Recent signings, left-handers and defensive alignments are among the topics in this week's Cubs mailbag. Got a question? Send it to CubsInbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown.
How many players have the Cubs signed that are coming off Tommy John surgery? Is it just me or does it seem like they are starting a rehab facility? -- Ryan W., Fishers, Ind.
New head athletic trainer P.J. Mainville will be busy. So far, pitchers Scott Baker, Arodys Vizcaino and Chang-Yong Lim are coming back from Tommy John surgery. Hector Rondon, acquired in the Rule 5 Draft, had elbow surgery in August 2010 and a second procedure in December 2011 to repair an elbow fracture.
"You don't set out looking for Tommy John guys," Theo Epstein said when Baker signed a one-year, $5.5 million deal. "The reality is it's not exactly a buyer's market for pitching so you have to take your risks. Do you want to take a risk on a guy with bad makeup? Do you want to take a risk on a guy with bad command? Or, do you want to take the risk on a guy you really believe in who is coming off Tommy John surgery and has appropriate value points? I think we're very comfortable placing our bet on Scott Baker."
Is it a risk? Yes, but one the Cubs feel is worth taking. If Baker or Vizcaino were coming off shoulder surgeries, it would be a bigger gamble.
"If you have to sign a pitcher who is coming off surgery, Tommy John is the one you want him to come off," Epstein said, "because it's a very predictable rehab with a very strong success rate -- upwards of 95 percent."
I'm trying to understand the signing of Chang-Yong Lim. He sounds talented but he is 36 years old and unavailable until 2014. Why would the Cubs spend $5 million under these circumstances? -- Billy E.
Lim didn't sign a $5 million deal. His contract, which was finalized Monday, includes a $100,000 signing bonus, and he will get monthly Minor League salaries for up to the next two seasons, unless his contract is purchased. Look at recent signings, and he's a bargain. Setup pitcher Mike Adams, 34, has reportedly agreed to a two-year, $12 million contract. This also is an investment for the future. The right-hander has pitched the last five seasons for the Yakult Swallows in Japan and was released after needing a second Tommy John surgery in July to repair a torn ligament in his elbow. Despite that, he said he received offers from teams in Japan and the U.S., including the Cubs, Red Sox and Rangers. A power pitcher with a sidearm delivery, "Mister Zero" was a closer in the Korea Baseball Organization for four years.
"The Cubs expect to see me back on the field in 2014, rather than next year," Lim told reporters at Incheon International Airport last week. "Once the deal is signed, I will move to Arizona where the Cubs operate a rehab center. My goal is to continue to rehab and get back on the mound by mid to late season next year."
Should there be any concern that all five of the Cubs starters are right-handed pitchers? Or that we have only one proven left-handed reliever (James Russell) in the bullpen? -- Grant B., Naperville, Ill.
Lefty Travis Wood is projected as a starter in 2013. In a perfect world, teams would love to have a mix, and hopefully, lefties Chris Rusin and Brooks Raley can become options down the road. Is it a concern? No. A bigger concern is cutting down on walks issued.
My problem with the exaggerated defensive shift and Dale Sveum's 90 percent guideline is that good hitters can make adjustments to take advantage of big holes in the infield. Do the Cubs have access to hitting stats and spray charts for when opposing hitters hit against the shift versus against a traditional arrangement? Shouldn't that be the key stat to work from? -- Ben Z., Chicago
The Cubs have access to so many statistical breakdowns on players' hitting tendencies that first-base coach Dave McKay could tell you where certain players hit on Tuesdays nights in May against left-handers after they've eaten at Chicago steakhouses. They do have hitting stats, spray charts and video clips that address shifts, and they apply them. If you watched how well second baseman Darwin Barney was positioned in 2012, I think you'd agree the Cubs coaches know which stats are key.
With the Cubs signing Nate Schierholtz, I'd imagine this would leave little playing time for Tony Campana unless Alfonso Soriano is traded. After leading the Majors in stolen bases for a while last season, you'd think they'd try to find a full-time position for Campana. -- Todd, Johnsburg, Ill.
As of Monday, the Cubs had not officially signed Schierholtz -- they reportedly have an agreement in place. That said, if added, he is considered more of an extra outfielder. The Cubs are still in the market for another outfielder. I understand why fans want to see the speedy Campana play more, but unless he can show that he can get on base more, his role is pinch-runner/extra outfielder, not full-time player. Campana has finished his winter-league assignment in Venezuela and finished with eight stolen bases, a .231 batting average and a .322 on-base percentage.