Cubs Twitter mailbag: Where could things go wrong?

CHICAGO – The Cubs Convention has come and gone but it left some lingering questions for the Chicago Cubs. Let’s answer a few in the first twitter mailbag of the New Year.

Jesse Rogers: I don't know about an ace, but I think they'll be more aggressive than last year if a starting pitcher becomes a necessity. But there's no way to know today what they might need on July 31, and there's no way to know who will be available. If anything it might be another good time to look into trading for a young starter as other teams who have dropped out of the race begin to retool. In fact, the trade deadline might be a better time for that then the offseason. We can safely assume pitching will be a need because it almost always is for contending teams, but only the first four months of the season can tell us what degree of a need it'll be. JR: C.J. Edwards will get stretched out in spring training but is behind about 6-7 other guys for a rotation spot. There's still some thought he could become a devastating reliever, so he's more than likely going to be in the bullpen provided he makes the team. His stuff is dynamic, but getting his slight frame through 30-plus starts a year might not be in the cards. JR: Hmm. That's a tough one. Normally I would pick a reliever but you probably want a name player. Since the Cubs will start the season with Adam Warren and others waiting in the wings in the rotation I won't pick a starter either. How about either Billy McKinney or Albert Almora? Let's say an outfielder goes down and one of them gets called up. Right now, McKinney has basically moved ahead of Almora, but I imagine whoever gets off to a better start at Triple-A is the guy who gets called up first. Also depends on the position. JR: It's pretty obvious they investigated deals involving Jorge Soler, but it doesn't mean any of them were right. One thing we know about the pitching market this winter is the price was very high -- both in free agency and in trades. Think of what Arizona gave up for Shelby Miller and what David Price and Jeff Samardzija and Jordan Zimmermann received let alone John Lackey, who's making $32 million from the Cubs at age 37. Soler has a few question marks, maybe enough to keep the Cubs from netting the arm they wanted. Or maybe the asking prices was Kris Bryant and the Cubs said 'no thanks.' JR: Good question. It's not one I've asked of anyone in charge but a guess would be about once a week. Assuming David Ross catches Jon Lester and Miguel Montero gets about four starts a week, that leaves Kyle Schwarber for a game here and there. Maybe he becomes Kyle Hendricks' personal catcher or something, but that would probably be too difficult considering Ross' ties to a pitcher already. I could also see the plan being abandoned due to various reasons but, as the Cubs say, they won't scrap it until something forces them too. JR: Well, the easy answer would be injuries to the pitching staff along with a few players showing their age. If Lackey and Ben Zobrist aren't performing or are injured that changes some things. The other sort of unforeseeable would come in the bullpen. I'm a big Hector Rondon fan but if the Cubs can't get to the ninth inning -- or he starts to implode -- things could derail. The only thing offensively I could possibly see going wrong is if the Cubs aren't getting on-base enough and revert to some solo home runs as their main offense, but they're pretty bulletproof at the plate right now, so basically it comes down to pitching woes. JR: It's a weird hypothetical but I'll bite. Probably Soler. He has some history of leg problems which could slow his career down but more importantly it would allow for Jason Heyward to move back to right eventually. Javier Baez is a winning player who can play all over and if his changes at the plate continue then he becomes that much more dangerous. I realize Soler can be a beast but you asked me to choose. Plus, despite the playoff run I'm probably a little more down on Soler than most due to injury issues, cold weather issues, and defensive issues. Having said that, he's pretty darn good. A year ago I would not have gone with Soler but Baez has won me over with his overall game. It seems like Joe Maddon feels the same way about him. JR: Ha. He better or all hell will break loose on the North Side. I assume you mean a long-term deal. That won't happen. It will be a one-year thing, which was always the most likely outcome for Jake Arrieta this winter. JR: This is a good time to remind everyone the actual order of the lineup means even less with as much talent as the Cubs possess. Yes, an on-base guy or two should hit at the top but whether Anthony Rizzo hits in front of Bryant or Zobrist in front of Heyward doesn't matter all that much. You could find pros and cons for several different looks. I guess I like Heyward at leadoff and Zobrist No. 2. Rizzo, Bryant, Schwarber, Soler, Montero would work for me after that. Man, that's dangerous. I do like the idea of leaving Addison Russell at No. 9. Something about it just clicked with me, and it provides contact guys like Heyward and Zobrist a chance to move him along or bring him in. There's a bunch of different ways Maddon can go. JR: I have no problem letting Jason Hammel and Hendricks keep their jobs until there is a reason to make a change. Warren will get his turn if warranted, but right now he's pretty valuable out of the bullpen. And the Cubs were quick to remind everyone how good Hammel was in the first half of the season. He was more reliable than Lester, though that changed in the second half. Let's see how he responds. and if Hendricks has learned some things as well. JR: Sure but there's no doubt Julio Eddy Martinez will need some seasoning in the minors. I could have picked him as the first to make his debut but I went with some guys that have been in pro ball here longer. He's a talent though. We'll see.