Insider’s Inbox Answers Your Questions About the Pitching Staff, Proper Attire, and the Birds and Bees

As Cubs Insider’s popularity continues to bloom, it’s becoming harder and harder for me to go out in public without being accosted by masses of fans hungry for a bit of my expansive knowledge of the team. As such, I’ve had to relocate my family to a gated community and have begun communicating with the outside world through social media only.

But I felt bad about completely depriving the masses of my genius, so I came up with the idea for Insider’s Inbox, a way to provide you with the knowledge you crave while still maintaining my privacy. Okay, that’s not really true. Tommy Cook actually came up with the idea for this segment. The demands of his knowledge were such that he actually had to move to the East Coast, so we’re kind of in the same boat.

We’d like to make this a weekly feature, so if you’ve got some Cubs questions, please tweet them to me and I’ll do what I can to get them up here. As you can see below, few topics are off-limits.


TOMMY: I mean, concern’s a pretty tough thing to nail down. In the short term, I don’t think you can really say “yeah’s he’s still gonna mash this year” with much confidence. We hope he’ll heat up with warmer weather, but we don’t really have anything but really tenuous racial stereotypes to rely on there. Soler’s getting fed a steady diet of offspeed and breaking stuff and he’s seemed quite content in chasing it thus far.

The truth is that Soler really hasn’t seen many pitchers like this up to this point in his career. He played just 163 games in the minors, and just 54 of those came in AA or AAA. He’s never been through a long stretch of cyclical adjustment periods, he just moved too quickly through the upper minors for the book to be written about him. (This is on top of the fact that most scouts saw him struggle to make adjustments when he was in the minors.)

In that light, I don’t think it’s really surprising that Soler has struggled as much as he has, and I don’t think we should be surprised if it takes him a while to figure out how pitchers are attacking him and make useful adjustments. In the long term, I think he’ll be fine, but I’d be surprised if he’s the middle-of-the-order masher we hope he is anytime this season. Good thing the Cubs aren’t really lacking for those guys right now.

TOMMY: Listen, I’m a blogger. You think they let us know things like that? C’mon man.


EVAN: Here’s the thing: I’m not convinced that it will truly settle, so to speak. Part of the trouble thus far this season has been the inability of the starting rotation — particularly the back end — to go deep into games on a regular basis. In an ideal world, your starter goes at least 6 innings each day and the pen just needs to go three. This isn’t an ideal world though.

I think we’re starting to see some things shake out in the ‘pen though, and guys like Coke and Jackson have become “break glass in case of emergency” types. I think the Cubs would love to go after either a top-end starter or a big bat in LF, but that might depend on what happens with Javy Baez and Yoshi Wada. For now, I’ll look at some possible options for the bullpen.

If the Orioles continue to fall behind in the AL East, I have to think Tommy Hunter becomes available; he’s a free agent after this season, so Baltimore would certainly be willing to move him at the deadline. He’s a converted starter and has closed a bit too, so he’s pretty versatile. The stuff isn’t electric, but he’s pretty steady and could fill the role E-Jax currently occupies.

Rosscup and Russell have looked decent lately, but if they want to add a lefty arm, the Marlins’ Mike Dunn could well be an option. Miami isn’t out of it yet, but I think we can all agree that they won’t be catching the Mets or the Nats. Dunn is signed through 2016 and the Cubs would be on the hook for about $4.5M, which isn’t awful. Again, not a world-beater, but he keeps the ball in the park (career 0.8 HR/9), which would be nice at Wrigley in the summer.

I’ll throw one more name out there, but this is a stretch for multiple reasons: current Rays closer Brad Boxberger. He’s under team control until 2020 and isn’t even arbitration-eligible until 2017, so the Rays aren’t likely to part with him easily. Add to that the idea that their panties are still twisted up over the Joe Maddon defection, and you’ve got an extreme longshot. But if they fall out of it and see Boxberger as more valuable as a tradeable commodity once Jake McGee returns returns.

But perhaps the most likely trade is one they won’t make. Once the NASCAR season ends, we could see Carl Edwards, Jr. up with the Cubs. He’s already been moved into a bullpen role and might be ready to help the team by June or July, provided his health holds up. Sorry for the long answer.


EVAN: My first thought is that they’re either touched in the head or simply have zero sense of propriety, along with a sense of humor that never evolved beyond ball-tapping your buddies and asking people to pull your finger.

I’m always amazed by the brazenly awful shirts being hawked on the streets surrounding Wrigley by dudes carrying wooden stick displays. While they’re not pictured above, I’m speaking of gems such as “Green Gay Fudge Packers” and “Suck the White Fox,” among others.

But along with the intersections of Clark, Addison, Waveland, and Sheffield, is the unfortunate confluence of malignant ignorance (malignorance?) and beer, the results of which are painfully apparent. And as long as such a combination exists, there will be vendors willing to supply it with racially-insensitive t-shirts.

As for punishment, I want to implement some kind of public shaming but I realize that such dullards might never really understand that. Or worse, they wouldn’t care. All that said, I do have a shirt with a stylized 80’s White Sox logo that says SUX and is amended to make it look as if the little guy is swinging and missing. I don’t believe I’ve ever actually worn it in public though, and probably haven’t taken it off the hanger more than twice in the last decade or so.

When it comes down to it, though, do you really want to punish these people? I mean, isn’t living under the burden of a head full of rocks and sirloin enough of a sentence? I prefer to think of shirts like these as a warning beacon of sorts; you’ll already know who “that guy” is before he shoves women and children aside to get to the next bat Addison Russell chucks into the stands.


EVAN: All of them? Coke is probably a goner if the Cubs feel confident enough in the lefty duo I mentioned above and I just can’t see a scenario in which Edwin Jackson is still a Cub beyond this month. There’s only so much mileage you can get out of being a really good guy and the business of baseball eventually has to win out here.

I can say the same for Jason Motte, though his more reasonable contract makes me think the Cubs might be willing to hold onto him a big longer. Some believe that Jackson’s exorbitant deal is the only thing keeping him around, but that’s ludicrous. If this team was being operated with payroll as the first priority, Jon Lester wouldn’t be on it.

A name not mentioned above, but one that could just as likely be on his way out, is Travis Wood. I don’t believe he’ll ever come close to his 2013 for again — in fact, I think that season was more of a fortuitous mistake than anything — and I’m not sure he’d even be a fit in the ‘pen if/when Wada takes his spot in the rotation.


TOMMY: There are a ton of pitchers who will be available in trade this summer. But beyond your persistent Hamels rumors, I doubt the Cubs target many of the dudes who will be free agents in the offseason.  I don’t see Jordan Zimmermann or David Price getting moved during the heat of a pennant race, and I don’t see Johnny Cueto getting moved in-division. It would shock me if the White Sox and Cubs got together on a Jeff Samardzija deal for plenty of reasons, not the least of which being that Samardzija is greatly struggling as of the moment.

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