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ESPNChicago.com's baseball beat reporter will check in from the winter meetings to take your questions about the Chicago Cubs and Chicago White Sox.
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Bruce Levine (7:01 PM)
Greetings from Indianapolis, Ind., site of the 2009 Winter Meetings. Both general managers were pretty coy today about their dealings, as is the case usually during these meetings. This is my 23rd consecutive winter meeting and the first day usually is like a prize fight, where GMs and front office people are feeling out other teams and looking for matchup meetings on trade talks. There's also a plethora of agents representing free agent players attempting to get deals for them as well. Side note: We'll be doing this again on Wednesday night at the same time and I'll have my normal chat tomorrow from 12-1 p.m. CST.
Mike (Des Plaines, IL)
How interested are the Royals in a Milton Bradley for Gil Meche swap?
Bruce Levine (7:03 PM)
One of the Kansas City people told me last night that it's just in the exploratory stage with the Cubs. As of this morning, neither Dayton Moore, the GM of the Royals, or Cubs GM Jim Hendry had talked to each other. But there was plenty of conversation between the teams' scouts last night. Usually the conversation starts with, 'What do you guys need?'
I would love to have Curtis Granderson but I hear they want Starlin Castro, really how good is this guy, is he Hanley Ramirez good like some people have said or is he something below that?
Bruce Levine (7:06 PM)
Talking to a scout who I have a lot of faith in about Castro, he's concerned about the swing-and-miss factor. Lou Piniella, in his media session today, said that Castro probably needs more seasoning. Although Piniella had Alex Rodriguez when he was 19 when he broke in with the Seattle Mariners. I don't want to get carried away -- Starlin Castro is not Alex Rodriguez, but he should be a good shortstop for the Cubs in the near future. The Cubs are probably in the back rather than in the forefront for Granderson. The scuttlebutt today is that the Yankees and Tigers have been conversing about a deal where Detroit would want Phillip Hughes and the Yankees' No. 1 prospect for Granderson. It seems like way too steep a price to pay for a guy that has some talent but is not necessarily an All-star.
Dan Chiappe (California)
What are the Cubs going to do about their hole at Second Base?
Bruce Levine (7:07 PM)
Right now they have other areas that they have to address first. They still are interested in Orlando Hudson, a free agent who has been rumored to be close to signing with Colorado. Also, there's a possible scenario where the Mets' Luis Castillo would be coming to the Cubs in some three or four-way deal for Milton Bradley.
Bryan (Denver, CO)
Any indication of the other teams that are interested in Bradley, besides the Rangers, Rays and possibly the Royals?
Bruce Levine (7:08 PM)
The Angels have talked to the Cubs about Gary Matthews Jr. Although Matthews was once a decent hitter, his skills are basically defensive at this point. That would be way down the line as a deal for the Cubs. Matthews is owed $22 million for the next two years, basically the same contract as Milton Bradley.
Chioke Hassan (Baltimore,Md)
Dear BruceCould you see the Cubs ever getting a new Stadium?
Bruce Levine (7:10 PM)
They feel that they'll be able to accomplish keeping the good part of old Wrigley Field while revamping the ballpark's grandstand and upper deck and adding other amenities that other, more modern ballparks have by spending $200-300 million over the next three years. Their goal is also to not have to play their games anywhere else while this refurbishing takes place.
Vinnie (Geneva, IL)
If the Cubs trade Bradley to Tampa for Pat Burrell, I heard the Cubs could try to turn around and send Burrell somewhere else. Is this a more likely scenario than the Cubs just trading Bradley for Burrell and keeping him in right field?
Bruce Levine (7:13 PM)
Burrell cannot play right field. He's barely functional as a left fielder, and most scouts can tell you that Soriano is a better outfielder than Burrell. If that's not scary enough for you, the process of trading for Burrell would mean that Hendry would already have another deal ready to move him right away. That's a very difficult process when you have to trade two players who basically only have one or two tools.
dave (north side)
Why haven't we heard more about Kyler Burke?
Bruce Levine (7:16 PM)
That's a good question. Burke was the Cubs' minor league player of the year last year while playing three different outfield positions. He should be watched closely because of the fact that he had great on-base percentage and extra-base power. He's going to need at least two more years in the minor leagues, but he could be on the fast track.
Bruce, does anyone know how Soriano is coming along? Is he expected to be healthy for spring training? Looking at the team the last few years, there is no doubt that the Cubs need a healthy, productive Alfonso Soriano.
Bruce Levine (7:17 PM)
Soriano is working with a personal trainer in the Dominican Republic. His main goal is to strengthen his lower body, which would also mean a lot of work on his core muscles. Lou Piniella said that the Cubs have been monitoring his work and will send some of their people over periodically to check on his progress.
Brandon Lohndorf (Norfolk,VA)
Has there been any talks regarding Roy Halladay? I know the Jays contacted us about him. Have we had any real interest in him?
Bruce Levine (7:19 PM)
The Cubs talked to the Blue Jays about Halladay about seven or eight weeks ago. If you'll remember, there were some rumors about Bradley going to Toronto for Vernon Wells and Lyle Overbay coming back in a possible Bradley deal. At the same time, the Cubs inquired about Halladay. In order to make room for Halladay, the Cubs would have to move a big contract or get approval by new ownership to spend the money -- two situations that probably won't happen.
Do you have any information on outfielders the WhiteSox may be interested in?
Bruce Levine (7:21 PM)
First and foremost, they continue to talk to their own free agent outfielder, Scott Podsednik. White Sox would like to have him back, but on their own terms. That would mean a year with a possible option for a second year. Podsednik is stuck on a multi-year contract and continues to talk to other teams, including Kansas City. The Sox have talked about free agent outfielders Coco Crisp, Hideki Matsui, Hank Blalock and even their own former player, Jim Thome. Somehow, some way, the Sox are going to have to find some left-handed RBI production. Aubrey Huff is also on their list of left-handed pop.
John (Chicago, IL)
Any discussion of at least reaching out to Mark Derosa to see how much money he wants to come back?
Bruce Levine (7:23 PM)
DeRosa's looking for around $9 milion a year on a two or three year contract, according to some scouts I talked to yesterday. That's not going to work. Cubs don't have that type of money for a 35-year-old utility guy, even though he's a super utility guy and a great clubhouse influence.
Are there any hot rumors on the floor in Indy?
Bruce Levine (7:24 PM)
The top rumors are Granderson and the Yankees right now. Also, Halladay rumors are starting to pick up with the usual suspects, New York, Boston and the Los Angeles Dodgers. The Padres are looking to trade their closer, Heath Bell, who will be going to the second year of arbitration.
Doug (Joplin, Missouri)
Bruce, if you had to guess, who will be the starting CF and 2B on Opening Day?
Bruce Levine (7:27 PM)
For the White Sox, they'll have Gordon Beckham at 2B and Alex Rios in center. Ozzie Guillen said that Rios will play center and Carlos Quentin will play right field. As for the Cubs, it's guesswork at this point. You'd hate to think that the position is going to be Baker and Fontenot -- a lefty-righty matchup. Baker's a good player, but I think Fontenot was exposed last year. Centerfield -- your guess is as good as mine. Jim Hendry is on record saying he'd like to move Fukudome back to right field. It appears they want to add both a left and right-handed hitter to the mix. They aren't opposed to bringing Reed Johnson back, but they're concerned about his back, which continues to flare up every year and cause him to take DL time.
alex (fontana ca)
Why do i hear rumors about the cubs trading Carlos Zambrano even if he isn't a #1 i think hes at least a #2 starter on this team why trade him?
Bruce Levine (7:29 PM)
The only way the Cubs would trade Zambrano is if they felt they had the ability to get a better pitcher. Conditioning is a key for him going into next season. He was not anywhere near the player he was in the past last season. If the Cubs could get Halladay in a deal that involved Zambrano, you'd certainly have to think about it.
Do the WhiteSox have the budget to sign/acquire a DH and an outfielder? I think Matsui at DH and Crisp in LF would be ideal.
Bruce Levine (7:31 PM)
That's an excellent question -- one I brought up with Kenny Williams today. In a perfect world, you'd get Podsednik to come back and get Matsui. But that combination would probably cost you anywhere from $7-10 million per season. Right now, the Sox payroll is maxed out near $100 million. Never say never, though, with Kenny Williams as the general manager and the open-minded Jerry Reinsdorf as the owner.
Vinnie (Geneva, IL)
Bruce, with the Cubs promoting Ryne Sandberg to AAA manager today, how long do you think it will be before he's managing in the big leagues? I have a feeling he could be managing the Cubs when Lou's contract is up after next season. What are your thoughts?
Bruce Levine (7:33 PM)
He could be on the fast track to Wrigley Field, depending on how the 2010 season turns out for Lou Piniella and his team. Piniella is in the final year of his contract. Although it's not a distraction to him, you'll be reading a lot about it in the media tomorrow -- how being a lame-duck manager is a problem. The only scenario I see Lou having a problem is if the team gets off to an extremely slow start. Other than that, Lou's among the most confident baseball people I've ever met.
Mitch Valentini (Chicago IL)
How good is Gil Meche, and what would he bring to the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (7:34 PM)
He would bring two years at $22 million -- that's for sure. That's what they would owe him. Of course, I'm being sarcastic. Some Cub front office people like Meche. Others I've talked to think he's a little weak-minded. Nonetheless, I wouldn't call that a real hot rumor at this time.
Andy (Racine, WI)
Bruce, I have one more quick question for you. Can we expect this to be a usual Winter Meetings, with a lot of talking today and tomorrow and no real moves happening until Wednesday and Thursday? Because the nonstop rumors are driving me crazy, I just want to see Hendry, and the Cubs, start to get busy.
Bruce Levine (7:36 PM)
Could be -- that's been the nature of many of these meetings. But the one thing different in this offseason is that GMs have been talking to each other about potential trades for well over a month. So if teams are well organized, something could get done earlier.
Why didn't the Cubs pursue Chone Figgins more? I would have loved to have seen him in Cubbie blue.
Bruce Levine (7:37 PM)
I think the Cubs would have loved to have seen him on the North Side leading off. But that was a fast-developing market for Figgins. Seattle was extremely proactive and gave the player the extra year that he wanted as well as an option year. He told his agent that was fine -- he was ready to go. There was no time for the Cubs to get involved. By the way -- the same agents that represent Chone Figgins represent Milton Bradley.
Andy (Racine, WI)
Where are the Cubs sitting with looking at Mike Cameron for center field next year, or will that not be considered until Bradley is moved?
Bruce Levine (7:40 PM)
Unfortunately some media reports have overstated the Cubs' interest in Cameron. Just because you read some quotes from a manager about a player he once had doesn't mean the team is going after the player. If the Cubs get everything else they want, Cameron might be a good backup, but his days as an impact starting center fielder are behind him.
Mike (Goodyear, AZ)
Any word on where Chip Caray will end up?
Bruce Levine (7:41 PM)
Hopefully announcing a sport he's better equipped for. Chip is an awfully nice guy and a talented broadcaster, but baseball is not necessarily his strength even though he has a lot of experience at it. At one time, he was a great NBA announcer. Now that Oprah's leaving TV, Chip should be considered as a replacement. Chip did have a year left on his contract, so he's not being left destitute.
Obviously, Kenny's moves are difficult to predict, but there's always a chance he's got something big in the works. If he were too make a major trade, can you name some potential targets? Do you see him making a play for the oft-mentioned Carl Crawford? Adrian Gonzalez? Any other longshots?
Bruce Levine (7:43 PM)
Crawford would be an interesting player, but somehow I don't see Tampa moving him. They certainly would love to upgrade their bullpen. And any type of deal with Tampa would probably include Bobby Jenks. Don't discount Kenny considering any big deal. He would trade his favorite aunt if he thought it would be able to help his team win.
Are the White Sox interested in Juan Pierre? What are the chances they make a deal for him?
Bruce Levine (7:45 PM)
I don't think so. Pierre had a nice year for the Dodgers last year in place of Manny Ramirez when he was suspended, but his on-base percentage is extremely low. Pierre's days of starting as a 162-games-a-year player a most likely over with.
Have the Cubs talked to the Giants at all about a Bradley for Rowand swap?
Bruce Levine (7:48 PM)
Not that I'm aware of. Rowand is on the downhill side of his career as well, and I believe is owed $24 million over the next two years.
Do you see the sox moving Jenks? Also, what about a back up catcher?
Bruce Levine (7:51 PM)
Kenny Williams said in his media briefing today that he may be leaning toward keeping the Tyler Flowers as a backup to A.J. Pierzynski this year. Kenny believes his experience at the big league level may be more valuable for Flowers, even as a backup, rather than catching another year in the minors. A.J.'s not going to last forever, and developing Flowers is a key for the White Sox' future. As for Jenks, Kenny will listen to anything that makes sense. He has to find some way to bring in other pitchers for the bullpen. Trading Jenks would free up some money and would allow the team to look at other free agent pitchers, as well as bringing in relievers who are already making money on other teams.
Do you expect the Cubs to make a play for Ben Sheets? Hendry has signed rehab projects like Dempster and Wade Miller before.
Bruce Levine (7:53 PM)
Mr. Hendry loves those Cajun players. That would be down the line for the Cubs, but Hendry has always admired Sheets. Both the Sox and Cubs may look at J.J. Putz as a rehab project.
Bruce, What about Rick Ankiel for the Cubs?
Bruce Levine (7:55 PM)
That's a player that I've talked about the Cubs possibly being interested in. He had a real bad season last year, but the fact that he's an outstanding athlete and only 30 years old, the Cubs may want to take a flyer on him, considering they've just hired one of the best hitting coaches in the league in Rudy Jaramillo. Maybe he can become their left-handed set-up man as well. I know you're wild about that idea.
Right now whose pitching staff do you take -- Cubs or Sox?
Bruce Levine (7:56 PM)
When you talk about pitching staff, I assume you're talking about starters. On paper, I think you have to take the White Sox pitching staff. They have a real nice combination of veteran and youth. There's nothing wrong with the Cubs' staff, except the fact that they're all coming off an injury-plagued 2009. Every one of their starters, except Randy Wells, was on the DL at least once last season. And now Ted Lilly may not be able to join the rotation until mid to late April.
What will be the first move the Cubs make? Could Crawford come to the Cubs if they were able to move Bradley?
Bruce Levine (7:59 PM)
You'd have to come up with a trade for Crawford as well. If Hendry could pull off a Bradley-for-Crawford deal, they'd probably put his name on the Wrigley Field marquee instead of Wrigley's name -- that's not going to happen. First things first -- let him move Bradley. Then after that, let's see what kind of magic he can work.My guess is Bradley is their first move. It really helps set up the rest of their offseason -- both from an economic point of view as well as a tools and player standpoint.
Bruce Levine (8:00 PM)
My goal the rest of the evening is to try to get some of my favorite scouts and baseball front office people drunk so that I'll have fresh and provocative information for you tomorrow in my chat room that starts at noon CST. Thanks for checking in and also for listening to ESPN Radio 1000.