Talk baseball with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Baseball may be done in Chicago for this season, but the offseason is just getting started.
ESPNChicago.com's baseball beat reporter will be here to take your questions about the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
Send your questions now and join the chat Tuesday at Noon CT/1:00 p.m. ET!
Bruce Levine (1:02 PM)
Welcome to my Tuesday chat room. A correction from last week's session, the Cubs' up-and-coming young shortstop is Starlin Castro, not Winston Castro, as I stated. Sorry for the Harry Caray-ism. The Ricketts family takes over the Cubs today, a very positive move for the North Siders. You'll hear from Tom Ricketts on Friday, as he'll have a coming-out party at Wrigley Field. It appears the Cubs' payroll will not increase past $140M in 2010. With contracts escalating that are still on the books, the only avenue for Jim Hendry to improve the team is via the trade routs. Let's go.
How committed is Ricketts to building the farm system?
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
According to the people I talk to, Ricketts will tell his baseball people at the Cubs organization meetings next Wednesday that the minor-league system is his No. 1 priority.
Tony (Decatur, IL)
Bruce, Cards fan who enjoys your insight! Do you see the Cubs getting DeRosa back? Loved him with the Birds even though he was hurt and not his usual self. Is it all based on Holliday? Thanks.
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
It's very unlikely Holliday will be back with the Cardinals. His price tag is going to be too high. And being the goat of the division series will probably help separate him from the Cardinals. DeRosa might not have an outstanding free-agent market in front of him. He's due for wrist surgery in the offseason. A return to the Cards or Cubs is a possibility, but longer than a one-year deal with an option is probably not going to happen.
Tony (Decatur, IL)
If the Cubs or White Sox get Chone Figgins, where does he play?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
If the Sox get him, he's most likely to play left field with Quentin in right and Rios in center. Those two positions seem to be locked in. Ozzie's infield is set. For the Cubs, second base would be the obvious spot. But Figgins' versatitility might find him playing multiple positions if the Cubs sign him.
Does Vlad make sense for the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
No, he does not. Guerrero is a below-average outfielder now, and the Cubs have plenty of those. He's an AL player and a DH most of the time.
Steve (Glendale Heights)
2010 Chicago Cubs Wish List 1) I think the Cubs need to add an ace pitcher to anchor staff (Halladay anyone?). Zambrano isn't an ace...even though he's paid like one. 2) They also need a right fielder...assuming that Bradley has played his last game as a Cub. Carl Crawford would be a nice fit. 3) Do we have enough faith in a Baker/Fontenot platoon? Cubs might need to solidify this position as well.
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
Carl Crawford will not be available and depending on what new owner Tom Ricketts tells Jim Hendry next week, trades may be the only vehicle for Hendry to bring new players in.
Billy (Palatine, IL)
Good stuff Bruce each and every week. Do you think Ricketts will disclose their payroll budget for 2010 at Fridays news conference?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
I doubt he'll expose it, but my sources tell me it's going to be the same $140M they had in 2009.
There has been a lot of news on Shortstop Prospect Starlin Castro, how good is this guy?
Bruce Levine (1:11 PM)
I talked to three scouts this week about him, and I plan to look at him myself next week in the Arizona Fall League. The consensus is he's a solid defensive shortstop, with an outstanding arm and good range. The only question is his hitting, which seems to be pretty decent right now. One more year in the minors is essential for his ascension into the big leagues.
Mike (Rochester NY)
Does the sale of the Cubs mean they are going to spend more or less money on Free Agents this winter? Also, do you think this guy and his family are good or bad for the Cubs organization?
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
A face on the organization is a good thing, because the bs stops right there. Ricketts is going to want to be a hands-on owner, who has a good baseball organization under him. And a solid business plan to help him chop down some of his $450M debt.
Mike (Darien, IL)
i think there is no chance that Milton Bradley returns, but with the signing of rudy Jaramillo, is there a chance??
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
Let's put it this way, Jim Hendry has been working on playing Bradley since the last quarter of the season. Tampa is still a very viable team, but keep your eye on Toronto, which has money problems and is dying to move outfielder Vernon Wells.
Bob (Barrington, IL)
Fontenot had a hugely disappointing season this year...he looked completely overmatched at the plate and I am not going to begin speaking about the Aaron Miles disaster. What are the chances that prospects like Darwin Barney, Tony Thomas, or even Ryan Flagherty, who has shown legit power in the minors although at Peoria, get a chance next year?
Bruce Levine (1:16 PM)
I don't see any minor-leaguer who is a viable second base candidate next season. Jeff Baker will be a nice backup at that position, but the Cubs need a second baseman like Iwamura of Tampa, who may or may not become a free agent depend if the Rays pick up his option.
What kind of affect can Jamarillo (sp?) truly have on Soriano? Seems like Sori would be a very difficult hitter to change.
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
Jaramillo said at his news conference last week that he already has identified a subtle move Soriano is making with his lead foot. If anybody can fix him, it's Rudy.
Is Bradley definitely gone? Lot of money for a new owner to eat...
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
If you look throughout baseball, there's plenty of bad contracts. Milton Bradley's isn't the only one, and Jim Hendry is counting on being able to move his contract for another bad contract, NBA style - lateral move.
Dan (Roselle, IL)
Who do you think is the top free agent the White Sox should pursue this offseason? What is their biggest weakness?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
The Sox' biggest weakness is a left-handed power bat. A player like Hank Blaylock of the Texas Rangers would be a very viable guy to look at as a part-time first baseman/DH.
Are the Cubs interested in moving Soriano and/or Zambrano before next season, and, if so, what are the chances they'd be able to do so?
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
I would say both players have already been talked about by other teams. You're not going to give Z away, unless you already have obtained another top starting pitcher. Believe it or not, Roy Halladay's name continues to be put out there by the Jays due to his huge contract and the fact he'll be a free agent after the 2010 season.
Will the Cubs get a new GM to go with the new ownership? Hendry has been great at times, but bringing in a guy like Milton Bradley while losing Kerry Wood and Derosa was just awful. I'm not sure the fans will continue to support a guy who takes a great team and reduces them to non contenders.
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
If it was a great team at one time, then you have to say Hendry was the one who built it. There's no question he had a bad year last year. But a lot of it had to do with making lateral moves because he was locked into his payroll. Hendry's under contract for 3 more years.
Jaramillo-- Good or bad decision? And does this change what the Cubs do with Bradley?
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
Good decision, Jaramillo is a nice combination of both physical and mental coach. He's also a guy who won't take any junk from any of the players. The Cubs need a couple more aggressive coaches to add to an already good staff.
David C (Tucson)
What do you expect the cubs to address first? Second base or finding that middle of the order bat?
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
Might be the same answer. If they're able to somehow clear some payroll and find some money to sign Figgins.
ryan (Normal, IL)
Who is the best candidate to assume the DH role for the White Sox this upcoming season?
Bruce Levine (1:25 PM)
That's a good question, because we don't know whether they're going to re-sign Podsednik. If they re-sign him, he can be a part-time DH while the Sox use a better defender in the outfield. Also keep in mind Quentin's foot injury is a concern and he might need that spot to DH occassionally in order to give it some rest. Konerko is another year older, and that position would suit him 30-40 times per season.
Ryan (Long Grove, IL)
Do you think Andrew Cashner will remain a starter in the minors when his success in college was being a closer? How legit is Chris Huseby as a closer? I know he got a pretty good signing bonus as a 11th round draft pick?
Bruce Levine (1:26 PM)
I really can't tell you much about Huseby, but Cashner is on a fast track. He could be up with the Cubs by the end of next season.
Now that the sale is finally complete --I think--- will the Ricketts do anything to Wrigley (besides stock it with a winning team--I pray) in the next 3 to 5 years? Any upgrades or anything? Locker Rooms--Restrooms--Hall of Fame???
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
Yes, there's a plan in place to have an upgrade of the entire ballpark, including the new building next to the field. This would all coincide with the 100-year anniversay of Wrigley Field in 2014.
What is Rickets opinion of Milton Bradley?
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
No idea at this point. Will fill you in via my blog and at next Tuesday's chat session after we talk to him Friday and I have one-on-one time with him next week in Arizona.
Edgar Palomino (Alma)
I have to ask. What do you think will be the difference between the new owner and the Tribune Co. in terms of ownership of the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
I think an individual owner will be more visible for the fan base to identify with, rather than a big corporation who has nothing but suits to look at.
Matt (Chicago, IL)
Bruce, Do you see any interest in the Cuban defector Chapman from the Cubs? Is this something they would have to get creative with (trading some bigger contracts away) to do?
Bruce Levine (1:30 PM)
The Cubs have zero money to spend on a good-looking young pitcher who should get a multi-million dollar contract. Bet on the Red Sox or the Yankees, who have the dollars, and the White Sox as an outside team because of their connections with the Cuban players.
JJ (Huntington Beach)
What is the family's #1 priority for the upcoming season?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
To make the fan base feel like there's a direction where the team will go, both in the near and long range.
Focusing on the minor league system sounds good. Who do the Cubs have now in their system that seems to have a bright future in the majors?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
The aforementioned Cashner and Castro, the SS, are big-leaguers of the future. Third baseman Josh Vitters is in the Ariz. Fall League and should play at Double A in 2010.
Mike (Roselle, IL)
Bruce, Love your work, when will Starlin Castro make it to the big leagues? Would Theriot then move to second or vice cersa?
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
It's a good thought on your part. It appears it's too early for Castro to be the Cubs' everyday shortstop.
Mike (Tinley Park)
What are the chances of the Cubs going after John Lackey??
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
Probalby zero, unless they move one of their own starting pitchers, like Zambrano. That would be a big risk with on guarantee of getting a free agent pitcher back.
CD (Joliet, IL)
Do you honestly see a market developing for Milton Bradley, or will he most likely stay in Chicago?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
It's got to be 90 percent that he gets traded. But the Ricketts family and Hendry are not in the mode of just giving him away and paying most of his salary. That's not good business.
SteveFitz (Cicero, IL)
Bruuuuuuuuce! What are your thoughts on D Lee? Do the Cubs see him long term or should I say, 3-4 year extension after 2010 at age 36 in 2011? Any chance the Cubs use Lee to get prospects to trade for Adrian Gonzalez this offseason?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
Lee has a complete no-trade in his contract. The affable first baseman would love to stay with the Cubs to finish his career. Last November the Cubs asked him if he wanted to be traded to a Calif. team, due to the fact his daughter was going through some medical problems for a couple of years. He told them he wanted to stay with the Cubs. A wise move probably would be to offer him a year extension and an option for 2012, but it's not my team and it's not my money.
Brad (Washington, DC (originally Chicago))
Bruce, at what point will the White Sox wake up and realize that they need a 5th starter?
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
It's a fair question, considering not having a fourth and fifth starter in 2009 pretty much cost them a chance at the playoffs. Keep your eye on this kid Hudson, who made a strong impression on them in Sept. after ascending to the bigs all way the way from Single A in one season. Adding a vet like John Smoltz may not be a bad idea if the price is right.
How confident are you in the ability of Jim Hendry to improve the team without having tremendous payroll flexibility? His successful trades(Lee/Ramirez) involved increasing payroll, so has he proven he build a team without a blank checkbook?
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
If you remember, the Cubs were anywhere from 10-15 in payroll under president Andy MacPhail. The Cubs' payroll shold always be in the top five. If you want to be like the Red Sox or Yankees and go to the playoffs every year, you better be prepared to spend some money and make some mistakes. Theo Epstein blew a lot of money on SS Julio Luogo and other bust-outs just like all the GMs in baseball do.
Bruce, I understand Orlando Hudson will be available again, and I said last year the Cubs should go after him esp now with the way Fontenot played, but Baker stepped in nicely, however I don't see him much more than a singles hitter...Hudson brings more to the table...the Cubs should go after him this year at least!
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
Hudson will be a free agent again, but lost his job at the end of the season to Ronnie Belliard after he was picked up from Washington. Hudson has had some problems staying on the field, but a one-year gamble on a high-enery guy like Hudson may not be a bad idea.
ladisa (san diego)
The two biggest holes on offense were second base and right field. The cubs need a speedy left-handed lead off batter, and an outfielder with some left-handed pop. Cubs need to sign Figgins, and what are the chances of trading for Adam Dunn. This would make the lineup unstopable.
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
Dunn brings you a lot of upside in power, RBIs and OBP. The downside is he's one of the slowest runners in the game, an awful defensive player and a guy who strikes out 140 times a year. Big, slow guys who strike out may not be what you want in the future at Clark/Addison.
Bruce!!I think A.Blanco is an exceptional defender, hands down better than Theriot. Any chance Blanco starts at SS with Theriot moved to 2b???
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
Piniella doesn't think he can hit, which gives Blanco only a back-up role for his future with the Cubs.
Hey Bruce is there any chance that we haven't seen the last of Milton Bradley following the hiring of Rudy Jaramillo?
Bruce Levine (1:45 PM)
Yeah there's a chance. They're not going to eat all of his contract. Jaramillo at the very worst would be a confidence-builder for Bradley. But Tom Ricketts is not going to want to start his new campaign with an albatross like Bradley hanging over his shoulder.
Who are the favorites to get Chone Figgins? It would appear you think Figgins is not coming to the Cubs, but wouldn't he be a perfect fit? (2nd Baseman, Leadoff, speed, versatility)Shouldn't he be the Cub's #1 priority?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
Figgins will be a popular free agent with upwards of 10 teams to choose from. But at age 32, his speed is goign to be difficult to project. Yes he did steal 42 bases, but he was thrown out a major-league high 17 times.
I read one article recently that made it sound as though Hendry might have multiple deals in the works. Do you think that he will drastically rework this team, or will we see roughly the same starting lineup in 2010 (minus Bradley obviously)?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
Hendry is doing his best right now to try to reshape the team for the future. If he had viable trades for Soriano or Zambrano, he would listen to anybody, but keep in mind both players have complete no-trade clauses. Soriano may at some point realize that he'd be better off in the AL with the option of a DH in order to be more productive.
ladisa (san diego)
What are the chances of trading Bradley to the Nationals for Adam Dunn? Dunn can be the left handed power bat between Lee and Ramirez that Lou is looking for.
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
It's hard to imagine how he would fit in with Washington, a team that's 2 or 3 years from competing. Bradley needs to go to a team right now where he can play the outfield, DH and not be the center of attention.
Scott (St. Louis)
Bruce, Cubs fan in enemy territory. What are the chances that the team thinks about moving Theriot to 2B and try to find a shortstop via trade, rather than just focusing on 2B?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
That would be an ideal situation for the Cubs, who were lousy on defense last year. Give Theriot credit, as the season progressed, his defense got better, thanks to a lot of hard work by coaches Alan Trammell and Ivan DeJesus. A free agent like Orlando Cabrera might be a nice quick fix until young Castro is ready to play in the majors.
Bruce, if the Sox don't re-sign Pods...can you see the Cubs going after him as a leadoff type of hitter, with speed that they so desperately need?
Bruce Levine (1:51 PM)
They looked at him a couple of years ago, when he was going through some injury battles. I know Hendry always has liked him and that might be an option, although that hardly helps them answer any questions about improving their outfield defense.
Considering he failed last offseason, why should Cubs fans beleive that Hendry will be able to improve the team while once again being locked into payroll?(Which he created)
Bruce Levine (1:52 PM)
It's a fair question. But he's also the guy who brought you back to back Division champs in '07 and '08, and he's given you Cubs teams with over .500 winning percentages in 5 of his 7 years, something no GM wiht the Cubs has done in 40 years. Give the guy a mulligan for '09. If it doesnt' work out in '10, he'll most liely be gone anyway.
Eric (San Diego)
Ricketts seems like a tough negotiator. Right now he is playing the Florida card for spring training. Do you think it's just a ploy to get more out of Mesa?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
Yes it is a ploy. Ricketts wants and deserves the finest spring training facility that Ariz. has to offer. The Cubs are the No. 1 draw there, and it would be devastating to Ariz. if they lost the Cubs to Florida. Don't look for the Cubs to move there, it's just a good business plan.
What are the Sox going to do about a leadoff hitter for next year, Pods coming back????
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
Chris Getz is an interesting player to look at. The Sox tried him early in 2009, and although he wasn't quite up to it, he's the type of player with 30-40 stolen-base ability. That could work.
Bruce, why are the Cubs allowed to scalp their own tickets above face value by company owned ticket brokers throughout Wrigleyville?
Bruce Levine (1:56 PM)
It's a practice that's going on throughout baseball these days. Look for the Cubs to try to find more creative ways to gain revenue through different ticket ventures.
Alex (Champaign, IL)
Is there any talk in the Cubs Organization of what to do with the manager position after the upcoming season? Will LaRussa be available again after signing on with the Cards again? Sandberg?
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
Depending how Mr. Ricketts and Jim Hendry look at Ryne Sandberg after his fourth season as a Cubs minor-league manager, the team will have nice choices with future Hall of Fame managers LaRussa and Bobby Cox both being free agents after 2010. Don't bet on Piniella leaving so fast. The new owner might enjoy the company of the veteran manager.
JR (Charleston, IL)
Bruce, with Fukudome falling off towards the end of the last two season, do you think Jaramillo is going to be able to help him stay strong all season?
Bruce Levine (1:59 PM)
Fukudome made some nice improvements by using one of his former batting instructors when his mechanics fell apart this season. The problem for Japanese players is the 162-game schedule. There are only a few players like Ichiro and Hideki Matsui who proved they can stay strong throughout an entire major-league season.
Bruce, what percentages would you put on the Cubs and Sox in terms of Chicago fanbases?
Bruce Levine (2:00 PM)
I would say 60-40 Cubs fans, with the White Sox 40 percent never wavering.
Bruuuuuuuuuuuce! What is Sean Marshall's role next year going to be?
Bruce Levine (2:01 PM)
It's time that Sean Marshall gets a chance to prove himself as a starter, either with the Cubs or another team. Everyone alway is looking for left-handed pitching, especially a versatile pitcher like Marshall, whose name has come up a lot of times in trade talks over the past couple of years. If the Cubs are going to make any big deals, Marshall may be included.
Monty (Ukr Village)
Any Chance that we trade Big Z and Bradley to the Jays for Wells and Halladay (I'm sure there would be many other parts involved)
Bruce Levine (2:03 PM)
It sounds like you're a future GM. I wouldn't say you've got the deal exactly right, but the Cubs have talked to Toronto about different scenarios that may include players like Vernon Wells and Bradley.
Bruce Levine (2:04 PM)
Keep looking for my updates about the Ricketts family purchase over the next 7-10 days. And White Sox fans, I'll be looking at a lot of your young stars of the future in the Phoenix area next week as I check out the Arizona Fall League. I'll be chatting live from Ariz. next Tuesday. Thanks for your participation today.