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Inbox: What contract should Samardzija get?

Fans ask about Cubs rotation, prospects' futures, Wrigley remodel plans and more

The Cubs mailbag is back. Got a question? Please send it to [email protected], and include your full name and hometown.

Last year the Cubs gave Scott Baker $5.5 million and now they have reportedly given $6 million plus incentives to Jason Hammel but they've offered Jeff Samardzija $4.4 million. That does not compute. I understand they are in negotiations over a possible long-term deal and he has yet to prove he's an ace. But he has to have more upside than Baker or Hammel. What gives? -- Billy E., Lake Katrine, N.Y.

It's all about comparables, not upside. Compare their service time and performance. Baker has eight seasons as a starting pitcher in the big leagues. Samardzija has pitched in the Major Leagues for six seasons but only the last two as a full-time starter. The Cubs and Samardzija's agent are still discussing a long-term deal. Hopefully, they avoid going to arbitration and reach a compromise between what the Cubs offered ($4.4 million) and what Samardzija is seeking ($6.2 million).

The Cubs appear to have four starters in Samardzija, Edwin Jackson, Travis Wood and Jake Arrieta. Who are they considering as No. 5? I know they have Justin Grimm, Chris Rusin and Carlos Villanueva as possible candidates but do you see them re-signing Baker to a reasonable deal or going elsewhere? Who's the front-runner for the No. 5 spot? -- Dustin R., Kimberly, Wis.

Baker is not in the mix because he signed a Minor League deal with the Mariners. As for who gets the fifth spot among the names you listed, that's one of the fun elements of Spring Training. Hammel, who has reportedly signed with the Cubs, pending a physical, also is a candidate. The right-hander was the Orioles' Opening Day starter but missed time because of a strained right forearm. I know Villanueva would like to start but he's so valuable as a swingman, he may end up back in the bullpen. I'd pick Rusin as a front-runner. He made a huge leap last season and the Cubs may decide they want another lefty in the rotation.

I was wondering what the future holds for both Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters. Are they in the Cubs' long-range plans or have they been passed up by the other prospects? -- Eric L., Plantation, Fla.

Both battled injuries last season and they've dropped on the list of top prospects simply because of the lack of playing time.

"They did not stay on the field long enough, first and foremost," said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development. "We still have belief in both of them, especially a guy like Josh. He was drafted in 2007, and you've heard his name so much. You'd probably think he's 26 years old or 25 years old. This is somebody who is 24. When he was on the field, the performance was pretty good. He was born to hit and he's always hit. There were other parts of his game that we felt he had to work on.

"With Brett, it's the same thing," McLeod said. "He had a tough year, even the year we called him up. ... He got injured last year as well. They both took this offseason to regroup, get healthy, and they'll both be in camp here in a couple weeks."

Position players report to Mesa, Ariz., on Feb. 18.

It seems the rooftop owners are going to make things difficult for the Cubs' remodel of Wrigley Field. At what point do the Cubs owners decide they are in a no-win situation and decide to relocate someplace else and the rooftop owners have a front-row seat to watch Wrigley Field be torn down? -- Terry L., Sun City Center, Fla.

Preserving Wrigley Field has been one of the Ricketts family's goals since they purchased the Cubs but with the $500 million renovation plan stalled, don't think leaving hasn't been mentioned.

"How far do you go before you say, 'You know what? We tried and we tried to make the good effort, but it didn't work out?'" Cubs spokesman Julian Green said Saturday during an interview on WSCR-AM. "I won't speak on behalf of the [Ricketts] family, but I'm sure this is weighing heavily on them because they want to move forward on this."

When will Jorge Soler be getting the call? He didn't get an invite to spring camp. Does that mean he won't be coming up this year? -- Nate C., Orion, Ill.

Soler is on the 40-man roster already, which is why he wasn't included in the list of non-roster invitees. As to when he gets called up, that's up to his progress. The outfielder was limited to 55 games last year because of a leg injury. He needs game experience.

What's your pick for the starting lineup for Opening Day, including the starting pitcher, relievers and a closer? I'm from New Zealand and after seeing the Cubbies at Wrigley Field last year, I'm a fan. -- Tobin D., Wellington, New Zealand

New manager Rick Renteria has yet to write out a lineup card but here's a guess:

SS Starlin Castro

2B Darwin Barney

1B Anthony Rizzo

LF Junior Lake

RF Nate Schierholtz

C Welington Castillo

3B Luis Valbuena

CF Ryan Sweeney /Justin Ruggiano

P Jeff Samardzija

Jose Veras is projected as the closer. In the bullpen, Hector Rondon and James Russell are the primary setup pitchers.

Why did Keith Moreland leave WGN Radio? I thought I heard him announcing an alumni game for the Longhorn Network. Is that his full-time job now? -- Randy B., Asheville, N.C.

Moreland wanted to be closer to his family in Texas. Former Cubs first baseman Ron Coomer will join play-by-play man Pat Hughes on WGN Radio broadcasts this season.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings, and you can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.
Read More: Chicago Cubs, Jorge Soler, Carlos Villanueva, Josh Vitters, Jason Hammel, Jeff Samardzija, Chris Rusin, Brett Jackson