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Who's available in free agency at third base? Also, I'd like to know who has the best shot at starting there next year.
-- Francois C., Montreal
The list of free agent third basemen include Wilson Betemit, Eric Chavez, Mark DeRosa, Jerry Hairston Jr., Brandon Inge, Placido Polanco, Mark Reynolds, Juan Uribe, Kevin Youkilis and Michael Young. Reynolds is the youngest at 30. Since those names probably don't excite you, keep Mike Olt in mind. He was acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal and could win the job with a strong spring.
Do you think Kris Bryant sticks at third base? I do. Every time I hear "corner outfielder," he takes another 100 ground balls before batting practice.
-- Gary J., Chicago
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I'm sure a lot of people wanted to move Bryant after Saturday's Arizona Fall League Fall Stars Game when he made two errors at third, but as of now, he's a third baseman. Bryant, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft and the Cubs' No. 4 prospect according to MLB.com, has heard the talk about a possible switch.
"I try not to read into that stuff because it really is a distraction," Bryant said in early October. "You can't focus on what other people have to say about you. You can only think about what you think about yourself. I believe I can play third base. If the Cubs want me to play right field, I'll play the heck out of it."
The Cubs seem to have an overload at shortstop (Starlin Castro, Arismendy Alcantara, Javier Baez) and possibly third base (Olt, Christian Villanueva, Luis Valbuena, Josh Vitters ). Any ideas on who might be moving to another position or another team?
-- David D., Memphis
You can remove Vitters from the list because he's focusing on the outfield. I've optimistically penciled in Olt for Opening Day. Valbuena could platoon at third and also be a utility player. Villanueva, who played at Double-A Tennessee last year and is playing in the Mexican Winter League, needs more time.
Alcantara split time between second and short, playing more second in the second half. Being versatile is a huge plus and it will be interesting to see if the Cubs move Baez around this spring. If he can play second or third, he might get up to the big leagues quicker. It may seem like too many infielders, but there's a baseball cliche that these things sort themselves out. Let's wait and see.
Can you make sure that by the time people hear from Alcantara, they know how to properly pronounce his last name?
-- Wally C., Orlando, Fla.
I'll try. It's al-KAHN-tar-ah.
With Anthony Rizzo's stats dropping, I was wondering how his 2013 stats compared with Bryan LaHair's in '12? Do the Cubs retain any rights to LaHair and do they have any thoughts about bringing him back? What kind of year did LaHair have in Japan?
-- Steve M., Albuquerque
In 2012, LaHair batted .259 with 16 home runs, 17 doubles, 40 RBIs in 130 games and was replaced as the starting first baseman in the second half that season. This year, Rizzo's batting average dropped and he batted .233, but he also hit 23 home runs, 40 doubles and totaled 80 RBIs in 160 games and was a finalist for a Gold Glove.
In Japan this year, LaHair batted .230 in 111 games with the Fukuoka Softbank Hawks, and hit 16 home runs, 19 doubles and drove in 57 runs. LaHair turns 31 on Tuesday; Rizzo is 24. The Cubs do not have LaHair's rights. No disrespect to LaHair, but I'll take Rizzo.
With all the talk about Wrigley Field renovations, I have not seen any information regarding what is going to happen to the pavement bricks around the ballpark that are inscribed and paid for by Cubs fans. Are these going to be saved or are they not part of the new "Wrigley Field?"
-- Doreene C., Libertyville, Ill.
I am assured by the Cubs that the bricks will be saved.
In your summary of prospects, you failed to include Dan Vogelbach. Only two years out of high school, he has demonstrated an exceptional talent for hitting. He not only hits with above-average power, but shows real discipline at the plate with relatively low strikeout numbers and high walk numbers. At 6-foot, 250 pounds, he'll never be the defensive player Rizzo is, but he works hard and he may ultimately be a better hitter than Rizzo.
-- Jan P.
I focused on the players I saw in instructional league or had talked to coaches about, and did not mean to slight Vogelbach or anyone else. You can add Christian Villanueva, Wes Darvill, Gioskar Amaya, Dustin Geiger, Bijan Rademacher and Shawon Dunston Jr. to the list of names to watch, and there are more, which is a nice change from years past.
What have you heard about Brett Jackson? Is he just taking the winter off to rest or playing somewhere? Do you think a lot of issues last year might have been thinking too much about not striking out?
-- Apollo C., Estes Park, Colo.
Jackson had some nagging injuries last season, which were more annoying than the strikeouts. He's not playing this winter and was given an offseason program to work on. In talking to some Cubs' Minor League coaches, they were very encouraged by what they saw from Jackson at the end of the season.
I remember the Cubs having a radio broadcaster by the name of Bert Wilson back in the late '40s or early '50s. Am I dreaming or is that true?
-- Louis B., Bloomington, Ind.
Wilson was a play-by-play broadcaster for the Cubs from 1944-55, and one of his favorite sayings was, "I don't care who wins, as long as it's the Cubs." He was the last announcer to call a Cubs' World Series game in 1945.
Do the Cubs have any interest in Ozzie Guillen for manager?
-- Dave B., Lake in the Hills, Ill.