Chat with Bruce Levine
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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 (1:01 PM)
Happy New Year. Baseball season is only 45 days away. We'll be greeting you from Mesa on Feb. 15.
matt (tinley park il)
Bruce, do you think the white sox are the favorite to win the al central?
Bruce Levine (1:02 PM)
You can never discount Minnesota. They've won five divisions in the past nine years. The one thing about the Twins is that they always develop their own young talent and the seamless transition of their players seems to equate into success at all levels. As usual, I didn't answer your question. I do like the White Sox's rotation on paper.
Rumors are flying that if Bay/Holliday sign with Red Sox the Cubs would make a push for Jacoby Ellsbury. Who would the Cubs have to give up to get him?
Bruce Levine (1:03 PM)
Who will lead off for the Red Sox? The last I looked Bay does not play CF and I don't think the Red Sox are going to trust 37-year-old Mike Cameron everyday. Nothing more important than a leadoff man to play centerfield who doesn't cost you a lot of money.
Rob (Southside Chicago)
Bruce is there any possibility of Thome returning to the Sox? If not please tell me there is a viable option out there as our left handed power bat (please not delgado's contract).
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
There are still teams like Tampa, the Mets and Rangers, even the Giants who need left-handed pop. I know the Giants and Mets do not have the luxury of using a DH but to me Thome still has a little something left. I wouldn't totally discount the White Sox's interest in him.
Paul (Longmont, CO)
Bruce, who do you see playing centerfield for the Cubs in 2010?
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
One of three guys right now: Byrd, Podsednik or Ankiel. All of them have flaws and all of them bring something different ot the table. Podsedniks brings speed to the top and a .300 hitter. Byrd better defensivelly in CF and 65 extra-base hits last year. And Ankiel who might have the biggest upside, that being the youngest in the group, the best defensively of the three and the ability to hit 25 home runs. Those are some of the things Hendry is going over right now.
Bruce, Any chance Hendry trades big Z?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
I think the Cubs would and have listened to offers for Zambrano. You always listen to other GM's ideas. However, $18 million and nine wins last season, it would take a GM with a lot of gumption to pull the trigger on a trade like that. The Cubs would definitely do it but remember Zambrano has the dreaded no-trade clause in his contract.
Is Freddy Garcia really the White Sox 5th starter? Will the Sox look to sign a steadier arm or have a competition internally?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
Freddy is signed for $1 million next season. If he wins 10 games and rookie Daniel Hudson wins another 5 asa starter, that would be outstanding production from the fifth spot. That's how the Sox are looking at it.
Alex (Lockport, IL)
I've heard rumors of the Cubs going after Kiko Calero. I would love this move as he has been underrated for a while. Is there any truth or chance the Cubs sign Calero?
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
There is truth that they have talked about him. I talked to one of their baseball people today. Their concern is injury. The production was there but they also think he's a possible time bomb as far as re-injuring himself.
Ben (Lincoln, NE)
Bruce, are we going to see a bit of a rotating door at DH this season for the White Sox?
Bruce Levine (1:12 PM)
It appears that's the plan. If you think ahead to some of Ozzie's wacky lineups, he loves to make changes. Just imagine him DHing Vizquel and leading him off, DHing Pierre and leading him off, DHing Pierzynski in a day game after catching a night game. These are the things they are looking forward to if they don't sign a big left-handed power bat.
When can we expect the Cubs to sign a CF? A week? A month?
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
Hendry only has x amount of dollars to spend. He's doing his best to negotiate two or three contracts at a time as well as looking at trades. He only has about $6 or $7 million to allocate toward his payroll so he needs to juggle. I'm sure he's just as impatient as you are to get this thing done. The important thing is to get it right.
Hey Bruce...if the White Sox are still looking to add a lefty bat w/ power for a DH which of the names that are being tossed around do you like the best? Hank Blalock, Aubrey Huff, Carlos Delgado, or Jim Thome?
Bruce Levine (1:15 PM)
I like Huff because he can play a position. He's not a great OF, he's not a great INF, but you're not stuck with him as just a DH. I like that flexibility.
What happens with Silva if he doesn't make the rotation? Can he be a bullpen guy?
Bruce Levine (1:16 PM)
He can be a bullpen guy, he can be a starter, he can spend the year on the DL, but if he's not productive, he won't be active. That you can count on.
Mike (Chicago, IL)
Any word on how Geo Soto is responding to the down year? Any reason to believe he'll show up in better shape and rebound?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
Soto was embarrassed by his season last year, as well he should have been. I expect a better player with a better work ethic next season.
Any chance the Sox looking at Jack Cust? I know he strikes out a lot but he's a power left handed bat and a little younger then Thome.
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
He's one of those Billy Beane type players: big power upside, big on-base percentage upside but a losing player. I haven't heard his name mentioned.
Mike (Chicago, IL)
Any chance the Cubs go after OHudson or another 2B if they can get them on a reasonable short term deal?
Bruce Levine (1:21 PM)
According to my people, Hudson is a below-average on-base percentage guy who doesn't have a lot of speed. Just check September out: he lost his starting job to Ronnie Belliard. Hudson is not on their list. They continue to have talks with the Mets about Luis Castillo. So far the Mets are unrealistic about eating any of the $12 million owed for a player they don't want.
is andruw jones going to be heading into spring training in shape or the guy we have known the last few years?
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
I'm not quite sure what incentive Jones has to regain his former star status. Last year in Texas he did well listening to instruction the first two months of the season. After that he went back to his old ways of swinging and missing at everything. Maybe Ozzie and Joey Cora can get through to this guy. No one else has lately.
Who will be the Cubs 5th starter for 2010? Before and after Lilly comes back.
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
Don't be surprised if it's Jose Contreras. The Cubs have talked to his agent and he may be a possible part-time substitute for Lilly to begin the season.
D.Weiss (Oak Park)
Is there any chance of the Sox signing a power bat such as Vlad?
Bruce Levine (1:25 PM)
I sure hope not. His better days are certainly behind him. He's also right-handed which is not really what they need at this point. I'm not saying they won't settle for him but he doesn't appear to be the answer. His defense is awful so he'd have to stay in the DH role.
Matt (Vienna, VA)
Are the Sox convinced that Rios can handle center? Is he trade bait at all?
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
He's a very good defensive OF. Where his offense went is a mystery to me and the Sox. Do you think someone would take him and his $60 million contract after the year he had last year. I guess the answer is yes because the White Sox did.
Tony S (Orlando, FL)
So the Cubs weren't able to sign Matt Capps in case Carlos Marmol struggles... Who is Plan B?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
Calero is a guy they have looked at. Contreras is considered a part-time bullpen pitcher as well. Hendry has talked to two or three teams about trades. Being as cagey as he is, I haven't been able to identify who those teams are right now. The Cubs are not interested in Dotel.
will the Sox sign or trade for another lefty to compliment Thornton? if so who do you think they go after
Bruce Levine (1:30 PM)
Right now they think Williams is a good enough lefty to stick with but they will look at the rest of the free agents as we get closer to spring training. Kenny is not afraid to add any time of the year.
Bruce, is Fontenot considered the starter at 2B next year or do you see someone else coming in?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
I would hope there is somebody else. Fontenot proved he is not an everyday player last season. He did a nice job in spot duty in 2008. Baker will get some playing time there but his main job is backing up second and third. He also is going to play some OF this season.
Orion (Blacksburg, VA)
Which Chicago team will have a better year next year, the White Sox or the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
If baseball was starting on Dec. 29 I'd have to go with the Sox. Their rotation is set, they answered their need of a leadoff man with speed. The only question mark is if Putz comes back abd solidifies the pen. The Cubs have too many questions at this point. Ask me again in a month.
What's the scoop on Carlos Delgado? Do the White Sox have any interest? He still has some pop to the bat and can get on base.
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
I have not been able to determine if they are interest. He's big, slow and coming off an injury-plagued season. Doesn't seem to fit the Sox's description for a DH this season.
Blake (Missoula, MT)
Hi Bruce, how do you think Fukudome has progressed as a Cub and how do you think he will perform next season?
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
What you see is what you get: .260 average, 12 homers, 55 RBIs, 110 strikeouts, below average ibn CF, above-average in RF. If they can keep him in RF he might be a more productive player for them next season.
Do the Cubs think Starlin Castro could play in the majors this year? Or will he play in the minors all year to develop more?
Bruce Levine (1:37 PM)
Their plan is to bring him along in a quick fashion maybe starting out in Class AA and moving quicly to Class AAA and ascending to the big leagues by June if he has success at those levels. The main problem is if you have to move Theriot to 2B at that point. If you're going to move him you should do that in spring training and come up with another veteran SS. A guy like Orlando Cabrera would fit.
Is it fair to say the White Sox have one of the top rotations in the MLB right now with Burhele, Peavy, Danks, Floyd, and a Freddy Garcia that returned to his status which he was when the sox won the world series?
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
It might be in the top five. Take a look at Boston and the Yankees. And don't forget the Giants. There are some real good ones, including Atlanta as well. So let's wait and see. Remember Peavy is coming off an injured season.
Mr. Cox (Greenville, NC)
Was the Cubs-Padres-Red Sox deal ever alive? I think Elsbury and Bucholz would look great in blue pinstripes.
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
That hasn't been discussed even though a lot of the names make sense. San Diego hasn't even decided yet if they are going to trade Gonzalez. He's a local product who is really their only draw.
Paul (Longmont, CO)
Why haven't the Cubs re-signed CF Reed Johnson?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
He has had contiuous back problems. There's no reason to think those won't continue. The Cubs are looking at Ryan Spilborghs as a poissble replacement via trade. There's really no room in the OF for Spilborghs who is a good fourth OF.
Sully (North Carolina)
How do you think Juan Pierre will do with leading off in the AL, where he has never played before?
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
It's a tougher league but I'm not sure it's a better pitching league, it's just a better offensive league. He'll make the same contact. He just needs a little luck to see some of his ground balls get through the infield.
Is Andrew Cashner in the Cubs' plans this year? Next year? Longer in the future? Trade bait?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
He only threw 120 innings in the minors last yerar, his first season in the minors. They are still bringing him along and are not sure if he will be a starter or closer. For now they are going to stretch him out and see if he can be a top starter. He needs at least another year in the minors.
Doug #2 (Chicago)
When should we expect a Naples/Mesa decision? Your guess on which it will be?
Bruce Levine (1:45 PM)
January sometime. I couldn't pin down my Cubs source on that one last week. I'm starting to hear more about Arizona fulfilling the Cubs's needs. That would be good news to generations of Cubs fans who have migrated to the southwest to follow their team.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge Ryne Sandberg fan, but why are the Cubs considering him as their Manager next season when he's had a losing record in both Single A and Double A?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
He might have had a losing record at Double A last year but his team missed by one game of winning the Southern League title. a minor league manager';s record is not always indicative of what type of manager he is. It's more a case of what kind of talent the organization has for him . The consensus is he's done a very good job of understanding and learning the manager trade over the past three years. Will he be a great manager? Tell me what players he's going to have and I'll answer that for you.
Any chance of Jordan Danks or Tyler Flowers getting called up at some point this year?
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
It's going to be tough for Danks to make it now after the Sox have added three OFs this season if you inlcude Kotsay. Kenny Williams loves Danks and feels he's a future starting OF. Flowers probably would benefit from another year catching in the minors.
Matt (Oswego, IL)
Any chance we will see the Cubs' John Vitters in the majors this year?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
None unless he's a September call-up. They are not even sure if he's the third baseman of the future. They do know that he will hit but it might be at first base. A productive year in the minors would be the best bet for him.
I have heard rumors of the Sox being one of the front runners for Cuban defect Yuniesky Maya. What is the latest on that?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
Don't know. I'll check into it for you. I know they are not into Chapman derby.
Is Bobby Jenks going to be with the White Sox in 2010 or will they trade him?
Bruce Levine (1:51 PM)
I think they feel it's too risky to trade him but they might consider it after they see Putz throw in spring training. Right now the back of the bullpen looks strong if Putz returns to his previous level.
Any chance that the Cubs are still taking with the Yankees about aquiring Brett Gardner?
Bruce Levine (1:53 PM)
Gardner is not going anywhere. The Yankees have already traded one of their top OFs in the Granderson deal. Gardner will backup the OF and might even start.
Any chance we'll see the Cubs in the playoffs this year?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
They better. This is the last year for some of their main vets: Lee, Lilly, and Ramirez can all be free agents after 2010. That window of opportunity getting close to closing on them.
Have you heard anything on how Soriano's knee is feeling? I think it was hurting him all year last year and that was part of his down season. Will he finally be healthy this year?
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
I believe it was a combination of the knee and a loss of confidence. He never hit for that lousy of an average in the past. At 34, he could also use about 20 games off during the season. If there is one area that Piniella has to improve it's his use of his bench and resting vets.
Hey Bruce, As you said, the Cubs still have a lot of questions marks going into the season still, what would you say their biggest is? 2nd Base, Center, Bullpen or other?
Bruce Levine (1:57 PM)
The starting rotation. If you can tell me what they are going to get out of Lilly after shoulder surgery I would feel better. Also if Zambrano is going to win more than nine games. Pitching, pitching, more pitching.
Who do you expect to be the back up catcher for the Sox next season?
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
I'm not sure it's going to be Flowers. He probably needs more time in the minors but then again, they might decide to bring him along. I don't see any good that would come out of that. There's still a couple vets left out there. Benji Molina is one but I don't know if he's ready to take a backup role.
jason tito (bridgeport)
Any news on the three team trade that sends Paul Konerko to the Angels?
Bruce Levine (1:59 PM)
Gimme a few more names and I'll respond. I haven't heard Konerko's name for awhile. He has a no-trade and the feeling is he would only accept a trade to the Angels or dodgers.
Why did the Cubs keep Crane Kenney and why did Ricketts buy the team if he doesn't want to spend $ on players?
Bruce Levine (2:03 PM)
Crane Kenney's deal was hammered out with all the prospective buyers. He was also smart enough to have a business plan in place for all the parties interested in the Cubs that showed a way to add millions of dollars of revenue, something you would want to do when you're spening $900 million on a team. Ricketts spent $900 million for this team. Being a business man, he would like the Cubs to win and he'd also like to make money. He's got a $24 million note to pay off every year on the $450 million he borrowed and it will probably take him 20 years to get his money back on the sale. Let's just hope he gives Hendry the $7 or $8 million he needs to solidfy his team for 2010. I know he wants to improve Wrigley and that's a really good idea but most cubs fans truly only care about what's happening between the white lines.
Bruce Levine (2:03 PM)
Happy New Year to all. See you in 2010. Vinny Del Negro is still the coach of the Bulls.
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