Inbox: Who's going to lead off?
Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers Cubs fans' questions
The leadoff man, Reed Johnson and Wrigley Field renovations are among the topics in this week's Cubs Inbox. E-mail your questions to firstname.lastname@example.org, and please include your full name and hometown. Pitchers and catchers report in one month.
Who will be the Cubs leadoff hitter in 2010? I don't see Alfonso Soriano returning to that spot. The way I see it, it'll either be Ryan Theriot or the second baseman.
-- Terry S., Bradley, Ill.
It will most likely be either Theriot or Kosuke Fukudome. Soriano's days as the leadoff man are over, as he is projected to bat sixth, most likely behind new center fielder Marlon Byrd. In 2009, Theriot was the only Cubs player in double digits in stolen bases with a team-high 21. Last season, Fukudome batted .269 in the leadoff spot with a .404 on-base percentage (30 walks, 35 hits). Theriot hit .283 with a .354 OBP in the No. 1 spot (18 walks, 49 hits).
Asked for a projected 2010 lineup, Lou Piniella said it would be Theriot or Fukudome, Nos. 1-2, then Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Byrd, Soriano, the second baseman and Geovany Soto. Right now, the second base options are Jeff Baker and Mike Fontenot. Read on.
It seems to me the Cubs are still in need of a leadoff hitter. Wouldn't it make sense to sign Orlando Hudson to play second base? I know Starlin Castro is supposed to be ready to play in the Majors at some point in 2010, but who knows if he's going to be able to contribute to the Major League team any time soon. It seems an addition like O-Dog would give you a solid leadoff hitter with speed and allow them to slot Theriot down to No. 2 in the order, where he belongs.
-- Erich B., Bourbonnais, Ill.
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Hudson has a career .223 average and .305 on-base percentage as a leadoff man. Compare those numbers to Theriot's and Fukudome's. Last season, Hudson, 32, batted .283 with a .357 on-base percentage with the Dodgers, who bumped him at the end of the season in favor of Ronnie Belliard. Belliard batted .347 in September; Hudson hit .237. Hudson stole eight bases in 149 games. His single-season high is 10. He's also reportedly seeking a one-year deal for $9 million. I don't see him as being a good match for the Cubs.
Castro, by the way, is expected to open the 2010 season in the Minor Leagues, and when he's ready, he'll start at shortstop.
What's up with Johnson? I know he's a free agent and hasn't signed with anybody yet. Can the Cubs keep him? If so, do you think they will? I'm one of the many who are upset we traded Mark DeRosa and didn't get him back when we had the chance. I see Johnson the same way. The Cubs brass may not see him as an everyday player (which I think he could be), but he's another one of those guys who gives 100 percent all the time and is great for the clubhouse and dugout. I think he's way too talented and important to team chemistry to let slip away.
-- Dave C., Boone, Iowa
What the Cubs told Johnson was to take advantage of free agency and see if he could find a team which would offer him more guaranteed playing time as well as more money. With Soriano, Fukudome and now Byrd, Johnson would be a part-time player. The team is still in contact with Johnson, and he could still return. Don't throw away those "With Reed, We Will Succeed" T-shirts.
"We like Reed Johnson," Piniella said at the Cubs Convention. "He's a pro."
What's the latest on the new building the Cubs want to put up outside Wrigley Field for weight room and clubhouse purposes? Also, are the Cubs still talking about renovating all of Wrigley one year and having the Cubs share stadiums with the White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field?
-- Kevin, Atlantic Beach, Fla.
The Ricketts family is going over plans to build what's been dubbed the "Triangle Building" on the land west of Wrigley Field along Clark Street. In a perfect world, those renovations would be completed by 2014, which is Wrigley Field's 100th anniversary. The plan is to not only provide space for the players, but also office space, restaurants, shops and possibly a Hall of Fame. The goal is to make it more fan and family friendly. They will schedule the work so that Wrigley will remain the Cubs' home field. There may be some dust, but it won't interfere with the games.
"On the 100th anniversary, let's have the ballpark ready for another 100 years," said team president Crane Kenney, looking ahead to 2014.
The major changes will be to the exterior of the ballpark along the west side. The public restrooms and concourses are currently being upgraded, and this year, the Cubs players will have a new weight room, lounge and kitchen. The Ricketts are very aware of Wrigley Field's tradition, and respect that.
"The way you see the game from your seat is the way you'll see the game," Tom Ricketts said this weekend at the Cubs Convention.
That means no Jumbotron in center field or neon-colored mascots running down the aisles.
With Greg Maddux as an assistant to Jim Hendry, is there any chance that Maddux might be the next general manager? I wouldn't mind Lou Piniella either for that role.
-- Matt M., Chicago
Maddux, who will be involved in coaching and evaluating talent, is taking this one year at a time. I don't think he has his sights set on being the GM. I know Piniella doesn't want that job.
Any validity to Ben Sheets becoming a Cub, or is this just rumor?
-- Jake D., Palatine, Ill.
The Cubs will have someone watching Sheets when he works out Tuesday in Louisiana, but it's more a matter of being diligent. Sheets' agent has made the pitcher's contract demands public (there are reports he's looking for up to $10 million-12 million), and he doesn't fit the Cubs' budget. They're looking for an extra outfielder and an experienced right-handed reliever.
If Ryne Sandberg were ever brought up to manage the Cubs, would he be able to wear No. 23? It's retired but only because of him.
-- Brock G., Roanoke, Ill.
It's the only number Sandberg will ever wear.
Which left-handed batter led the Cubs in home runs at Wrigley Field in his career?
-- Dan D., Beaver Dam, Wis.
Hall of Famer Billy Williams hit 231 homers in the friendly confines, most by a left-handed Cubs hitter, and third-most all time on the team behind Sammy Sosa (293) and Ernie Banks (290). Williams also holds the career mark (392) and single-season record (42 in 1970) for home runs by a Cubs left-handed hitter.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.