Chat with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox reporter Bruce Levine stops by Tuesday to chat.
Levine has covered sports in Chicago for over 28 years and hosts "Talkin' Baseball," heard Saturday mornings on ESPN 1000.
Send your questions now and join the chat Tuesday at noon CT/1 p.m. ET!
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
With the Cubs today in beautiful downtown Scottsdale, getting to the more important time of spring training, where pitchers get stretched out. Follow me at twitter.com/espnbrucelevine for all the latest.
Is Marmol in the long term plans or is he a July trade target?
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
I think every Cub on the roster is eligible to be traded in July except Dempster and Soriano. If you haven't noticed the Cubs are in full rebuilding mode. That means they'll even trade their young players for other teams' young players. Marmol is no different.
Why wont the cubs give Junior Lake a shot at winning the 2nd base job?
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
Junior Lake's time is not now. His time is maybe a year from this spring. I would prefer him to play 3rd base rather than second, as it looks like he will hit for power.
David Jones (Miami)
If you was to make your best guess will Jeff Samardriza wins one of the two rotations spots left if not who do you see winning those spots
Bruce Levine (1:08 PM)
I guess it's two rotation spots, but it could be three. The assumption is that Maholm has one guaranteed. But I really like Samardzija's chances. He's far ahead of any starter in camp. This morning he said he could already throw 80-90 pitches if he needed to.
Bruce, do you see Theo/Jed making a serious play for Hamels, Cain, or Greinke if they all hit the market next winter. Jed mentioned pitching and defense will be what the Cubs build around.
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
I don't see them paying for a high-priced free agent until they feel they are close to winning it all. Hamels is going to get five years and between $85-$100 million, which is a lot of money to invest unless you are a real contender.
Matt D (Chicago)
It sounds like Brett Jackson has really been impressing in camp. Any chatter on a Byrd trade to make room for Jackson to break camp this spring?
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
There's been a lot of teams interested in Byrd. But the Cubs have to be careful not to start Jackson's major league clock too soon. Unless they're getting back an outfielder for Byrd, they really need outfielders because outside of Jackson they don't have a lot of prime prospects in the outfield.
Blue Jays want Floyd, does this mean Kenny will get a top prospect this time?
Bruce Levine (1:12 PM)
The White Sox are pretty much in the same mode as the Cub. They will talk about any player as long as they can get good young talent in return. So Floyd is definitely tradeable. 2012 might be the year you avoid betting on the Cubs and White Sox when you're in Las Vegas.
Sox hitting has been lacking run production and certain pitchers have been getting lit up. Please tell me our veteran pitchers have simply been working on stuff and that the hitters are at least taking good swings.
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
I can tell you that Robin Ventura believes that to be true -- he told me that yesterday. In the case of Peavy it was just a case of lack of fastball command. The White Sox aren't nervous at this point, and Dunn, Rios and Beckham have been swinging the bat OK.
Bobby (Oak Lawn IL)
Whats the deal with former first round pick Hayden Simpson? Is he still part of the future?
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
Very doubtful at this point. He's had a myriad of illnesses and injuries and the talent level just might not be there.
John(NJ) [via mobile]
If adam dunn gets back to hitting 35 dingers and 100 rbi's AND rios can be more like his old self, does this team have a shot at a WC berth?
Bruce Levine (1:15 PM)
No, it's always more about pitching. The run production would be nice, but you'd have to tell me that you'd have two 15-game winners and two 13-game winners before we can talk about the playoffs. The bullpen is a big question as well.
Hula (Gold Coast)
Bruce, I believe the Cubs can hang around the Central if their starting rotation depth and bullpen are solid (not inconceiveable). The biggest question mark is the offense. It seems like Sveum is going to preach small ball (just look at the bunt contest), but do the Cubs have the right players for small ball?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
I'm not sure the Cubs have the right players for three-run homers or small ball. Look at the middle of the order: Soriano, LaHair, Stewart...good players but not going to scare any rotations out there. I think run production is going to be the big question for the Cubs this year.
Why does everybody keep saying the Sox are in rebulding mode? They only got rid of Buerhle and Carlos!
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
The reason is that they are already looking past Jake Peavy's contract, which will be bought out after this season. On top of that, the White Sox are making a commitment to signing amateur players and Latin players for the first time in over a decade. That's why it's a different way I'm perceiving the Sox now.
Paul (Longmont, CO)
Randy Wells did well in a relief appearance against the White Sox, Travis Wood struggled. Is Wells a favorite for the rotation?
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
Not at this point. Sveum said he'll be making his decisions on the rotation probably toward the last week of spring training. In the meantime, all of the candidates are getting their innings built up. Check with me in about a week -- we'll have a better idea about who the rotation guys will be.
Bruce - any chance Soler doesn't establish residency before July?
Bruce Levine (1:21 PM)
It doesn't appear that way. It appears he'll be OK with residency. But MLB is being extremely cautious with Cuban players, making sure the documentation is legit.
What have you noticed to be the biggest change of offensive philosphy between Ventura and Ozzie?
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
I don't know if there is that big of change between them, it's more of Jeff Manto and Greg Walker. That may be as simple as the hitters hearing a new voice. Walker was a big advocate of both Manto and AAA hitting coach Tim Laker, so I don't think the philosophies will be all that different. Just a new teacher and new voice.
Jeremy B. (Denver, CO)
What's a realistic finish for the Cubs in the central?
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
I'd say if they finish third and win 81 games, that would be a very good year for this team.
I heard Soriano shortened his leg kick..Is his spring power a product of pitchers locating their fastball? I am worried as soon as they stretch out and start throwing the breaking stuff we will see a return to form.
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
That's good analysis on your part. The truth is that even the good pitchers are not throwing their whole arsenal of pitches at this point. As example, Matt Garza just threw fastball and change-ups in his last start. The thing that most established pitchers look to do is build arm strength and fastball command the first 2-3 weeks of spring training. The last couple weeks they start getting in pitching mode.
Brian in Virginia Beach [via mobile]
Have the Cubs given up on Josh Vitters?
Bruce Levine (1:26 PM)
No, they haven't given up on him, but even the new group has noticed they he needs more maturity. He was late to the first meeting between the mangers, coaches and players, and that was a red flag for the new management. At 22 he's still a prospect, and most scouts think he's going to hit, but he's going to have to show he will work harder on his defense in order to move up.
JR Guzman (Plainfield)
Bruuuuuuuuce! In all honesty, I don't think the Cubs will be a competitive team until 3-4 years from now under this new Leadership. Any insight you can provide that may still keep me motivated through this change? Trying to stay patient and positive, but as a Cubs fan.......this is wearing very thin.
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
I think the one disturbing factor is that the ticket price may not be worth the product at this point. However, it's refreshing to know that ownership and management are committed to building a team from within. And as a Cub fan you should have patience. It's a better method than trying to sign 10 free agents every year. The key to their success will be if they are good talent evaluators.
Any idea on the trade market/value for Byrd? A few teams out there could use an established CF, most notable the Nationals.
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
You're probably going to get a good, young prospect in return, but holding on to your chips a little longer may allow you to get better talent back when the inevitable injuries occur on other teams. Now the problem with that is, injuries may occur with the players you want to trade too. That's the risk you take for waiting.
The way Campana is struggling, do you see Mather breaking camp with the team?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
Here's the deal: they have options left on Campana. In the case of Mather, they do as well, however, he may have in his contract a clause stating that if he is not in the major leagues by May or June he can ask for his release. At this point the smart money is on Mather making the team as the 5th outfielder, and he can also play 1st and 3rd.
What level minor leaguer do you see being the PTBNL that is yet to go to the Red Sox. And same question for what we owe the Padres for Jed.
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
Nothing of significance I'm told. Most likely Class A players.
Is there any chance that La Russa comes out of retirement next year, and Sox hire him to Manage?
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
I don't think so. I think there is always a chance LaRussa comes out of retirement, but I don't think it would be with the White Sox. Not sure he has the patience for 2-3 year rebuilding job.
This is the first time in years the White Sox have not had Buerhle as their opening day starter. Who do you think deserves the spot?
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
Unless I'm seeing things that don't exist, John Danks will be the opening day starter. At this point Peavy may be third after Gavin Floyd. Then Humber and Sale.
Todd (Oak Park)
What's the projection for Jae-Hoon Ha?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
Some call him the best defensive outfielder in the organization. Maybe a move up to AAA this year.
Hi Bruce- I know it's a small sample size, but I've watched Barney at the plate this spring and nothing has changed from last year. When will this guy decide to take a walk and actually add some type value to the team offensively? We don't need another light hitting middle infielder who doesn't hit home runs and has a .320 obp. Is this something Rudy, Dale, someone is taking with him and others about?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
It's difficult to change a player's style once he gets to the majors. Jaramillo did it with DeWitt last spring and it took DeWitt almost four months to absorb all of Rudy's philosophical teachings. It also DeWitt his job. My point is that once guys get to the big leagues they don't want to change because they feel empowered by having made it.
Bob (Princeton, NJ)
How is Adam Dunn really looking at the plate?
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
I think you hate to hear from people like me that it's too early, but it probably is. Around the 21st we'll have a better idea of watching him swing as pitchers throw breaking balls and have better command on fastballs. I still feel he'll be better this season, which isn't going out on a limb. But .250 should be reachable. And if makes that much contact he'll hit 30-40 home runs.
Have you heard any rumblings as to a Matt Garza Trade before spring is up? I feel that now is the time to cash in on some good young talent since we are in a rebuild mode and the Cubs seem to have a surplus of Starting Pitching.
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
They may have a surplus, but the quality of the staff is questionable. Garza is the only real power arm outside of Samardzija. You don't want a group of guys all throwing between 89-91. Keep your eye on big market teams who lose starting pitching due to injury -- that's what Epstein and Hoyer will be watching. The Cubs refuse to say whether or not they've made any progress signing Garza to a long-term deal.
Cubs just outrighted Casey weathers. 39 currently on the 40 man roster. Soler?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
Could be happening as they would have to create a spot for him, but they have time for that.
Who do you see having the best year offensively for the Cubs outside of Castro?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
My pick would be DeJesus. I think switching leagues and batting high in the order will help him have a comeback season.
Is there a disconnect between Cubs ownership and the fans? I mean how can they expect fans to fork over ticket prices to watch the Iowa Cubs Triple-A team?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
It's a problem, and I agree with you 100%. There really hasn't been any offering of dropping prices during this recent downturn in talent. The Cubs feel that they're taking care of the fans by not raising prices. But the ticket scale is way out of line based on the talent they have at this point.
RJ (Blunt, IL)
Bruce: I keep hearing fans / media etc saying the Cubs won't be ready to compete until 21015. Why is that the year from what I see this team is talent deficient in the minors as is. What makes anyone think they will have any major league ready star talent by that time.
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
I think that your observation is a good one. Because nobody can pinpoint when the talent will be better. It might be better next year. Or it might not be better in the next 2 or 3 years. The new management group have good philosophies and a good track record. But they are going to have to prove it by being successful here.
What is a realistic finish for the White Sox if they manage to be healthy?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
I think healthy is only a part of it. Is Peavy's good health going to equate to 15 wins? Will Danks being healthy mean he wins more than 8 games? I would say that 85 wins for the White Sox would be a tremendous season. And that means that everything in the bullpen has worked out and 3 of the 5 starters have had better than average years.
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
Cuts for both the Cubs and White Sox will increase this week, as new managers start to pare down their rosters. Follow the White Sox and Cubs on my Twitter at twitter.com/ESPNBruceLevine and Doug Padilla's daily Cubs reports on twitter.com/ESPNChiCubs. And of course on ESPN 1000 and ESPNChicago.com.Thanks for joining the chat!
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