starting rotation in the spring, or will he just be put in the bullpen? -- Sean W., Des Moines, Ill.
Samardzija needs to develop new pitches in addition to his fastball and splitter to be effective as a Major League starter. His role could be determined by whom the Cubs add to and substract from the pitching staff this offseason. There will be changes. See the next question.
I see that Jake Peavy listed the Cubs as one of the teams to which he would accept a trade. Is there any chance the Cubs may make a trade for him? If not, what are the chances the Cubs will make a run at CC Sabathia? -- Steve H., Honolulu, Hi.
Peavy, who was 10-11 with a 2.85 ERA in 27 starts this year, has apparently waived his no-trade clause and has listed the Cubs, Astros, Cardinals, Braves and Dodgers as teams he'd consider. The Padres are looking for young pitching to help both their rotation and relief corps and would consider infield help and possibly a young center fielder. GM Jim Hendry first has to determine if the Cubs will retain free agents Kerry Wood and Ryan Dempster. That will have a domino effect on the pitching staff. If Wood goes, Carlos Marmol becomes the closer, and Samardzija is needed in a setup role.
As for Sabathia, the Cubs already are saddled with several players who are signed to expensive long-term contracts, including Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez, Carlos Zambrano, Derrek Lee and Kosuke Fukudome, and unless they unload somebody, the lefty probably would not fit in their budget.
The Cubs' main problem is they don't have any left-handed power in the lineup. They need more balance like the Phillies have, but they have too much money tied up in right-handed batters. Without a trade, I can't see them doing much better in the playoffs next year. What do you think? -- Ed M., Chicago
I agree. Consider that in the 10 games against the Dodgers this year (seven regular season and three in the playoffs), Los Angeles never used a left-handed pitcher against the Cubs. Fukudome's ineffectiveness was very disappointing.
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I believe the real issue the Cubs need to address is a leadoff hitter. If you look at the 2003 season, the reason the Cubs did well in the second half and the playoffs was Kenny Lofton. The Cubs have not had a legitimate leadoff man since. Yes, Soriano hits a lot of home runs, but he is inconsistent. Do you think they will make this a legitimate priority, or will we have to suffer through another postseason next year like the last two? That's assuming we make the playoffs next year. -- James E., Chicago
Hendry may revive talks with the Orioles about Brian Roberts, though I know Mark DeRosa fans don't want to hear that. Of course, Lou Piniella would then have to convince Soriano he can help the Cubs by batting lower in the order.
I'm curious why Soriano jumps when he catches fly balls. I've heard all sorts of strange suggestions about why he does this. I've decided he just wants to be different. -- Evan G., Orlando, Fla.
Soriano has said he does that to keep the catch from being too routine.
How did the Japanese media respond to the lack of production and subsequent benching of Fukudome? Other than possibly hiring a Japanese hitting coach, is it felt he will right himself after his inaugural year in the U.S.? -- Lise G., Hortonville, Wis.
The Japanese media was as puzzled by the dropoff as the U.S. media. Fukudome did meet with Hendry, and one topic discussed was whether having a Japanese hitting coach would help. However, Fukudome told the media he wasn't sure that would make a difference. He said a Japanese coach might know him, but would not know the opposing pitchers. One problem the Cubs may not be able to address is providing a place for Fukudome to hit. In Japan, he often took extra batting practice. Getting that time at Wrigley is limited because both teams have to share the same batting cage.
What do you see with Rich Hill's future? I see he's going to play in Venezuela. I still think he has a bright future and hope it's with the Cubs. Hopefully, he can be like Cliff Lee. -- Tim C., Aberdeen, S.D.
In Hill's first start for Aragua in Venezuela on Friday, he gave up two runs on four hits over 5 1/3 innings and struck out six. More important, he did not walk a batter. This offseason will give the lefty a chance to get back to basics, and hopefully, he can return to the big league rotation in 2009.
Is the changing American economy having an impact on the sale of the Cubs? When will the sale happen? -- Lewis B., Andalusia, Ill.
There's no set date to finalize the sale. Tribune Co. chairman Sam Zell not only is trying to negotiate the best price for the Cubs, but also wants to pay as little tax as possible. To minimize the tax bill, the Tribune has proposed a deal structure that would require the buyer to borrow heavily to pay for the team. Considering the current financial conditions, that would be tough to complete.
I was at the game in Cincy [Sept. 6] that saw the Cubs finally break a long losing streak. Jason Marquis hit a home run that night. What's the record for home runs by a pitching rotation? -- Tyler H., Indianapolis, Ind.
Since 1900, the Cubs' record for home runs by pitchers in a season was nine, set in 1961 when Don Cardwell hit three and Bob Anderson, Jack Curtis and Glen Hobbie each hit two. The 2008 Cubs finished with six (Carlos Zambrano four, Marquis two).
The 1887 Cubs pitching staff holds the Major League record with 16 home runs. However, some of those pitchers also played another position. Since 1900, the most home runs by a pitching staff was 12 by the 1956 White Sox (Jack Harshman hit six, Dick Donovan three, Dixie Howell two, and Jim Wilson one). Thanks to Ed Hartig for doing the research on this question.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.