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)
Welcome to Soler Mania and continued interleague play. Here we go...
Bruuuuuce! At which level will the Cubs start Soler? How soon might we see him take his first AB? Thanks!
Bruce Levine (1:03 PM)
Since he's not officially a Cub until he passes a physical, we have yet to hear from Epstein and Hoyer. My guess is that he'll start in Mesa where their team complex is, and then work his way to rookie ball or class A. But with his experience I would not be surprised if he started in Peoria. That would be a fun road trip for Cubs fans that want to see him play.
Joe B (Oxford, CT)
Do you think the Cubs will call up Anthony Rizzo exactly on June 23 or do they wait to be less obvious about the service years? Clearly he has proven all he needs to be at Triple A and should get a chance to prove he has grown from last years struggles with SD.
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
Part of the element is what they do with LaHair. At this point he's put up All-Star numbers and has the most homeruns by a 1st baseman in the NL. What are you supposed to do with him? Soriano is the hottest homerun hitter now in the NL. Unless you're trading him, he has to stay in left field. The answer isn't easy, but I would guess by July 1st.
Bruce in your opinion will Brett Jackson be closer to a Pete Rose-type player or a Jerry Martin/Steve Henderson type? Or none of the above?
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
Fair question, as we don't know about how much contact he'll make. He seems to have the whole package but he still needs the rest of this year at AAA.
Topstep Trader (Chicago CME/CBOT)
Could there be a White Sox, Cubs trade that would be productive for both teams? After all the Cubs did trade Don Kessinger to the South Side, Ron Santo also.
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
If I'm the Cubs I'd be very interested in Nate Jones for Dempster. The other side of that is that the White Sox can't trade a strength from this year's team and weaken the bullpen by trading for a starter.
Bruce, do the White Sox have any interest in Garza or Dempster?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
Without question. When you see the struggles of Humber and Floyd you realize that even without injuries the White Sox are going to need at least one more starting pitcher. Maybe Quintana is that guy. Right now he looks like a better choice than either Humber of Floyd. The White Sox have little to trade that's not already on their 25-man roster. Although some of the young pitching they've acquired via trade might be of interest to the Cubs.
Any chance the Tigers would give up their third base prospect for a package of Dempster and/or Garza???
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
I doubt it, but at the same time the Tigers have an owner that wants to win right now. He might be interested in sacrificing the future in order to win this year.
Mark D. (Chicago)
Chris Sales dominant performance and comand of all pitches this year has been really fun to watch. Because of his violent throwing motion and his inexperience starting in a 162 game season, do you think that his stats/numbers will fall of considerably post all star break, similar to Philip Humbers second half last year?
Bruce Levine (1:11 PM)
I don't think they'll necessarily fall but there's always concern with his mechanics. The White Sox are doing everything they can to strengthen his body and make it more flexible between starts. They believe conditioning is a preventative way to guard against injury.
With the troubled bullpen of the White Sox, is there any chance we see Humber go to the bullpen and Ohman and Stewart get DFA/optioned? I know we have some quality arms in AAA like Leesman and Doyle. Thanks Bruce!
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
It's possible if Humber or Floyd go the longman role that Stewart goes back to AAA to become a starter, which is where he is probably best suited for the long run. The Sox would prefer not to experiment with any more rookies in the bullpen, but they will if they have to.
Ryan (Scottsdale, AZ)
Hey Bruce, who do you think will be our third baseman for the future Vitters or Lake?
Bruce Levine (1:14 PM)
My guess is Vitters first then Lake later on. Lake has a tremendous power upside that he is just starting to display. Vitters is more of that doubles and triples type hitter. I wouldn't mind seeing Vitters in the second half of this season at the major league level.
Bruce who's the flavor of the week in Cubbie bullpen now? Will we get a Marmol sighting anytime soon? Might as well give it another try at this point! Thanks
Bruce Levine (1:16 PM)
It's ugly, isn't it? They've burnt out a couple guys, like Camp, already. I don't blame Sveum for the variation of pitchers. But none of them look capable of getting the job done in the long run. All of them have done well at times. But most of the relief pitchers are in roles that really don't suit them.
John (Logan Square)
Bruce, do you think Dempster would prefer to be traded to a NL team with no DH since he's in a contract year, or would the White Sox be more preferable since he'd be close to his family? I would think an AL East team wouldn't be a great choice for him.
Bruce Levine (1:18 PM)
I can't tell you exactly how he's thinking, but staying in Chicago would probably be preferable, would be my guess, because his kids are so young and he wouldn't want to be apart from them for 3 months. He is in control of his own destiny. Much like Derrek Lee, he may say no to two teams before he says yes to a third.
Bruce,Almora has seemed intent on fulfilling his scholarship and attending the University of Miami. How much of this is a negotiating tactic? Do you expect him to sign with the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
Look for his to sign on July 13, right at the deadline. Scott Boras, like all good representatives, will try to milk every dollar and perk out of the deal that he can. One thing I can guarantee you is he won't be going to the University of Miami.
Who will the sox be looking to pick up before the trade deadline?
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
Starting pitcher, veteran bullpen pitcher and 3rd baseman. If you know one guy that can do it all, that would be a good thing. Because unfortunately the White Sox don't have a lot of money to spend on additional players.
Bruce- the Castro love is over the top. Good hitter- hooray. Right now he's not even Lance Johnson, another guy that led the league in hits. I'd deal him if the price was right. Would you?
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
I would listen to what other teams have to offer for any player. I don't believe in untouchables, especially in the situation the Cubs are in now: not competing for 2 to 3 more years.
Who are you hearing are the main suitors for Dempster and Garza, what type of returns would you expect Theo gets for each?
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
Keep reading on ESPNChicago.com and we will give you an elongated response on what teams are interested in this guys. This afternoon I'll have a piece on what White Sox players perceive about the possible addition of Dempster to their team. I hope you'll enjoy it.
Hey Bruce, How is Matt Szczur doing? I know he got off to a weak start...
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
He's still a top prospect in the organization, but he's got a few years of work to do before he's a major-league level player. Like all two-sport athletes, Szczur has to catch up on some baseball IQ in order to keep improving.
They have never announced the compensation to the Padres for hiring Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod. Will they ever? Is it because it's a 2011 draft pick(s) that can't be traded until a year after signing?
Bruce Levine (1:26 PM)
No, I think it's because Jeff Moorad was relieved of his position as managing partner of the team. There just doesn't seem to be anyone pushing the envelope. Plus, to be honest, Moorad made his choice of Josh Burns over Hoyer. So that being the case, compensation should not be anything of significance.
Any interest in Marmol?
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
He's going to have to pitch well for a number of weeks before some team trades for him. He has $11-12 million left on his contract over this year and next.
Rich (New Lenox)
I can't help but wonder if there is somebody else in the organization who can play 3B in the future. I mean, we saw it with Crede and his back and now we're seeing it Morel and his back. Hudson is not the answer, and Escobar is just a weaker Pablo Ozuna, what else is there down on the farm?
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
Not anything right now to look at. Although Buddy Bell is the farm director, but at age 61, probably not the answer.
Paul (Denver, CO)
Bruce, what is more likely to happen, Dempster traded or LaHair traded?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
I think there's a real good chance of both getting dealt. LaHair is such a nice story for a career journeyman to be doing so well at this level, but unless they perceive him as a left fielder for the next few years, he could bring back something worthwhile. Dempster is definitely gone, as long as he agrees to a deal.
It appears that the BoSox have been left with a mess that Theo created. Heck, they are paying Bobby Jenks $12 million! Why is it assumed that he will be the Northside Messiah?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
He was the architect of at least one world championship and the GM of two world championships. So there's reason to believe that he, Hoyer and McLeod have a good idea of what they are doing. Now, to more directly answer your question, Epstein, like many GMs, may have made some mistakes in the free agent market. But at age 38, maybe he's going to get even better at what he does.
Bruce, what is the conventional wisdom on why the Sox can't win at home? Will they be selling out the Crosstown Classic or do they sparse crowds extend to even the Cubs rivalry?
Bruce Levine (1:32 PM)
I think the home run ball really hurts them at home. Even though they have homerun hitters, US Cellular field is the easiest park to hit homers in in the AL when the weather is warm. Just look at Floyd and Humber's record at home during the last two starts each. They've given up a combined 11 homers.
Jim (Arlington Heights)
Bruce, what do you think the chances are that guys like Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto and Reed Johnson may be moved at the trade deadline are?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
Besides Soto, the other 2 are peripheral trades. In fairness, unless the Cubs get back a good, young player, they won't be a priority to be traded. Soto is a different story because of his homerun potential and that he's caught in the league for five years. The problem with Soto is that he's off to the worst offensive start in his career.
When should we expect "Soler power" in right field at Wrigley?
Bruce Levine (1:34 PM)
My guess is the end of 2014. A September call up then, and ready to rock as a starter in 2015.
Alex N. (Lockport, IL)
With Floyd continuing to struggle, is there a chance we see him traded either for a prospect or major league talent?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
Again, he needs to get straightened out before the Sox consider trading him. The worst time to deal a player is when he's struggling, because you won't get optimum value back. Floyd showed some signs of reemerging during his last start -- striking out 9 hitters in 6 innings. Right now I condier his value to be low.
Bruce, are there any current or retired MLB players that Jorge Soler most resembles?
Bruce Levine (1:37 PM)
I've never seen him play. Although I don't consider myself a scout, I do have a firm idea of what I see in players. None of my scouting friends have seen much of him either. So all we know is that he's got a great arm, a powerful swing and he is a big kid.
Is it possible to send Soriano to the minors? I'm not sure if he would have to clear waivers to get there but even if someone does pick him up that would still be a plus for the Cubs in my opinion.
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
Sorry, that's a pipedream. There's no options left for Soriano out, and even so the Cubs would still be on the hook for his salary. Don't look now, but Soriano is now the Cubs' top producer and has the most homers of any player in baseball since May 15.
Bruce, thanks for the chats. Obviously prospects are big question marks, but between Castro, Soler, Baez, Almora(assuming he signs) and Rizzo we should have a pretty solid makings of a lineup in a few years. Who if any pitching prospects will make an impact or are we going to have to wait for this years draft picks, a trade or free agency to fill out the pitching staff?
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
If you'll notice, McLeod drafted a ton of pitchers after he selected Almora in the first round. If the team moves Dempster or Garza expect for a number of young pitchers to come back in those deals. That's why I compare the Cubs to an expansion team right now. Because of the dearth of their pitching talent.
Do you see Tyler Flowers as the answer at catcher or will he eventually end up at 1B like Joe Mauer?
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
I kind of feel bad for Flowers because he was supposed to get more catching time this year. But AJ has been so hot that Ventura has not been able to split the catching time as he planned to do in spring training. Unfortunately they probably know less about Flowers' ability to catch on a daily basis than they did a year ago.
Bruce, what are your thoughts on Soler? People are comparing him to Giancarlo Stanton. Is that what you see out of him and where would you rank him among cubs prospects?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
Again, I can only tell you what I've heard. Obviously the Cubs people are very bright, and I don't think they would have invested $30 million in someone they didn't feel very good about. But don't expect to see him in Wrigley for a few years.
Hi Bruce. With Javier Baez lurking down at Peoria, is there any chance the Cubs would look to move Castro to second base?
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
If they made a big organizational decision like that, it would come in the offseason, not midway through a championship year.
Do you expect the Cubs to spend some money this off season to improve the team or will we see another off season like the last one?
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
Well they just spent $30 million yesterday. And that's a big check for Mr. Ricketts to write, even if it is over 9 years. They'll also be paying their top pick about $3.25 million. So true to his word, Epstein will throw Mr. Ricketts money at youth until they are ready to plug in free agents a couple of years from now. Again, international market, amateur draft and trading for other teams' young players are the three key elements to the new Cubs front office future plans.
Doc Evans (Stevens Point, WI)
Who makes it to the show first; Javier Baez, Albert Almora, or Jorge Soler?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
My guess is Baez. He's a really good looking hitting prospect. All 3 have a little work to do, but all three are very talented players.
Danny (La Grange)
Any chance of a Soriano for Brian Roberts deal now that Roberts is coming off the DL? It frees up an outfield spot, but does that defeat the purpose of getting rid of his contract?
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
I think the Cubs are done trading bad contract for bad contract. If you notice, Epstein paid most of Byrd and Zambrano's contracts without absorbing an older player that they didn't want. Maybe they didn't get back enough, but it fits in with their plan for the future.
Matt (Huntsville, AL)
Do you think the Cubs should try to make a run at acquiring Greinke? He and Garza would be a great 1-2 punch, and with Samardzija and even Conception in a few years, that could be a great rotation.
Bruce Levine (1:50 PM)
Greinke's free agent status is going to keep the Cubs away from him right now. The Cubs are not ready to have pitcher's making 12 to 15 million. It just doesn't fit their plans.
Couldn't you move DeJesus to CF, LaHair to RF and make way for Rizzo that way? I don't really care about defense at this point, getting Rizzo up here is far more important.
Bruce Levine (1:51 PM)
The key element to having Rizzo is that he is going to make your defense better. So that part of the equation works. However, DeJesus doesn't have the speed for center field, and the corner outfielders have no range whatsoever. You don't want to punish the good pitchers that come along.
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
I think trade talk will be what fans are most interested in this week. Follow me on Twitter at ESPNBruceLevine and my buddy Doug Padilla on the Cubs at ESPNChiCubs. Thanks for all the questions!