All was right in Cubdom. And then they traded Mark DeRosa.
The aftershock of this cataclysmic transaction has unquestionably reached as far as spring training, and the reason is simple: who are the Cubs' second-stringers?
Did Jim Hendry take into account that more (perhaps importantly) than being the starting second baseman, Mark DeRosa was Aramis Ramirez' sub at third, that he also alleviated any potential pitfalls in the Cubs' performance by rotating into the outfield early last summer when Soriano was injured?
Maybe, maybe not, but the point is that the Cubs have on-field questions to answer as a result.
The hot corner is the hottest issue. Aramis Ramirez will undoubtedly miss time with groin issues this season because that's what he does. The Cubs options are limited. The Cubs took a chance on signing former Twins and Brewers' third baseman Corey Koskie last month, but Koskie, who planned a comeback after a nasty concussion a couple years ago, just walked away from baseball after his first start in spring training gave him some second thoughts.
Other experiments have been Mike Fontenot at third, where he played minimally early on in his career and Aaron Miles, also primarily a second baseman, who just returned to action this past week after tending to a shoulder injury. Miles may prove to be Fontenot and Ramirez' back-up, but the shoulder injury has limited his ability to prove he's got anything at third. It seems like the Cubs will only worry about this if anything long-term should keep Ramirez out or both players seem inadequate. Then, I imagine, the free agent market will be looked to for someone who plays the position naturally.
The Cubs seem to have enough in the outfield to make up for DeRosa's absence. Jake Fox has been getting a lot of time this month and is batting .327 with 13 RBI, second best behind Micah Hoffpauir. Joey Gathright has put up solid offensive numbers as well, but more importantly he has a team-leading six stolen bases.
Then there's catcher. DeRosa didn't have much of an effect on this position -- possibly -- but it's on topic, so we'll stick with it. Geovany Soto's absence for the World Baseball Classic gave equal opportunity for ex-Dusty Cub Paul Bako and Koyie Hill -- whose career nearly ended a year and a half ago because of a table saw -- time to face off. Hill has been far more productive offensively, but Bako has more big league catching experience. I bet you just realized how much you actually miss Henry Blanco. I did.
It remains to be seen how this shift in where the Cubs' second string strengths are will affect the team down the stretch, but hopefully enough players will rise to the occasion if need be.