Chat with Bruce Levine
Welcome to ESPNChicago.com! Spring Training is right around the corner.
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 2 p.m. CT/3 p.m. ET!
Bruce Levine (3:01 PM)
Welcome to our last chat room before spring training. I'll be reporting from Arizona on the Cubs and Sox next week. Look forward to filling everybody in on all the latest on both teams. Let's go.
Biggy (Washington, NC)
Why not Felipe Lopez on the Cubs? He'd come cheap, give him an incentive-laden deal, he can play anywhere on the field and hit. Seriously, he's like Jeff Baker only better.
Bruce Levine (3:02 PM)
I will ask you why he hasnt' signed with someone else up to now? The quick answer is maybe the makeup isn't everything it should be. Physically, he might be a superior player to Fontenot and Baker at second, but chemisty and cash are issues as well.
Reilly (Chuckey, TN)
Do you think Starlin Castro should start the season as the starting shortstop?
Bruce Levine (3:04 PM)
Jim Hendry answered that question an hour and a half ago in a media session I attended at Wrigley Field. He said ideally Castro should be an opportunity, but he'll probably need more time. Personally, I feel if the kid shows well in spring training, why not? Defensively, he'll cover an awful lot more ground than Theriot, and Theriot will be a superior 2b to what they have now.
Chris Fiegler (Latham,NY)
Which teams between the Cubs & the White Sox do you think needs bullpen help very badly?
Bruce Levine (3:05 PM)
I don't think either GM is comfortable with his bullpen. The Sox are pinning all their hopes on J.J. Putz, who missed the entire 2009 season. Right now, without a trade, the Cubs are putting a lot of pressure on guys like Jeff Gray, Cardidad and Angel Guzman. They need a primary setup man from the right side. Both teams continue to pursue trades.
The talk of Cubs picking up a pen arm seems to have cooled. Are they hoping to get Park or Calero on a minor-league deal or are they still waiting on trades?
Bruce Levine (3:08 PM)
All trades right now. Without patting myself on the back, you really haven't heard any talk about teams the Cubs have been talking to outside of my blog. They continue to have conversations with many teams like San Diego and Toronto. There will be a nice, long story on the Cubs and possible trades in a blog that will be up within the hour.
Brett Davis (Hot Springs, AR)
White Sox chances on sneaking up and snagging Johnny Damon? I think he would make their lineup much, much better...
Bruce Levine (3:09 PM)
I've said it for three weeks and I really feel he would be the last piece of the puzzle for the White Sox in declaring themselves one of the top teams in the AL. Will it happen? I can't tell you that. I can only say the Sox have discussed his name.
Brett Davis (Hot Springs, AR)
I love the Sox lineup a lot more than most...can you convince me that Mark Teahen has a breakout year and Alex Rios bounces back?
Bruce Levine (3:10 PM)
I'm not a prognosticator, but the Sox have had success bringing in position players and making them viable parts of their team. Rios certainly wasn't one of those last year. Pierzynski and Quentin are two of the most recent acquisitions that have turned out to be integral parts of their team.
Brett Davis (Hot Springs, AR)
% chance that Jake Peavy finishes top 3 in the CY Young balloting this year? I say 50%...
Bruce Levine (3:11 PM)
If he just wins 15-17 games, and gives them 200 innings, the team should be a solid contender. They have the potential of four starting pitchers throwing 200 innings, and I mean 200 quality innings. Not a lot of teams can say that going into spring training.
Joe (Chicago: plisen area)
Bruce, did the Cubs had any interest in Alfredo Amezaga? Who sign a minor league contract with the Dodgers. Will the Cubs sign a 5th outfilder or give Sam Fuld a chance? Because I feel we need a good back-up outfielder defender just incase Byrd has trouble at Wrigley with the wind, sun, and day games and with Nady's arm trouble and of course Soriano needs help.
Bruce Levine (3:12 PM)
Somebody is going to have to run the bases for this team. Fuld is one of the few guys who can really motor and play defense. We will see if Jim Hendry and Lou Piniella agree with my assessment as they put their team together over the next six weeks.
CM Punk (Straight Edge Society)
Bruce, I read a couple of weeks ago that the Cubs had interest in Kris Benson. Why? is he going to bring his wifr Anna with him?P.S. Tell JHood WWE or TNA?
Bruce Levine (3:14 PM)
The Cubs never had any interest in Benson. That report was a favor to an agent by a media writer. Something that's done quite often to help an agent get interest in his players.
Bruce, you cant honestly think the Cubs will make a long run in the playoffs with the team they have right now. In my mind the Cubs can win their divison, but wont beat the Phillies, Dodgers have a better line-up, The Giants have a decent offense and better pitching then the Cubs and the Rockies are a streaky team. If they do win the National League they dont stand a chance against the AL power house teams. So why have they not improve their chances.
Bruce Levine (3:16 PM)
Why should we even have the season under your premise. If you remember last year at this time, everybody said the Cubs would be a huge disappointement if they didn't go into the second or third round of the playoffs, and that they would win the division easily. If the Cubs have good health throughout the season, there's no reason to think they won't contend. If they get to the World Series and lose, there still will be a parade down Clark and Addison.
Spencer (Montgomery IL)
Can Cubs fans expect to see dramatic results just by bringing in "character" guys into the clubhouse?
Bruce Levine (3:16 PM)
Absolutely not unless people like Kevin Millar can actually add something on the field. The character issue is overrated. That said, a good clubhouse is usually predicated initially by the team's success on the field.
Whats your opinon on the ticket surcharge being used to finance the Cubs new practice facility in Arizona.
Bruce Levine (3:18 PM)
Well if you look at it from the perspective of the Cubs, they'll also be paying a surchage. They would just be one of 15 teams pitcing in to keep what arguably is the most important team in the Cactus League from going to Florida.
Jimmy P (SOXside)
what are we looking to get from Freddy this year?
Bruce Levine (3:19 PM)
If Freddy can give them 20 quality starts, and the kid Daniel Hudson comes on at the end of the year, that would be an ideal scenario for the White Sox.
Billy (Bourbonnais Illinois)
Will Jim add another pitcher or two before spring training?
Bruce Levine (3:20 PM)
The only way that's going to happen is via trade, if that's what you're talking about. Free agency is out of the question. I've asked Cubs sources numerous times about signing John Smoltz, and the response has always been lukewarm.
Henry (muncie, IN)
Bruce, who do you see in the cubs starting rotation at the beginning of the next season?
Bruce Levine (3:21 PM)
Top three will be Zambrano, Dempster and Randy Wells. Lilly should be somewhere between 2-3 weeks behind. Jim Hendry stated today that April 15 sounds like the right time, but his other comment was that until Lilly is 100 percent they're not going to let him go out there.
Is it fair to say that a lot of people are still overlooking the White Sox? I was watching Chicago Tribune Live a while ago, before Hallady was dealt to the Phillies, and David Kaplan said that in order for the Sox to really compete they NEEDED to get Hallady even though, on paper, they have one of the best rotations on paper. Halladay is great to have but with our staff i don't consider him a necessity.
Bruce Levine (3:22 PM)
David is real good at analyzing the Cubs. However the Sox getting Halladay was never a major consideration. You'd have to trade 3 or 4 of your top young players to get a pitcher like that, including Beckham.
What is the biggest concern facing the White Sox going into the 2010 season?
Bruce Levine (3:23 PM)
Right now it seems to be the surchage on tickets in spring training. It's always surprising to me how concerned the Sox are about what's going on with the Cubs. The Cubs never seem to ever talk about the White Sox, other than to wish them luck in their league. On the field, the biggest return to form of Rios and Quentin, and Peavy's health.
Hey Bruce, I was just wondering if the Sox do in fact have one more move to make. Will they pursue Dye or Damon? Or will their current roster be the same come Opening Day?
Bruce Levine (3:25 PM)
I would hope they go after Damon. If his asking price has slipped to $2 or $3M, which is probably wishful thinking on my part, I would go to marketing director Brooks Boyer and owner Jerry Reinsdorf to try to beg for more money to try to come up with the final piece of the puzzle. Damon's still an impact offensive player. The other side of it is you'd hate to see him go to the Tigers, a team in your division and make them more viable.
What do you expect from Samardzija and Silva in 2010 (in terms of IP, ERA and wins)? As a Cubs fan, I'm nervous.
Bruce Levine (3:26 PM)
Your guess is as good as mine. Samardzija, who's a great kid, had good success during his 4 weeks in the Mexican League. But competition there isn't exactly major league caliber. If Jeff has added to his repetoire and has solidified his slider and change up, he's got a chance. Silva's a total mystery. No one seems to know what to expect.
Dave (Glendale Heights)
Hey Bruce...how big of a role is Jim Thome going to play for the Twins this year? I saw last week that they were only planning on using him to pinch-hit, occassionally DH and even play some 1B. I know the Sox didn't bring him back for fear of not getting him enough playing time, but it sounds like his gig in MN is going to be a reserve roll as well. Wouldn't you rather have him on our bench late in a game than across the diamond? I would.
Bruce Levine (3:27 PM)
I think Thome will get more ABs than you migth imagine. Jason Kubel could end up playing more outfield, especially against right-handed pitching. That would allow Thome to have anywhere from 400-500 at-bats especially if Kubel and Young platoon.
Hi Bruce...As you've discussed, the Cubs are in the market for a veteran right handed arm out of the 'pin...any dark horse candidates in house, ie: Cashner, Caridad, Jackson, aside from Guzman, that you like and think can play a role in getting the ball to Marmol.
Bruce Levine (3:29 PM)
Jeff Gray is an interesting name. He was acquired from the A's in the trade for Miles and Fox. The Cubs really like his arm. Also the left-hander John Gabb could be a darkhorse that makes the team out of spring training. He has a power arm, which you rarely find with left-handed bullpen guys. Btw, he was obtained in the DeRose trade a year ago. You know, the one where the Cubs got nothing in return????
Jon U. (Mundelein)
How have Tyler Flowers and Dayan Viciedo progressed? Are they close to contributing this year?
Bruce Levine (3:30 PM)
Both should be Triple-A players this season. Viciedo's girth continues to be a question mark. Also, where he's going to play, third or first? With Konerko in the last year of a contract, they're hoping Viciedo steps up and becomes a viable contender. Flowers needs the extra time at Triple-A catching and honing his skills. A.J. is going into the last year of his contract as well.
Why was Garcia given the 5th starter spot over Hudson? Given Garcia's recent history, I'd rather see if Hudson could handle the job.
Bruce Levine (3:32 PM)
I don't think anybody has given that job to Freddy except maybe some media people like myself. No reason not to think Hudson can't evetually be the fifth starter, but the organization was impressed by the way Garcia prepared himself and helped at the end of last season. He's also a cheap buy at $1M.
Hi Bruce, When can we expect to see Brent Moral playing 3rd? What kind of player Ventura, Crede, Other?
Bruce Levine (3:33 PM)
He's a good-looking young prospect who probably needs at least another year of minor-league ball. The kid opened up some eyes in the Ariz. fall league. A lot of scouts I talked to said he's probably a major-league player in the future.
I hear Cubs are looking for a right handed reliever. Why? They have a lot of arms fighting for rotation spots and it seems that the losers of the competition shoudl suffice, particularly if one Jeff Smardizjia is a loser in the No. 5 spot competition.
Bruce Levine (3:34 PM)
The Cubs are not looking at Samardzija as a middle reliever at this point. There are people in the organization including JS who feels his progress has been hurt by the up and back system of him going from pen to starter. The premise you put out is based on failure. They are looking at someone who has more upside than the guys they already have. A guy like Frasor from Toront is a proven commodity.
Bruce, if you are Lou Piniella on Opening Day, what's your lineup?
Bruce Levine (3:37 PM)
My leadoff man against a right-handed pitcher would be Fukudome in right; Theriot at 2nd; Lee at first; Ramirez at third; Byrd in center; Soriano in left; Soto catching; Castro at short and Zambrano would be my starter. I believe this lineup is better defensively and potentially better offensive than the 2009 team. For you Sox fans, my Feb. 9 prediction of their lineup is: Pierre leading off in left; Rios in center; Beckham at 2b; Quentin in right; Konerko 1b; A.J. catching; Ramirez at SS; Teahen at 3b; either Andruw Jones or Kotsay depending on lefty or right pitching as your DH.
Bruce Levine (3:38 PM)
Don't be surprised if Vizquel is in that DH from time to time as well. Ozzie would love to have the guys who can run like Vizquel, Pierre and Rios all in a row.
Mike DesEnfants (South Elgin, Il)
What does Jeff Baker have to do to keep a starting job? He clearly out played Fontenot at second base in limited duty. Sure he is a right handed bat, but I think Lou has failed in getting leftys into the lineup long enough.
Bruce Levine (3:39 PM)
Baker did nothing but play well for the Cubs last year. He hit .300 and played a solid 2b. But the Cubs feel he's still a part-time player and a viable one, backing up 2b and 3b.
With a little time before spring training, I was hoping to look into the future a little more and see who you think the Cubs will keep and let go in the next couple of years? D-Lee stay or go? Ted Lilly? etc. This would give us payroll flexibility if they left, but who replaces them? What is up with A Ram's contract?
Bruce Levine (3:40 PM)
We'll take the last one first. Ramirez has a window in November when he can declare himself a free agent, otherwise he has a couple more years left on his deal. I'm all for the Cubs offering Lee and Lilly short-term extensions right now. Both are solid veterans who have proven their worth. They also both made a lot of money in their careers. If they truly enjoyed their experience in Chicago, they would consider a short extension.
I love the effort and weight loss this off-season with Soto and Big Z. How healthy do you think they can both be throughout the year while also trying to keep the weight down when they both spent time on the DL last year?
Bruce Levine (3:41 PM)
Keep in mind the Cubs have hired a nutrionist. Yes inded somebody who knows a lot about food, and will plan the menus for all the players, beginning with spring training. The Cubs serve more meals per day than any team in baseball. For day games, 3 meals. For some guys, like pitchers, that's probably too much eating considering they throw only every five days.
Jeff (Chicago, Il)
How much of a competition will the Twins be to the White Sox this season considering that their rotation doesn't stack up against the Sox?
Bruce Levine (3:43 PM)
I believe they've won the division five out of the last eight years. How many teams do you think they were picked to win the division? Probably not many. Never count out the Twins, especially with those four explosive left-handed bats to go with an emerging Cuddyer. Ozzie will probably say that during spring training.
Are the Cubs in the wait-and-see approach in regards to a possible extension for Ted Lilly? If he comes back healthy and produces 08/09 numbers, what kind of extension would he get? I think maybe somewhere around 2 years 20 mil?
Bruce Levine (3:44 PM)
That sounds fair. A solid left-hander pitcher in a rotatio nis a tough commodity to find. Lilly is also an important clubhouse contributor.
Larry B (Minneapolis, MN)
I am a lifelong White Sox fan currently living three blocks from the Metrodome. I don't know why I am, either.I feel this White Sox team is the closest we have had to our 2005 World Series group: Superb pitching, good defense, and just enough offense. Our offense, though, is really dependent upon Quentin and Rios performing to their potential. We have heard plenty about Quentin's excitement to return healthy this year, but it seems nothing has been said about Rios. What is the mindset toward him going into this year?
Bruce Levine (3:45 PM)
Rios remains a bit of a mystery to the Sox. After claiming him from Toronto last year and absorbing his $60M contract, the team was obviously mystified by his lack of production. He seems like a good guy and solid citizen. The energy level is questionable at this point. The talent is there. He just has to give a better effort.
Frank (Elmhurst, IL)
Bruce, I understand the importance of a clubhouse leader and a "team guy," but it seems thats the only trait that Millar is selling himself on. Truth is, can he still play?
Bruce Levine (3:46 PM)
It's doubtful. One thing he can do is hit left-handed pitching. Having pom pons on the bench is a tad overrated but he is known as one of the great team guys of the last decade. Most teams would like to have a quality guy like him on the bench, but he must be able to play.
Jordan Meyers (UIC, Illinois)
When do you expect Starlin Castro to be at short for the Cubs? I feel it's a little unreasonable for Cubs fans to expect so much of him in 2010 when he has only played at the Double A level.
Bruce Levine (3:49 PM)
You're right, he only played at Double A for 31 games, but he was the MVP of the Ariz. Fall League, hitting .365 against very good competition. Great shortstops have come out of that fall league, like Garciaparra, Ramirez and Jeter. Keep in mind the Rangers started a 20 yo SS last year in Elvis Andris and they had great success with him replacing a Gold Glove SS in Michael Young, who moved to third.
BRRUUCCCEEE, WHo the heck are the Cubs gonna have leadoff? With fukudome and theriot both having poor numbers in the leadoff spot and nobody else on the team even resembling a leadoff hitter what are we gonna do? Soriano again...?
Bruce Levine (3:50 PM)
Cetainly not. Soriano's days as a leadoff man are in the past. It will probably be Theriot against LHs and Fukudome against RHs. If you can come up with a better player who's more suited for the role, please let Jim Hendry know.
any update on the Ryan Theriot Arbitartion case
Bruce Levine (3:51 PM)
Today Hendry said he was not optimistic about coming to a settlement before the case is heard. According to sources, I heard the case will be heard sometime around the weekend of Feb. 20.
Did I read That wrong or do you have Castro starting at short, gutsy move bruce
Bruce Levine (3:52 PM)
If the talent is there, why hold the player back? The team automatically should be better defensively even if the kid hits only .250. Pitching and defense wins.
adam bregenzer (round lake, Il)
whats the status of chad tracy? is he ready to go to work?
Bruce Levine (3:52 PM)
According to the Cubs, he's ready to compete for the backup job at first and third. His main compeptition wil be Hoffpauir, because they're both lefty hitters off the bench.
Given that you work for the Cubs with Vine Line is it hard for you to be objective when covering them?
Bruce Levine (3:53 PM)
I don't work for the Cubs. I do freelance work. There are no ties between the Cubs and I. Either of us can end our association at any moment. And they've never told me what to write or what not to write. If that ever happened, I would quit immediately.
Whats the point of unretiring #11 for Vizquel?
Bruce Levine (3:55 PM)
I don't get any of it. I don't really see where the Sox will get much marketing play out of it. I don't think there are many young White Sox fans who will want to wear a back-up player's number. It's a nice gesture toward Aparicio by Vizquel, but having a backup player honor a Hall of Famer is a bit strange.
Guess Who? Jermaine Dye. Why are the Cubs not picking up Dye?
Bruce Levine (3:56 PM)
The Cubs made an offer to Dye. It was a solid offer, and he balked at the money in the offer. The Cubs also didn't like hearing the fact if that's all the money that's available, he would consider retirement. The Cubs moved on and got themsleves a younger RBI type in Nadi.
Bruce, are you hearing any disgruntled remarks regarding Omar Vizquel's request to wear number "11" this season? I personally think its a great idea considering they're both from Venezuela and both will be the only two in the HOF together some day representing Venezuela...
Bruce Levine (3:57 PM)
I don't discount the fact Vizquel is a future HOFer, but I don't see the connection between him as a White Sox player and Aparicio, who gave the South Siders 10 of his best years. Vizquel never will be remembered as a White Sox player. He's an Indian.
Temkin (Moberly, Mo)
It seems like some of the problems the White Sox have had the last few years have been with regards to fundamentals...Does Ozzie have any plans to work on that sort of stuff, which seems to get overlooked, this spring?
Bruce Levine (3:58 PM)
You are correct. They were a lousy baserunning team and awful trying to get a bunt down early last year. Some of it had to do with playing inexpeienced players, such as Getz, Ramirez and Beckham. If the Sox are going to be a smallball type team, they're goign to have to execute the fundamentals better than they did in '09.
Hey Bruce, on both the White Sox and Cubs...who in your eyes has made the most improvement to their game this off season and looks like they will have a break out season or at least a better season than last?? Besides Soto please...because we have already heard he has lost a good amount of weight and is back on track...
Bruce Levine (4:00 PM)
I'm going to bet on Zambrano having a better year. I believe by the end of '09 he was thoroughly embarrassed by the injuries he incurred and his obvious lack of physical preparation. For the Sox, my bet is on Rios. He has to show he's not the stiff that showed up after the Sox acquired him from the Jays on waivers. You have to think he's better than that.
Hey Bruce, what would it take for the White Sox to acquire Scott Downs from Toronto?
Bruce Levine (4:01 PM)
The Sox would love to pick up another bullpen guy and having a stronger lefty out of the pen would be a bonus. Downs would be a nice addition. However I haven't heard anything about him since I first put his name out there 10 days ago. Other people have followed with the rumor, but at this point doesn't appear to be progressing.
Bruce Levine (4:02 PM)
On Tuesday, I will report from Cubs and Sox spring training. Keep your eyes open for more chat room opportunities during spring training.