Welcome back to " John and Tom explain the Universe" or something like it. Another round of applause to everyone that sent in questions. There was a lot to choose from. If you don't see your question here, rest assured it is in consideration for the big one after the season. Except for Hoosier Daddy's. His was deleted out of spite. ( I keed, I keed.). I kept this round fairly major league specific. All minor league questions are tilted towards John, but are probably more suited to after the season. Anyway, Happy and Slappy gave good answers, and hopefully you'll all be entertained. So without further ado...
To what do you attribute Alfonso Soriano having a resurgence? Big fish in a small pond? Lack of pressure? Or was there some actual adjustments?
Loxas: First you have to give credit to the coaching staff. Dave McKay and Dale Sveum really worked with Sori on defensive fundamentals, something that should have happened back in 2007.
Arguello: I think it takes two to tango. The work ethic always existed with Soriano but I also think changing positions is something he never fully embraced until Dave McKay came along.
Loxas: He also started to flourish offensively after Sveum convinced him to drop a few sizes in bats. You also can't ignore he feels respected by this front office and coaching staff and seems to relish the role of a team leader. Sure the pressure is off now, but what if he had played this way his entire Cubs career?
Arguello: McKay not only sold him the value of defense but he was a skilled enough teacher to help him improve. Offensively, some credit should also go to Dale Sveum for convincing him to use a lighter bat. Players don't like to change things that have helped them be successful in the past, so that's not an easy feat.
Name 3 to 5 guys on the current roster that won’t be back on next year’s roster…
Arguello: I'll say Joe Mather, Bryan LaHair, and Carlos Marmol. Mather is the very definition of replaceable. LaHair doesn't have a whole lot of value as a bench guy. I'll get to Marmol.
Loxas: LaHair, Volstad, Corpas, Camp.
The biggest surprise you’ve seen from the Cubs since the trade deadline?
Arguello: Biggest surprise since the deadline is probably Chris Volstad. I had faith in him early on but even my patience was starting to wear thin.
Loxas: Soriano is the surprise.
Arguello: Volstad hasn't been outstanding but 3-1 with a 3.81 ERA in his last 4 starts and he has shown a better ability to overcome adversity on the mound.
Loxas: Ok. John, whatever. Soriano is the surprise.
Arguello: The stuff is there, but as someone mentioned the other day, he needs to develop a bit of a nasty streak.
Loxas: In closing, I’d like to say Soriano is the surprise.
And biggest disappointment since the deadline?
Loxas: The disappointment has been how bad the starting pitching has been. Rusin has been OK but I'd like to see more consistency out of Travis Wood
Arguello: Biggest disappointment has been Alberto Cabrera who trusted his stuff in AA and AAA but then came to the majors and decided he needed to nibble. When you have a 96 mph fastball with that kind of movement and a hard, sharp slider, you do hitters a great favor when you don't go right after them. He attacked the strike zone against Houston (maybe he thought he was in AAA again?) and he looked dominant, so I'm hoping he builds on that.
Two-part question concerning Carlos Marmol… How much credit do you give to Bosio/Sveum for Marmol’s turnaround and how much to Marmol himself? And is #49 traded during the off-season, or anchoring the 2013 Bullpen?
Loxas: You have to again give the Cubs staff credit. This was a guy they weren't getting through to right away and they kept pounding it in his head to trust his fastball.
Arguello: I think they should get a lot of the credit. Marmol was in love with his slider. It's been his bread and butter during his dominant days, so convincing him to go more to his fastball wasn't an easy thing to do. They had to get him out of his comfort zone and then keep his trust when it didn't pay immediate dividends. As for the second part of the question, I think Marmol will be traded. He is a guy who has regained some value. The Cubs can still trade him without needing his permission and his contract is workable, so he's more likely to go than someone like Soriano. He's also relatively young and healthy, can still throw very hard, and has a past history of dominance. That combination of traits will probably convince a team to take a chance.
Loxas: I have a feeling Marmol is back at least until the deadline.
How high will the Cubs payroll be in 2013?
Arguello: $90M (everything included)
Loxas: I'm really guessing here with a lot to be decided but somewhere about $95 mil.
Part 2, the Cubs will commit ___ Million dollars to free agents. (and I want a number, not “Not much” or “very little”.)
Loxas: I feel they will make a push for at least 2 starting pitchers and one position player. So I'm thinking about $45-50 mil in total salary.
Arguello: I'm going to say they'll add $20M in free agents. They'll try and add 2 to 3 mid-level players to fill gaps short-term, with possibly two for the rotation. They'll also add several lower-level guys to compete for jobs, particularly in the bullpen.
When camp opens in 2013, the biggest position battle will be _______?
Loxas: Third base. I think the Cubs just may bring Ian Stewart back and along with Valbuena and Vitters there could be some competition there.
Arguello: I have to think it will be 3B. The guess is that they bring back Ian Stewart on a friendly deal and I'll say he's the favorite if he's healthy. Luis Valbuena will also be in the mix, as will Josh Vitters and possibly a low-level signing like mentioned above. I think Valbuena sticks as a utility guy/backup plan and Vitters goes to AAA with a chance to take the job midseason.
Who are you rooting for to win the World Series?
Loxas: I may have said Washington earlier, but I am really not a fan of what they did with Strasberg. It would be very cool to see Baltimore or Oakland win it. I really like what Beane did this season and I think baseball is better with traditional teams like Baltimore as winners.
Arguello: I'm rooting for the Braves. I like the way they did things when I was a kid and Schuerholz was running the team and I think Frank Wren has maintained that solid leadership. To me they just consistently do things the right way and I hope they get rewarded for it -- not to mention I would like to see Paul Maholm and Reed Johnson get rings.
Final question: When you asked Felzz to write the wraps for Cubs Den, you were drunk right? Please answer honestly…
Loxas: Totally pickled. Still am actually.