The Cubs have eaten Alfonso Soriano's contract, is there a chance they'd do the same in getting rid of Edwin Jackson? And let's see what a stable lineup looks like for a couple of months, and then we know what the team really needs in the offseason - and to me, that includes Darwin Barney.  I guarantee Kris Bryant will be up in August and Javier Baez in September, along with Kyle Hendricks, Arodys Vizcaino and Chris Rusin.  --Jon F., Fairfield, Conn.

If you want to get rid of Jackson, there are two things to consider. First, if you want some form of compensation, you better make sure you get someone who has major-league-caliber talent if you’re going to eat the money. The Cubs have a major-league prospect in Corey Black as the result of the Soriano trade (in which they’re eating $14 million this season). Given Jackson’s performance, it could be tough to get a Black-like prospect.

Second, there’s always some fear that a team that takes a flier on Jackson could get some mileage out of him. The Diamondbacks released Russ Ortiz in the middle of the second year of a four-year contract. Ortiz never flourished after being released, but he earned one of his victories the following season with the Giants over the same Diamondbacks team that released him.

I think you’re seeing a semblance of a more stable lineup, but that might not be in full force until after the July 31 non-waiver trading deadline.

Of the five Triple-A Iowa players you mentioned, I’d expect Vizcaino and perhaps Hendricks and Rusin up in September, depending on what starters will be traded.
 
What is your thought on why the Cubs don't keep guys like Paul Maholm, Scott Feldman and now probably Jason Hammel? Many guys over the last three years, who would be good No 3 to No. 5 starters, in that 28-to-32-year range, instead of trading them away for guys you never know will make it. They could have built a decent staff with about five to seven of these guys that they had in the fold, instead of trading them away. --Jim V.S., Grosse Pointe, Mich.

I thought that re-signing Maholm might be a good move for the Cubs, but signing Hammel turned out many, many times better. As for trading him two seasons ago, I think Vizcaino might turn out to be better over the long haul. I know he’s had serious elbow injuries, but he’s got a chance to help the Cubs for many, many years.

Trading Feldman, who was a free agent last winter, brought back Jake Arrieta and Pedro Strop – two important members of the pitching staff.

I’d like to see Hammel stay, and I’ve been impressed with the fact that he would like to stay with the Cubs and hasn’t made any mention of his impending free-agent status. But his stock is too high for the Cubs to ignore what he could bring back in a trade.
 
Thanks for your Core Four report.  Could you update the Jorge Soler information with an approximate date when he expects to return from the injured hamstring?  It’s starting to look like another lost season for him.  --Jim V., Madison, Wis.

Soler returned Saturday night, and he’s 4-for-8 with two doubles in two games for the Cubs’ rookie Arizona League affiliate.

Do the Cubs have any good catching prospects in the minor leagues? --Bill Tell, Morton Grove

Willson Contreras is an interesting study at Class-A Daytona. He is a former infielder who started catching in 2012. Will Remillard is another prospect who needs to stay healthy. His success rate of throwing out base stealers is off the charts, but he needs to stay on the field. The recent draft with Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis addressed the need to stock up on that position.
 
Is it my imagination or are the pieces beginning to fall into place? The team has been playing around .500 for the last month, and the guys who are going to be here for awhile seem to be the guys who are winning games for them. Please let me know if I'm being completely delusional. -- Michael P., Chicago
 
Your eyes aren’t lying in that Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Jake Arrieta have made substantial contributions this season. I don’t think the bullpen – especially with all the young relievers and lack of major league experience – has gotten enough attention.

Junior Lake still has room to grow but has plenty of potential. The organization still needs more starting pitching depth, but they’re addressing that in several forums.
 
Nearly two years after Ron Santo was immortalized in the Hall of Fame, the Cubs have yet to acknowledge that honor on the statue that pays tribute to him outside Wrigley FieldAt a time when the Cubs can't stop flaunting the 100-year history of Wrigley Field and everything that has happened there, that's a pretty glaring oversight.  Can't someone chisel a few more words into the stone?  --Mike, Chicago
 
A: Your observation has been duly noted and should be addressed.

I've never followed players in the minor leagues before, so I don't know what's normal. With the exception of Kris Bryant (and maybe Jorge Soler), are "Core Four" numbers any cause for concern? --Jack B., Fort Pierce, Fla.
 
Javier Baez is only 21, and his 11 home runs and 42 RBIs at Triple-A Iowa are impressive. He needs to cut down his strikeouts. But from a statistical standpoint, his 11 errors show a remarkable improvement from his 44 miscues last season.

Albert Almora is only 20 and showed plenty of maturity in spring training. I will acknowledge that his .243 batting average is low, but I think he’ll learn to get better and improve his .266 on-base percentage, which is a bigger concern for me at this point.
 
Has any major league team received the press coverage for minor league players that the Cubs have gotten this year. At what point is it embarrassing fixating on Class A? --Brian, Chicago

We’re going to stoke some brain cells here. The Oakland Athletics had four pitchers drafted among the first 36 picks of the 1990 draft that were touted as the “Four Aces.” The pitchers? Todd Van Poppel, Don Peters, Dave Zancanaro and Kirk Dressendorfer. Of the four, only Van Poppel and Dressendorfer reached the majors.

In the mid-1990s, the New York Mets touted their “Generation K” with Bill Pulsipher, Jason Isringhausen and Paul Wilson. Each of the three reached the majors, but only Isringhausen made any semblance of an impact.

John Danks used to cringe when I would jokingly mention “DVD,” which was the term used to hype the Texas Rangers’ pitching threesome of Thomas Diamond, Edinson Volquez and Danks.
 
Cubs pitching is not a weakness currently.   The early season was plagued by a lack of hitting to back up better-than-average pitching.  Why not spend some money on veteran-proven hitting for second base and left field to give the team a better chance to win?  Next year’s draft slot is not that important. --Sherwin R., Riverwoods

I think the slow start showed that the platoon system didn’t work, especially from an outfield standpoint where there was no power. I think Justin Ruggiano’s injury hurt the outfield production, but the overall lack of production was too glaring.

I do believe that adding veteran help is essential next year to bolster the offense as well as help mentor the next wave of young players projected to make the major league roster.

Next year’s draft is important. I don’t think you can ever downplay a draft, regardless of where you pick. You can bet that the Cubs and the other 29 major league teams are looking at amateur players right now in preparation for the 2015 draft.