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 (1:01 PM)
Opening Day is just a few days away. Both teams appear ready, at least to try to compete. Welcome!
Bruce, do you see any trades happening before the Cubs head north? Sox?
Bruce Levine (1:02 PM)
Numerous teams are still pursuing Marlon Byrd. There's always that possibility. The Cubs are looking for a quality left-handed pitcher for their bullpen.
Robert (Madison, WI)
Bruce - What is the view of Hector Santiago? I've been surprised to hear his name in the mix for closer. Even if he could become another late inning/high leverage reliever, that would be a great development.
Bruce Levine (1:03 PM)
I don't think we should get ahead of ourselves. I don't really see him as a closer right away. Santiago has a nasty screwball, which has been tough on right-handers.
Bobby B (Newport Beach, CA)
Hey Bruce!Is Brett Jackson the 1st guy called up if a regular such as Byrd, Soriano, or DeJesus get hurt/traded?
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
In my mind, probably not. The Cubs' front office wants to make sure he is completely ready when they do call him up. Although all indications in spring training were that he is a pretty polished player. Plate discipline is still something they want him to work on. Also, starting the arbitration clock early is a concern for many teams.
What are the chances we see Trey McNutt this year?
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
He needs to progress as he took a step backward last year. He needs to also stay away from injuries and blisters.
Dan (Orland Park)
With the restrictions put on draft spending and key free agents being locked up early (Cain, Votto), how are the Cubs going to turn this around? International market?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
International market is no different -- it's also been impacted by the collective bargaining agreement. There's a huge tax on spending over the amount each team is allotted for the June draft and international signings. So the answer is it may take the Cubs longer than they thought it would to achieve their goals.
Kyle (Cedar Rapids)
With Chris Carpenter's injury can Major League Baseball require the Cubs to send another player to the Red Sox?
Bruce Levine (1:08 PM)
Only if they can prove that the Cubs were aware of an injury before the trade was made. They will have to look at his medicals to determine that.
Mike (Chicago )
My question is why can't Addison Reed be the closer, the past few years there's been plenty of young closers that were successful like Neftali Feliz, Andrew Bailey, and Craig Kimbrel to name a few?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
There's no reason why he can't be the closer. UIt just depends if the White Sox consider him ready. We know he throws 98 MPH. But you have to have a breaking ball to command in order to get major league hitters out.
There's no way the White Sox could loose 95 games, could they?
Bruce Levine (1:11 PM)
Anything is possible in baseball. If the bullpen implodes and Dunn, Beckham and Rios don't have better seasons you are looking at a bad year.
Seamus Casey Shep (Joliet)
Bruce - Do you anticipate a trade for another reliever or do you see the final relievers coming from Corpas, Camp or Castillo?
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
Cubs are looking to trade for a left-handed reliever for the last few weeks. At some point, even before Thursday, they could pick someone up from a trade or waivers. One lefty in the bullpen will not help Dale Sveum be able to negotiate his way through ballgames.
What does the Matt Cain deal mean for a possible Garza extension?
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
Garza is more in line with John Danks -- their service time and body of work are similar. Five years, $65 million is what Garza will be looking for.
Randy Wells (Austin TX)
Why did the Cubs snub me? I had a better spring than at least two of the five in the starting rotation.
Bruce Levine (1:15 PM)
I can't answer that, Randy. But rest assured you'll be paid your $2.5 million while pitching in AAA.
Gerry (Vicksburg, MI)
Bruce,Who wins more games this year: Jake Peavey or Jeff Samardzija?
Bruce Levine (1:16 PM)
I would have to say it will be Samardzija. That's not to diss Peavy, but he has to prove that he can stay healthy before I can predict how many games he will win.
Bruce, what's the wait on Soler? Is it MLB or is he still establishing DR residency? Thanks!
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
I believe it's MLB being cautious about all Cuban free agents, making sure the documentation is correct. MLB wants to stay away from as many Fausto Carmona-situations as they can.
Harry (Columbia, MO)
Do you see Lillibridge putting up power numbers like last year or will he be hitting for average?
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
I think the 13 homers were an aberration. It was kind of shocking considering that pro-rated through an entire season he would have hit 40. The Sox will be happy with singles and doubles from him.
Bruce - Seriously, this Lucchino is out of control. Is someone going to finally tell him that the compensation issue is a closed deal and tell that guy to move on with his life. I used to like the Red Sox, but that guy has made me a hater.
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
This isn't Theo, is it? I'm sure he and the rest of the Cubs management group are feeling the same way you are. The bottom line is that Lucchino had Epstein under contract for one more year. If he wanted him to stay, he should have offered him a five-year deal like the Cubs did. It appears his goal is to make life miserable for Tom Ricketts and Crane Kenney, even more than improving his underachieving 2011 Red Sox team.
Best guess on LaHairs production?
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
That's a tough one for me. I'm a big fan of LaHair. But that doesn't mean I don't question if he will be a productive major league player. I won't give you numbers because I believe at some point Rizzo will be playing first if LaHair falters or has an injury problem.
Who has more of a chance to win their division, Cubs or Sox?
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
Do I have a third choice? If my third choice is neither, I'll definitely take that. There's just too many questions on either team to project them as winners.
Samardzija has had an impressive spring. How do you think he will fare facing hitters the second and third time through the lineup?
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
Excellent question. You know your German baseball. That's why Samardzija's secondary pitches are going to be a key for his survival as a starter. He already learned in one spring training outing that throwing the ball harder only means batter hit the ball harder.
Ryan (Marshalltown IA)
If Stewart struggles any chance we se Vitters I see hes starting out in AAA this year
Bruce Levine (1:25 PM)
Vitters has one element that the Cubs really like -- he can hit. As far as the way he approaches the game, and his defense, the Cubs would like to see some improvement in those areas. He'll play in the majors for someone eventually, but maybe not the Cubs.
How much of a leash will the Sox have with Beckham? Lillibridge or Escobar both could be significant offensive upgrades without losing too much defensively..
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
Escobar is a switch-hitter, so if Beckham struggles I'm sure Ventura will find some right-handed pitchers for Escobar to face. Escobar could do the same thing for Morel at 3rd base. The one thing you don't want to mess with is a good double-play combo, and Beckham and Ramirez are great up the middle. Although that doesn't mean Escobar can't do the same thing.
Who's got the shortest leash of the Cubs starting 8?
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
The only one I can think of is LaHair. He's going to have to play very good defense. In the spring, he was off and on with his defensive ability. If you're pinning me to one guy, it would be LaHair.
Bruce, what are your opinions on Junior Lake and Javier Baez, and if the cubs had a choice, what is the ideal position for each? Also, any chance we see either one in September or earlier?
Bruce Levine (1:30 PM)
I didn't get to see Baez play in any minor league games, so it would just be hearsay on that. The scouts that did see him loved his bat. Lake to me is a 3rd baseman, even though he can play shortstop, physically he seems to have outgrown that position. He looks to have grown 2 inches and gained 15 lbs. during the winter. To me, he's your prototypical power-hitting 3rd baseman if he can make enough contact.
Jake P (Elmira, NY)
Hey Bruce, keep up the good work. What kind of year do you think Adam Dunn will have this year? Will it be closer to last year or his career norms?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
I think closer to his career norms. He's really changed his style of hitting, being much more aggressive earlier in the count. He's also driving the ball to the opposite field more.
What's your take on how the closer race unfolds, and if Thornton wins the job, how well does he fare and how long does he hold on to it? And who would be the closer-in-waiting?
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
I think any one of four guys could close, including Crain, Thornton, Reed and eventually Santiago. Also, if you're not doing anything the next couple of days, you can try out for the Sox bullpen, too.
Gerry (Vicksburg, MI)
Castro's numbers have been way down in the 3-hole. Why not move Castro up to 2nd where his numbers have been excellent, or down to the 5-hole and bat Soriano 3rd and LaHair 4th?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
I can't think of anything more overrated than where a guy has hit better in the lineup. Either you can hit or you can't, and Castro can hit. I think it's circumstantial that his numbers are better there. I will agree with you on one thing -- typically a #2 hitter sees more fastballs.
Kyle B (The burbs)
Whats the scoop on Nate Jones? I've read he can hit 97-100mph on the gun, and compliments it with a solid change up, and a decent curve. Whats your outlook on him this season?
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
He's going to get a lot of middle innings and when Stewart isn't available he might even be the long man. Jones was a set-up man in AA last year and eventually could do that role for the White Sox.
hula (old town)
Over under for Cubs players who hit at least 20 homers? 2? And who?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
I'll go over two with three Cubs: Soriano, Soto and Castro.
Ross (Wahoo, NE)
Looking at opening day, I don't think we will be able to hit Strausberg but we can get to the bullpen. What is Strausberg looking at for a pitch limit I would guess the Nats would not let him go very deep early in the season.
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
He's an opening day starter so he's going to be ready to throw 100 pitches. No major league team will not start a pitcher that can't go 6 or 7 innings, especially in the Chicago weather.
Jim (Barrington, IL)
Is there any evidence that the Cubs are executing the fundamentals any better under Sveum than they have under previous regimes? It would be wonderful to see them take pitches, hit behind the runner, run the bases properly, throw to the right base, hit the cutoff man, throw strikes...you know, stuff the winning teams do year in and year out.
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
The test will begin on April 5. Contact me a week later and I can give you a better answer. Spring training is just preparation, it's not the same adrenaline rush like the regular season.
Soriano looks really good this spring, and much younger. Am I crazy for thinking he could hit 35? I mean he did hit 26 last year, in the 7 hole, not playing many games
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
Will all due respect to his spring, he's not going to see as many fastballs as he has during exhibition baseball.
Brandon (Chicago, IL)
who will get ejected from a game first, Sveum or Ventura?
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
Tough call because both have a lot of fire, but it's way down below. I'll pick Ventura and since it's in Texas, maybe another fistfight with Nolan Ryan on opening day.
JT (Alliance, NE)
Bruce, while he's not your typical #2 hitter, why not bat Geo there? He's generally patient (way more than Barney) and can provide a little power to the top of the lineup.
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
Way too slow to do some of the things that Sveum wants to do. Other catcher have batted in that slot but it doesn't sound like it will happen to me.
When I see you at 7-11 getting coffee, can I say hello?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
I'm as approachable as Kenny Williams or Theo Epstein. Take that for what it's worth.
Who's the first Sox player traded when KW throws in the towel in June?
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
It's got to be Gavin Floyd. He's an innings eater and a free agent after the season, although the Sox do hold an option for him. AJ Pierzynski would be a close second.
Matt (Iowa City, Iowa)
Is there any chance (barring injury) that Rizzo spends the entire season at AAA? or will they move LaHair eventually to make room for him at first?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
There's always a chance that he will stay at AAA. If LaHair has a great year, there's no reason to think he won't stay there the whole year. Rizzo needs to play every day, so when he does come up, much like Brett Jackson, it should be to play every day.
I think Ian Stewart becomes a star for the Cubs. What do you think of him?
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
Star for Ian Stewart would mean hitting .260 while hitting 25 homers and driving in 80 runs. To me that would be an outstanding season for him. But if you look at his record he's never hit above .250. But you will like how he plays defense, which will be an upgrade over what Ramirez did over the past few years.
The extra wild card teams will probably mean there will be fewer sellers at the trade line. Would this not help both the Cubs and Sox, as neither looks better than a .500 club at best, and thus, lots of buyers for our junk?
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
It's also about how many players get injured during the season, and what kind of replacements they can find. Both team would trade players in May and June if it made sense. 2012 is not necessarily the goal for either club.
Nizzi (Des Moines)
Bruce, why doesn't MLB enforce a draft for dominican and foreign players. Seems as if it's a little unfair that some clubs are recruiting kids at 16.
Bruce Levine (1:52 PM)
MLB does not dictate policy on foreign countries. Telling people how to do it is a difficult proposition with the economics of it, players' ages, etc.
Bruce, do the Cubs have the worst TV contract in baseball based on their popularity, ticket sales, etc?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
First of all, they have tow different contracts: one with WGN and a partnership with Comcast Sportsnet, which they own 20% of. For every game on Comcast the Cubs get $400,000, which is not too shabby. It might not be as good as the Yankees or Red Sox, but they can still pay a few bills with it. Eventually the Cubs will have their own network or a deal with somebody like Fox that pays them $3 or $4 billion dollars over a period of time.
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
Follow me on Twitter @ESPNBruceLevine for all your Cubs and White Sox needs, and listen to Talkin' Baseball every Saturday.
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