Ryne Sandberg was very popular last summer in the Midwest League. Will he return to Peoria next year as manager? Or will the Cubs find somewhere new for him to manage?
-- Scott W., Stevens Point, Wis.
I've heard hints that Sandberg will be back as the Chiefs manager. The Cubs will make an official announcement regarding their Minor League staff at the Winter Meetings, which begin Dec. 3.
I've been watching Matt Wieters out in the Hawaii Winter League (one of the perks of being stationed out here), and he looks like a man among boys. Do you think the Orioles will promote him quickly or treat him with kid gloves?
-- Steve K., Columbia, Md.
Wieters has been rumored as a fast-riser since he was in college, and the fifth overall pick in last June's First-Year Player Draft did nothing to dispel that notion with his run in Hawaii. The catcher batted .283 with a .364 on-base percentage in his first exposure to professional arms, setting the stage for his first promotion.
The Orioles will likely decide between Class A Frederick and Double-A Bowie for their top prospect's first assignment, and Baltimore would like to see him thrive at Bowie before the year is done. Wieters is regarded as talented enough to make his big league debut at some point in the 2009 season.
That's an awfully fast timetable for any rookie -- even a first-round pick -- and the Orioles will build in some room to allow for a few setbacks. Incumbent catcher Ramon Hernandez is under contract through 2009, and Baltimore also holds an option for the 2010 season just in case he's still the best option.
Hernandez will see his name bandied about in trade rumors this winter, and if he gets dealt, that only confirms the fast track for Wieters. Baltimore will watch their prized prospect very carefully, and if he performs well at Bowie, he could be a very short while away from a promotion to the parent club.
Why did the Indians back away from Miguel Cabrera?! The Marlins are asking for a starting pitcher [Cliff Lee, Adam Miller, or Jeremy Sowers], a center fielder [Franklin Gutierrez or Ben Francisco], and a third baseman [Jhonny Peralta, who can turn into a third baseman, and Andy Marte]. We have the depth to trade a bunch of players, and we have the players they need.
-- Geoff C., Lyndhurst, Ohio
Mark Shapiro has always erred on the side of caution when it comes to dealing packages of prospects for a single player. Fans tend to get aggravated by this approach. That's to be expected, because when a player as highly regarded as Cabrera, who has been called a Manny Ramirez in the making, is available, fans salivate.
If Shapiro could land Cabrera for a package of Cliff Lee, Ben Francisco and Andy Marte, I'd say pull the trigger. Twice.
But it's hardly that simple, Geoff. The Marlins have steep asking prices for Cabrera, and several teams are reportedly in the running. It could take a package that includes the likes of top prospect in Miller and boy wonder Asdrubal Cabrera to get him. Knowing this, that cautious approach is more understandable to me, and perhaps to you, as well.
The talk about Cabrera will continue until he's dealt (likely during next month's Winter Meetings in Nashville), and the Indians will remain interested -- but only at a price that makes sense for the long-term future of the club.
Why did the Jays release John-Ford Griffin? He wasn't given much of a chance with the Major League team and seemed to have pretty good numbers.
-- Jim R., Vineland, Ontario
Basically, it got a point where there was no room at the inn. Griffin, 27, spent the past three years at Triple-A and there was no spot for him with the Jays for the forseeable future. Adam Lind projects to be in a regular outfield role with Toronto by 2009, Matt Stairs is signed for two more years and Alex Rios and Vernon Wells aren't going anywhere.
Griffin performed well in the Minors offensively, but his defense was lacking. There are also a handful of outfield prospects behind him rising fast for the Jays. So, cutting ties with Griffin opens a spot on the Triple-A roster for someone such as Ryan Patterson. The move may actually benefit Griffin, who could find a better situation with another club.
There has been a lot of talk about Kameron Mickolio making the Mariners next year. Who is he? Where has he been and what does he throw? Does he have a legitimate chance of making the club next year?
-- Kyle M., Pocatello, Idaho
The 6-foot-9 right-handed reliever out of Wolf Point, Mont. -- the Mariners' 18th round Draft choice in 2006 -- probably needs more seasoning in the Minor Leagues. He had a 3-1 record and 1.82 ER in 18 relief appearances with Double-A West Tennessee and went 3-3 with a 3.45 ERA for Triple-A Tacoma last season. The 23-year-old is climbing fast in the Minors and could be worth a close look during Spring Training.
I saw that the Rays are planning on trading outfielder Elijah Dukes to the Nats for their top prospect, Collin Balester. I saw Balester pitch this season, and he is the real deal. What do you think?
-- Gail, Brandenton, Fla.
I think the Rays would like to trade Dukes. Rumor has it the Nationals are the team most recently interested. I don't believe they can get Balester for him since Dukes carries a lot of baggage.