One of my favorite things to read on Cubs.com is the mailbag questions and answers. Each week, Carrie Muskat takes a stab at the many questions posed to her by the Cub fans out there. Sometimes I agree with her answers and sometimes I don’t. I’d like to turn it into a semi-regular feature in which we critique her answers and give the questions an answer courtesy of our site. I’ve put the original question in bold followed by Carrie’s reply all in block quotes. I’ve followed that with my response.

Tell us the Cubs are going to hold onto Prior. He is certainly young enough to make a return from rehab and continue to be a top pitcher. ~ Mark B., Cornelius, N.C.

They would like to keep Prior, but what complicates matters is that the right-hander will be a free agent after the 2008 season. Let’s say the Cubs sign him for next year, and he isn’t able to pitch until August — and then choses free agency and leaves for another team. That means the Cubs would’ve paid him for two months of work. He received $3.575 million in 2007 and didn’t make one big league start. The Cubs have invested a lot of money in the right-hander, and in a perfect world, a two-year deal with incentives through 2009 would make more sense. The question becomes whether Prior will accept that.

At this point, Mark Prior is arbitration eligible. What that means is that the Cubs have a few options. First, they can work out a contract for any number of years at any terms. Second, they could outright non-tender him, which essentially means he becomes a free agent. Or third, they could take the case to an independent arbitrator to decide. In that instance, both Prior and his camp submits their case and gives the judge a salary amount for 1 year they feel he deserves. At the same time, the Cubs also submit their case and their number and the arbitrator looks at the information and decides which number the player deserves. He can only choose from the two numbers submitted, and is not able to average the two or give any other type of number. My thinking is that if the Cubs decided to go that route, Prior’s camp is going to bring up his age, his dominant 2003, the fact that some of his injuries have been flukes and current medical reports that have him on a time table to return around opening day. My guess is that it would be a good enough case to get their number accepted. The question will be if the Cubs are willing to risk that or if they want to go the route of trying to work out some sort of deal. I see no reason why Prior would accept. It just wouldn’t be in his best interest. On a side note, Carries spelled chooses incorrectly.

I had to laugh when you said [in the Oct. 22 Mailbag] the fact the Cubs have Aramis Ramirez at third is one of the reasons Chicago wouldn’t go after Alex Rodriguez. A-Rod is decent at third, but he’s a great shortstop and that happens to be the biggest hole the Cubs have. If they don’t pursue A-Rod, it should only be because of the money he commands, not because we already have a third baseman. ~ Mike L., Las Vegas

I do know Rodriguez played shortstop — despite what some e-mailers may think — but I don’t think shortstop is the “biggest hole” the Cubs have. Ryan Theriot may never hit 50 homers or drive in 150 runs, but he’s solid offensively and defensively. Bottom line: the Cubs are not likely to pursue A-Rod because of the money he and his agent, Scott Boras, will ask for.

I agree with Carrie 100% on this one. To pursue A-Rod would he a huge mistake. Scott Boras is going to command upwards of $30 million per year for somewhere in the neighborhood of 8-10 years. That would put the end of the contract at a ripe old age of 41. Last I checked, we’ve already spent quite a bit of money in a long term contract on Alfonso Soriano. Let’s not forget that the money that goes to pay for those salaries comes ultimately out of your pocket. Seeing as how I don’t attend Wrigley Field, it’s not me who has to pay the $100 tickets that will certainly be coming soon as the payroll gets higher and higher. I agree that A-Rod is a tremendous player, and perhaps one of the best of all time, but the amount of money it’s going to take to get him just doesn’t add up. Remember, no team has ever won a world series with him.

I was wondering if there was any chance the Cubs would sign Kendall again. I read they weren’t expecting to keep him, but I think he would be a good investment because he would be able to mentor Soto and Kendall is one of the better catchers the Cubs have signed. ~ Michael H., Chicago

As far as experience, handling pitchers and being a smart ballplayer, Kendall is one of the best. He can do the little things. The downside is he threw out two of 51 basestealers. If the season opened tomorrow, Soto would be the Cubs’ starting catcher. He does need tutoring, and Kendall, a free agent, has to decide if he wants a backup role.

Not only does Kendall need to accept a backup role if he were to return, but to sign a player that is still capable of being a starter is going to take a good bit of money. With Henry Blanco already signed for $2.8 million, which is one of the most expensive backup catcher salaries in all of baseball, it would be silly to think the Cubs would invest, at a minimum, an additional $6 million to sign Kendall. If you look around the league, one of the ways these teams are winning is by trusting the talent they have within the organization. Give your young guys a chance and develop young talent so you can spend on areas of absolute necessity. It’s time for the Cubs to give that a try at the catcher position with Soto, as much as I love Jason Kendall.

You whiffed on this one. Chuck W. of Highland Park, Ill., asked last week, “Who was the last Cubs manager to make the playoffs twice during his stay in Chicago?” A quick check of history on the website shows the Cubbies won NL pennants in ’32, ’35 and ’38, all led by Jolly Cholly Grimm. Add in ’45 during his second stint, and Charlie Grimm is Chicago’s career leader in championship NL seasons. His four pennants also exceed any South Side manager as well. ~ Herb G., Anaheim, Calif.

Yes, I whiffed. Thanks to others who pointed this out. I misread the question, and thought Chuck W. wanted to know who managed the team to the playoffs in consecutive seasons. I will defer to Cubs historian Ed Hartig from now on.

Way to go Carrie. You’ve got the entire internet at your disposal and you mess it up. I’m just glad I wasn’t asked that one, because I would have been clueless without the internet.

Just before the playoffs, a story circulated that as soon as the Cubs were done playing at Wrigley Field, the field would undergo a major re-do. Is this happening and if so, what is the full nature of the project, what is being done and should it be ready for Opening Day 2008? ~ Tim B., Bensenville, Ill.

I expect an announcement soon. The outfield was re-sodded for the National League Division Series, but the Cubs have been evaluating how to improve the playing surface.

Just to update this one a little. Paul Sullivan ran a story on the 22nd that the Cubs are “awaiting city approval to begin a major renovation of the playing surface at Wrigley Field but expect to have the project completed by early December.” (Full Story)

I’ve heard that Mark Cuban put in a bid to purchase the Cubs. What are his chances of getting the rights to the Cubs? ~ Chris C., Lenoir City, Tenn.

Cuban has expressed an interest in buying the Cubs, but I’m not going to handicap who has the best chance. MLB owners will meet in Chicago in November, and there could be some discussion at that time about the team.

I’m not going to handicap the field, but I will make you this guarantee. Mark Cuban WILL NOT own the Cubs. If I’m wrong, I’ll send out a prize for the first person to e-mail me and call me out when it goes down.

I am a Cubs fan in Japan. On Oct. 18, Hiroki Kuroda, a pitcher for the Hiroshima Toyo Carp in Japan, became a free agent. Last year, the Cubs wanted to acquire him. Do the Cubs want him this year? ~ Koji K., Kanagawa, Japan

The Cubs did scout Kuroda, 32, and saw the right-hander pitch several times. An 11-year Japanese league veteran, Kuroda opted not to come to the U.S. last year. It might have been because his father was battling cancer. Kuroda also had bone chips removed from his elbow. The Cubs are always looking to improve their pitching, but I’m not sure if the team will get involved in the bidding. The Cubs would not have to pay a posting fee, such as the Red Sox did to get Daisuke Matsuzaka. This year, Kuroda was 12-8 with a 3.56 ERA in 26 games, including seven complete games.

I’ve heard the Cubs named linked to Kuroda for awhile now, but I don’t think they’re genuinely interested in signing him. There is a difference between scouting and offering. I think the Cubs were merely watching to see what he had to offer. My disappointment comes in the fact that Carrie didn’t explain why there would be no posting fee, as we saw with Dice-K, Igawa, and Iwamura this past off-season. Kuroda was rumored to be coming over from Japan last year, but opted to sign to play one more year in Japan. Because he is an unrestricted free agent, it means he’s free to sign wherever he chooses, including a totally different country. The reason for the posting fee system is two fold. First, it compensates the Japanese team that is losing a player under contract. They get the posting fee to help ease their burdens. Second, it’s designed to be a way to assure every team, including small market teams, have a fair shot at foreign players. The system is broken, which is a post for another day. The main point is why he would not require the posting fee.

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Joe Aiello is the founder of View From the Bleachers and one of the lead writers as well as host of VFTB Radio. Growing up in Chicago, he fondly remembers attending games in the bleachers before that was the popular thing to do. Currently Joe resides in North Carolina with his wife and three kids. Connect with Joe via Twitter / Facebook / E-mail