Inbox: Why did Cubs part ways with LaHair?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat responds to fans' questions
I don't understand the LaHair situation. He was the team's most dangerous hitter in the first half of the 2012 season. He made the All-Star team, then was relegated to the bench, I would say mostly because of Brett Jackson being called up. I see no reason why he can't spend an entire offseason working on his defense in right and being a valuable power bat the Cubs' lineup needs. Why designate him when there's an obvious need that he could fill on the team?
-- Walter Y., Greenville, N.C.
If you look at LaHair's monthly splits, he was the Cubs' best hitter in the first month, not first half. That's why his role changed from starting first baseman to left-handed bat off the bench, and it wasn't because of Jackson but the June 26 arrival of Anthony Rizzo. Theo Epstein, Cubs president of baseball operations, and general manager Jed Hoyer did talk to teams about LaHair but didn't find any takers. He had considered playing in Japan prior to the 2012 season and now has signed a two-year, $4 million deal with the SoftBank Hawks. It's a great opportunity for him. He can be the designated hitter, play some first base and left field.
I've never been to the Cubs Convention but may get "permission" from my wife to fly in and attend this year. If I do, what are the must-attend sessions and events? What former players might show up?
-- Bob F., Lincoln, Neb.
The schedule of events varies from year to year, but you can usually count on sessions with the general manager, the manager (Dale Sveum) and his coaching staff and a Minor League update.
At the January 2012 convention, one session celebrated Ron Santo and his induction into the Hall of Fame with Glenn Beckert, Randy Hundley, Billy Williams and WGN Radio's Pat Hughes sharing stories. There are usually player sessions with groups of past and present Cubs in which they talk about their experiences beyond the game. The Ricketts family has a forum, and they invite questions. There are Cubs souvenirs for sale and autograph sessions. The list of who will attend hasn't been finalized yet.
The event will be at the Sheraton Chicago Hotel & Towers in downtown Chicago from Jan. 18-20, and tickets and hotel rooms are still available. Tell your wife thank you, and book your trip. Click here for more information.
Do you see the Cubs trading Darwin Barney? His stock is high after winning the Gold Glove, but his skills are limited. I like Logan Watkins' potential better.
-- John D., Grand Rapids, Mich.
Watkins may have been named the Cubs' Minor League Player of the Year after batting .281 at Double-A Tennessee, and he did perform well in his brief Arizona Fall League action and was recently added to the 40-man roster, but he's not going to unseat Barney in 2013. Barney's offensive numbers dropped in the second half, but if you're saying his defensive skills are limited, I'd have to disagree (as would Gold Glove voters). Trade Barney? No.
Where does Junior Lake stand in the Cubs' plans? Will he be playing in Wrigley before Javier Baez? What about moving Starlin Castro to third and promoting Lake or Baez to shortstop on the big club?
-- David M., Washington, D.C.
Lake, ranked by MLB.com as the No. 9 prospect in the Cubs' organization, is an option at third base, but he would have to convince the team he's ready in Spring Training. He spent last year at Double-A Tennessee, batting .279 in 103 games. This winter, he's playing in the Dominican Republic and has been used mainly as a designated hitter, but that's because it's hard to crack the lineup. He's got more Minor League experience than Baez, so it would seem obvious Lake will get to the big leagues first, but I can't predict that. As far as players moving around, let's see how it plays out.
With the Mariners designating Chone Figgins for assignment, is there any chance we could see him in a Cubs uniform? He could be an inexpensive option for third base because of his lackluster production in Seattle. Maybe a change of scenery and league could be what he needs.
-- Dustin S., Memphis
Figgins most likely is not the Cubs' first choice. He was an All-Star in 2009, and he did swipe 42 bases and hit .298 for the Angels that year. Those numbers resulted in a four-year, $36 million contract from the Mariners in December '09. But Figgins batted .227 in three seasons with Seattle, including .181 last year. Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik said: "It just never worked out like he thought, and sometimes you never know why." As far as third base, Figgins has a less than impressive .956 fielding percentage in 630 games there.
With the Marlins trading off their team, could it be possible the Cubs go after Giancarlo Stanton? He's a young outfielder who could fit perfectly. I feel it would be worth the risk to trade some Minor League prospects because Stanton already is proven in the big leagues. Maybe we could send Alfonso Soriano in a deal. I don't know all the contract figures that go into this, but from a stats side, it feels like it would work out great for the Cubs.
-- Dallas G., Muscatine, Iowa
According to a report in the Boston Globe on Sunday, the Phillies, Red Sox, Yankees, Orioles and Cubs have inquired about the outfielder. The other Marlins players were dealt because of their high salaries, while Stanton made $480,000 last year and isn't arbitration eligible until 2014. He was critical of Marlins management, so they may try to move him.
With the Cubs' payroll down this year, do you think if they were in competition at the All-Star break this year, they may become buyers and not sellers?
-- Ben B., Dallas
In the last 10 years, how many of the Cubs' No. 1 Draft picks are still with the organization? What is Mark Prior up to these days?
-- Jerry A., Masonville, Iowa
Josh Vitters (2007), Jackson (2009), Hayden Simpson (2010), Baez (2011) and Albert Almora (2012) are still in the Cubs' organization. Prior, 32, who was the Cubs' top pick in 2001, has been slowed by shoulder problems and tried to come back last season in the Red Sox Minor League system. He was released, but the plus side is that he was let go to open a roster spot and not because of an injury. In an interview in late August, the right-hander said he was going to try again in 2013.
When will the Cubs announce the 2013 Spring Training schedule, and when will those tickets go on sale?
-- Josh P., Dublin, Ohio
The Cubs' Spring Training schedule should be announced this week, and ticket information will be available at that time.
I've heard they are going to add seats behind home plate. How severely will this alter the appearance of Wrigley Field?
-- Luke J., Olney, Ill.
You'll notice less foul territory behind home plate. The plan is to move the brick wall forward three feet to create room for 56 seats. It'll be interesting to see if it does affect play, especially regarding balls that get away from catchers.