Chat with Bruce Levine
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Bruce Levine (1:00 PM)
Greetings from Arizona. I'm goign to see the Sox and Cubs play today. Contrary to other reports, both teams only have four players from their organizations in the Arizona Fall League. So it's not like the Cubs playing the White Sox when those teams get together.
Jordan Campbell (Algonquin, IL)
Are the Cubs bringing back Reed Johnson?
Bruce Levine (1:01 PM)
Great question. One that they're having trouble deciding. The Cubs love his heart and the way he plays the game, but they hate the fact he has a degenerative back problem that continues to haunt him. His broken foot is 100 percent healed at this point.
Jordan Campbell (Algonquin, IL)
In your opinion, what is the most likely Trade scenario for Milton Bradley?
Bruce Levine (1:03 PM)
It still is - and has been for a while - Tampa trading Pat Burrell to the Cubs for Bradley. The Rays owe Burrell $9 million in 2010. It just depends how much of Bradley's contract the Ricketts family and Jim Hendry want to eat.
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
Just talked to a Sox exec this morning. They realize that Beckham is the star of the future for the White Sox. A long-term contract for Beckham might be something the Sox address late next season going into 2011.
Last week you said the Cubs are looking to get better defensively this year. Any chance they look for a new SS? Theriot is brutal and it's the most important position on the field.
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
The young kid I'm watching here, Starlin Castro, is their shortshop of the future. There's little question about that. The only thing the Cubs are trying to figure out is when to start Castro's big-league career. The consensus is he's anywhere from a half season to a year away. But contending teams very rarely change their middle infield and go with a raw rookie in the middle of any season.
How good can Starlin Castro be? I would assume that he needs another year in the minors?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
If you talk to the scouts I talked to here, some of them feel that he might be ready at some point in 2010. But having only played a short period in Double-A, he definitely needs a little more seasoning. The projections are he can be a .300 hitter and an All-Star-type player. There's nobody who doesn't like his ability who has seen him in Ariz.
Assuming no major changes are made to the current White Sox roster, are they the best team in the AL Central?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
Well they may be, but they have some bullpen issues that are unanswered at this point. No team wins without a strong pen. And the Sox had some major failures in that area. It all depends on what they do with Bobby Jenks. The consensus in the Sox organization is that some of his skills may be eroding. His arbitration figure will take him from $5 million to $7.5 million in 2010. The team has to decide if Matt Thornton should be their closer, which would allow them to trade Jenks for some young bullpen arms or lead-off type hitter.
I've read where you stated that Brandon Webb will be traded this off season. What are the odds of the Cubs entertaining a deal like this and would D-Backs be ok with taking on extra salary in return (think Carlos Zambrano)?
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
You have your ESPN baseball analysts mixed up. I have no idea whether Webb will be traded. He's coming off major surgery but when healthy is one of the top pitchers in the game. Arizona has not made that decision at this point.
Hey Bruce, who do you see is the next top pitching prospect (besides Hudson) for the White Sox and when do you seem him getting a change to pitch in the bigs?
Bruce Levine (1:11 PM)
I'm not tuned into anybody beyond Hudson who is ready to be an impact pitcher for the Sox. I'm goig to be getting with some Sox officials this week and talk to Buddy Bell, who's the director of the minor leagues. Should be more prepared for you next week with an educated answer.
With Castro potentially being ready for prime time after this season don't you think a better option is to sign a short-term SS and begin Theriot's transition to 2B this season? Tejada seems to make sense as a 5 hitter and SS.
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
If the Cubs have money to put out there toward free agency, which is questionable, they can go one of two directions: 1. They could choose to sign Orlando Cabrera to a one-year contract. Although Cabrera has been a malcontent in certain places, he's a proven winner and hard-nosed player. A one-year deal with Cabrera playing second or SS would be a solid for the Cubs. 2. Keep Theriot at SS for one more year, sign the Dodgers' Orlando Hudson, who won't be going back to LA. Hudson was the catalyst for the team's offense in the early part of 2009 but eventually wore down and lost his job to late-season acquisition Ronnie Belliard. Tejada is too costly.
SprungOnSports (Long Island)
What have you heard about Johnny Damon and the White Sox? Hasn't their big problem been signing these veteran players to big deals? I think Kenny needs to get younger.
Bruce Levine (1:16 PM)
I agree with you. I do not believe Johnny Damon is the answer, although he's still a decent player. Actually better than decent in the right situations. The Sox don't appear to be a team with much money to spend. A project payroll of $100 million is probably where the Sox will fall.
Phil (Chicago )
Do you feel the Cubs will offer extensions to Lee and/or Lilly this off-season?
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
Very good question. Very intuitive of you. I believe Lee will be the first one they approach. He has one year left on his deal at $13 million. Look for the Cubs to make some type of offer to him before the 2010 season. Lilly has been the most effective pitcher for the Cubs, he'll be playing at age 35 in 2011. The Cubs will have plenty of time toward late in the season to broach a contract for him.
matt m (orland park il)
do you see the white sox making any big offseason moves?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
You never say never with Kenny Williams. A big trade sometime between the GM meetings and the Winter Meetings for Bobby Jenks could happen. The Sox need a left-handed power bat and they will look at the possibilty of bringing back Jim Thome.
Bill (Sylania, OH)
Can we assume Rios is the CF in 2010?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
You can assume Rios is the CF in 2010, 2011 and 2012. You cannot assume what he is going to hit. One thing the Sox are sure of that he'll bring solid defense to the park every day as a regular CF.
Whats the future of Jake Fox. Clearly the Cubs dont have an every day spot for him how is the feel around the league regarding his skills as a future major leaguer. Big question if we can't play him every day what can we get for him for the Cubs to improve their roster next year
Bruce Levine (1:21 PM)
Depends on which Jake Fox you believe in. The free-swinging big RBI guy who came up and helped invigorate a sluggish offense. Or the guy who teams were getting out with breaking balls out of the zone at the end of the season. Jake is a nice combination of a good kid and a player who will do whatever it takes to beat you. His future would be best spent in the AL as a DH and play a couple of other positions, mostly 1B. Likelihood Cubs will keep him as a right-handed bat off the bench, but putting him in late in the game defensively creates other problems.
Phil (Chicago )
If that trade does happen, what do they do with Burrell? They can't possibly play him and Soriano in the same outfield.
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
It's the NBA problem at its very best. NBA teams are always shuffling guys who have bad contracts they haven't lived up to. Hendry, if he trades for Burrell, would probalby look to move him as soon as possible. Moving a guy with a one-year deal to an AL team who can use a potential 30-HR hitter, would not be impossible.
Any word on the Sox getting Thome back?
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
Been some rumors floating around to that effect. Sources told me that's not out of the question. Thome was paid $10 million by the Sox last year. He loves Chicago and would probalby give a nice discount to the Sox.
Is Ryne Sandberg managing the Cubs in 2011?
Bruce Levine (1:25 PM)
Possibly the Iowa Cubs. Not to be sarcastic, but under this present regime, I don't think they envision him as their manager. That doesn't preclude the chance that he will manage one day for the Cubs or another team. Sandberg has paid his dues with three years in the minors and has shown outstanding leadership ability as a young manager.
Ron (New York, NY)
This Bradley - Vernon Wells trade sounds like a DISASTER for the Cubs financially with the $98mm due on his contract (even if they split it). I'm not crazy about the Burrell deal, either but at least it's short-term. Are there any other alternatives?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
Yes, and don't believe anything you're reading about the Wells deal. He has a ridiculous contract that pays him $100 million for the next five years, including $23 million in each of the last two years of the deal. A team would have to be out of its mind to take that contract, unless Toronto will eat more than half. Some talk about Angels wanting to offer Gary Matthews Jr., who is not a very good player and has $22 million left over 2 years. Money matches up with Bradley perfectly. That's more likely a backburner because Matthews can't be projected offensively.
What is Jeff Samardzija's role going forward? I'd imagine some in the organization probably want him to start to justify his draft day deal, but is he better off as a reliever?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
The Cubs are committed to make Jeff a starting pitcher at this point. Not only has he failed as a reliever, he envisions himself as a starter. He's down in Mexico trying to accomplish that goal right now.
To add on to Mike's question, what do you think the future holds for Micah Hoffpauir?
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
I believe broadcasting is out of the question at this point. But seriously, Micah is a nice story, but his role is probalby limited to a part-time pinch-hitter for another tema next season.
SteveFitz (Cicero, IL)
Is the relationship between Tom Ricketts and Jim Hendry still a feel type relationship or has Tom Ricketts been meeting with Jim regularly since Tom won the bidding months back? What is your take on their relationship or are they still building one?
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
Still in embryo stage. Hendry expects to have his first substantive conversations with Ricketts here in Ariz. this week. Ricketts has stuck to the business plan so far. This week will be his first venture into communicating and absorbing the baseball operations part of the team.
Is there any life to the Cubs getting Chone Figgins? I would love to see him as our second baseman or even platooning in the outfield. His speed and lead off abilities would give the Cubs something they haven't had for years. If not, who in your opinion is someone that we should chase after?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
Lead-off men are very difficult to find in baseball. Figgins would be a nice short-term answer for the Cubs and Sox. But as a free agent he's liable to get 3 or 4 years at more than $10 million per year. That doesn' seem feasible for either the Cubs or Sox right now.
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
Let me add on, don't count out Kenny Williams. If he's able to clear a big chunk of salary he's liable to make that move. The Peavy and Rios deals prove they're not afraid to spend money.
Will they resign Dye or let him go?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
Dye and Williams have a very close relationship. However that won't stop Kenny making the right baseball decision. It appears at this point the Sox will buy out Dye's contract for $1 million. But playing poker with Williams is a dagnerous game, and I might end up wrong.
When do you think we can expect Andrew Cashner to break into the bigs? Will he start in the pen or do you expect him to make the rotation?
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
Some of the scouts I talked to here say he might be a bullpen guy, but it's not just a bullpen arm, it's a power arm. His situation might be similar to the one the Yankees have had to deal with Phillip Hughes and Joba Chamberlain. Both have gone up and back between starting and the pen.
Is there any chance Fukudome finds a new home this offseason?
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
If he does it will be in either Lincoln Park or River North. He has a complete no trade and not many teams are lookign for a guy who hits 12 home runs, drives in 60 and strikes out 110 times.
BruLev, are the White Sox going to be relying on Freddy Garcia to fill that 5th starter role in 2010? If yes, do you have any suggestions for another team I can adopt as a fan? I've narrowed it down to the Rays and the Birmingham Barons.
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
Don't worry about Freddy, if he fails, they have a nice plan with Daniel Hudson, who came on strong at the end of 2009 starting at Single A and ending up in the bigs.Or try the Pirates, they need all the fans they can get.
Bill (Sylania, OH)
Quinton will be in LF or RF. What type of player will they seek for the third OF?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
Quentin will play RF if his foot is healthy enough to support him. Look for a speed player in LF, Pods is still a possibility.
Do the Cubs trade Derrek Lee this off season? Seems like with Vitters coming and Fox/Hoffpauir short term platoon feasible, it might be an ideal time to sell high on Lee...your thoughts?
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
Lee has a complete no-trade, and told the team last Nov. he had no interest in being dealt.
What do you think of Jordan Danks? Is he ready for the White Sox in 2010?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
I look forward to watching him play tonight in Scottsdale. Danks is leading the Ariz. Fall League in on-base percentage, reaching base over 50 percent of the time. Buddy Bell said he's the best defensive OF in the organization. He's on a fast track to the majors.
Craig G. (Fairfield, California)
Hey Bruce, can I get your public backing if I start a fund that would allow Ozzie to say whatever he wanted during his World Series commentary?
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
I thought he already does that. Remember there's a 7-second delay on TV as well. I don't know if Ozzie is enjoying doing TV. To me he doesn't look very comfortable doing it.
Ryan (Griffith, IN)
Who's the opening day CF for the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (1:45 PM)
Right now it appears that might be Fukudome again. The Cubs would be best off finding another CF. Defensively Fukudome is an above average RF and a way below-average CF. The team needs to improve its defense if it's going to win more games in 2010.
Adam (St. Louis)
Do you get a feel from the Cubs that they will try to make a major trade this off season, like Zambrano or Soriano? Or do you think that there will be some minor lateral roster moves and an attempt to try and win next year with virtually the same squad?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
The Cubs are locked into virtually the same team they had in 2009. But they can be vastly improved if they can get another strong middle infielder and another lead-off man. Orlando Hudson might solve both problems.
Imre (Missoula, MT)
What about Mike Cameron in CF for the Cubs? Do yo know his status with the Brewers? How much would he cost?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
Cameron's career is on the downside. His defense is still pretty good in CF, strikeouts make him a backburner type move if everythign else the Cubs try doesn't work out.
Damir (Highland Park)
To your best knowledge, who would win in a race: Paul Konerko or Eddy Curry?
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
It depends on what was at the finish line. If it's an applie pie, I'd bet my mortgage on Eddy.
Any chance the Cubs sign Rick Ankiel to play CF? Lefty bat with power and a solid centerfielder would make sense...
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
You're thinking in the right direction. His defense is pretty good. Durability is a question mark. It has been discussed.
Bruce, can we expect another mlb offsason like last year where middle/upper talent has a hard time finding a team?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
The free-agent market will def be affected this year by attendance last season. It was down 8 percent last year across the board. The owners and GMs might use that figure in order to show constraint in the market and run-away spending.
Bruce - I was excited to read in your chat last week that you've heard Rickett's will make the minor league system a priority. In your opinion, what needs to change to make it successful and how quickly can the Cubs start producing some young talent?
Bruce Levine (1:52 PM)
The only way the minor-league system can have a big impact on a major-market team like the Cubs is a commitment from ownership to accept losing for a short period of time. It's very difficult to implement young players into a lineup that's exepected to win the World Series every year, which of course has been the unrealistic plan for the Cubs oragnization for a long time. The plan should be that the team wnats to be competitive every year like the Twins and Braves. That's the only way you can implement building from within your organization. The Cubs do have some good young players to look forwar to over the next 2-3 years. The question is whether they'll be playing at Wrigley or used in trades to get other top players.
The excitement over Starlin Castro seems to have hidden the defensive struggles of Josh Vitters. Are the Cubs concerned about his ability to handle 3b and if so will they move him to 1st?
Bruce Levine (1:53 PM)
I watched him for the first time yesterday. He handled a couple balls well and he certainly has a strong enough arm to play that position. He'll def get at least one more year at 3B in the minors in 2010.
What are the chances Flowers sees some time behind the plate next year for the Sox?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
I think the Sox feel Flowers will be their backup next year. And he might get more at-bats if the Sox don't fill their DH position with a permanent player.
matt m (plainfield il)
Bruce, how do you see the white sox minor league prospect garrett mitchell doing in the majors in a few years?
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
The only question for Mitchell is whether he's going to make enough consistent contact. His skills and makeup are off the charts. He could be a big-time player for them in less than two years. Everyone will be watching his progress in the minors this year.
Hendry drafted Luis Montanez in 2000 (passing on Chase Utley), 4 Picks in 1st Round of 2002 (that all bombed with injuries), Ryan Harvey in 2003 (Passing on Nick Markakis), Mark Pawelek in 2005. Based on that track record, is there any doubt that Hendry cannot be the long term GM if Rickets wants to build through the draft and player development
Bruce Levine (1:57 PM)
Hendry is no longer the scouting director. Tim Wilkins is considered one of the top people in the game filling that position. Hendry has done a solid job of keeping 90 people in baseball operations during his watch without losing any to other organizations. He might have had a bad year in 2009, but no GM has done as well as Hendry with the Cubs in 40 years.
If the Rays are interested in Bradley, would Upton be a possible return for a package built around Bradley?
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
That's a nice dream. I've heard about it before. Upton's been a big disappointment with the Rays, but they're not ready to give up on him at this point.
jon g (tinley park il)
Bruce, i think the white sox starting rotation next year can be the best in the league, do you agree?
Bruce Levine (1:59 PM)
No doubt in my mind. You might have a scenario where Peavy and Buehrle are the 3 and 4 pitchers in the rotation if Danks and Floyd continue to step up their game. A very nice balance of veteran and young veteran pitchers. Peavy's health is the key to that scenario.
Follow up to your answer about the minor league system - how have the Red Sox been able to do it? Their major league team is expected to compete for the World Series every year yet their minor league system is stocked (if you listen to the 'experts').
Bruce Levine (2:00 PM)
They've had a bigger payroll for a longer period of time than the Cubs. The big-time free agents like Manny and Ortiz carried the mail for them when they won their World Series. The Red Sox have done a nice job of building with some of their young players and are considered one of the top if not the top organization in baseball.
Bruce, will Dayan Viciedo be ready to play 3rd base for the Sox this year? I'd love to him take over at 3rd, move Beckham to short, and try to get some good reliever/s in the penn for Ramirez.
Bruce Levine (2:02 PM)
There's not a consensuc as to whether willb e ready to play in the majors in 2010. He had a sore elbow here in Ariz. during the fall league and was shut down last week. Nothing long term to be concerned about according to Sox officials. His power bat is legit, but his position for the future is still a question mark.
Bruce Levine (2:03 PM)
Keep reading my blog from Ariz. this week. I'll be talkign to Jordan Danks tonight after his game in Scottsdale. Also I'll be keeping my eye on the Cubs organization meetings and their reaction to Tom Ricketts taking over. Hope to have a one-on-one with Lou Piniella later in the week.
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