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09/02/10 2:50 PM ET

Inbox: Freeing payroll, finding fault

Beat reporter Carrie Muskat answers fans' questions

Why did the Cubs deal Ted Lilly and Derrek Lee? That's one of the questions in this week's Cubs Inbox. Email your questions to cubsinbox@gmail.com, and please include your full name and hometown. We're trying to get back on a regular schedule.

Reading one of your blog posts about salaries, you said that by trading Lilly, Ryan Theriot, Mike Fontenot and Lee, the team saved about $4.5 million. Doesn't really seem like giving up that kind of talent to save a small portion of payroll is worth it.
-- Nicholas B., Davenport, Iowa

The Cubs didn't just save some money on those deals. Lilly and Lee will be free agents after this season. Let's say they stayed with the Cubs and then left for another team in free agency in the offseason. The Cubs would then be compensated with a Draft pick next June between the first and second rounds because of the level of free agent those two are. But given the option of selecting a Minor Leaguer or two from another team in a trade situation as opposed to picking who's available in the Draft, I'd take the trade. You have more control over the young players you're getting in return, and they've had some time in the Minor Leagues, so you have a better feel for their abilities. Plus, why not give veterans like Lilly and Lee a chance at the postseason?

If you had to point to one thing that is responsible for the Cubs' poor season this year, what would it be?
-- Jeff C., Columbia, Md.

I'd pick the lack of clutch hitting. The Cubs lead the Majors in one-run losses with 30. How many of those games might have been turned around with one big hit? The starting pitchers have totaled 77 quality starts, tied for third in the National League. The middle of the order didn't come through. Look at the top RBI players in the NL. The Cubs don't have anyone in the top 25 (the Nationals have two players and the Diamondbacks three, but they don't have the pitching).

Ryne Sandberg as manager and Greg Maddux as pitching coach -- if only we could get Harry Caray to rise and sing the seventh-inning stretch, we could have my Cubs back.
-- Gene G., Louisville, Ky.

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Mark Grace could coach at first base and Andre Dawson could be the hitting coach, too. That's great for autograph seekers, but the Cubs aren't looking for a sentimental favorite as manager or a poster boy to market the team. They're looking for the person with the best baseball smarts. I've also heard from people who think Sandberg has paid his dues because he's managed four seasons in the Minor Leagues. Mike Quade has 17 years of experience as a Minor League manager and seven years as a big league coach.

I was hoping you could tell me why Hayden Simpson was signed so early but has not pitched in any Minor League games.
-- Kurt V., Chicago

Simpson, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft, had a bout with mononucleosis and was told to go home and get healthy. (Sorry to repeat, but I've received a lot of inquiries about him.)

I see the Cubs are trying to move Tyler Colvin to first to try to fill the void left by Lee. Although I agree the spot needs to be filled, is it possible for them to go out and shop for another first baseman or get someone from within the organization? I think it's such a waste of Colvin's strong arm and good range to move him into the infield.
-- Michael P., Clarendon Hills, Ill.

What the Cubs are trying to do is find a way to get Colvin in the lineup. If you look at the contract commitments for 2011, outfielders Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and Kosuke Fukudome will all be back.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.