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)
What could be more exciting than Cubs vs. White Sox weekend, with both teams playing better? For all you Bulls fans that have shying away from baseball, welcome to the jungle...
Africa (San Diego)
If the Cubs lose last night, does Sveum get more heat for calling for the sacrifice with Castro up?
Bruce Levine (1:02 PM)
I think there's going to be a little bit of a trial and error period for Sveum. He usually has very good reasons for what he does, but I'm not a guy that would ever bunt with #3 hitter with two men on and nobody out. That said, I think Sveum and his staff have done a fantastic job with the talent that's been given to them.
What is the Soler situation? Doesn't this have to be resolved before the June draft or he becomes subject to the draft?
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
He's a product of pending free agency. What little I know about it is that MLB is very sensitive about checking the authenticity of all foreign players before granting them free agent status and the ability to negotiate with teams. This is because of the Carmona situation that occurred last winter.
Steve Smith (Batavia Ia)
what are the chances the Cubs and Red Sox could swap the bad contracts of Soriano and Beckett?
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
This is a Bruce Levine chat room -- not the David Kaplan chat room. David has been pushing that trade. As much as I respect him and his opinion, I don't see how Alfonso Soriano would help the Red Sox, and they don't need a DH.
Vinny (New Jersey)
With promising trade pieces (thornton, peavy, floyd, pierzynski, possible konerko) will playing in a bad division make Williams believe this team could actually play with the big boys, and not sell?
Bruce Levine (1:08 PM)
Knowing Jerry Reinsdorf as well as I do, the answer will be a product of how the fanbase supports the team and what Kenny and Rick feel is the right move to make at the trade deadline. Reinsdorf has been convinced to go both ways. '97 was the white flag trade, when they dealt Roberto Hernandez and others to the Giants when they were just 3 games out, but he has also let them 'buy' many times as well.
Chris Volstad (Orland Park)
Bad performance or unfortunate luck since losing streak has began? Which one am I?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
A combination of the two. Poor run support when in Miami and your propensity to give up runs with men on base make that an easy answer to say yes to both.
Dan (Long Grove, Il)
If Peavy continues his dominace and the Sox are out of it at the trade deadline. What do you think they could get in return for him?
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
Probably less than you think because he is a free agent and there is a $17 million option for next year, although it can be bought out for $4 million. Although he's pitching great, he will porbably bring back less than you think.
Regardless of the fact there's no room, just wondering: Is there enough evidence that LaHair could not play OF to open up 1B for Rizzo in the near future?
Bruce Levine (1:12 PM)
I'm sure LaHair can play the outfield, and he did last year on occasion. The question is does Soriano really have any value to any other teams.
How concerned are the White Sox with Vicideo's lack of production?
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
Very concerned unless you happened to tune in to last night's game. They believe he will hit and they are willing to let him take his lumps while learning on the job.
TimC (All Over)
Whats going on with Kerry Wood's command? He has definately not looked sharp or anywhere on point so far this year. Is it lack of Spring training work or is there something else going on?
Bruce Levine (1:15 PM)
If you listen to expert scouts like I do it's a matter of arm slot. For veteran pitchers, finding a comfortable arm slot isn't necessarily the best place for finding your command. In other words, attrition to the arm doesn't allow a pitcher to get to his proper arm slot every time and you have varying degrees of command.
Bruce, this might sound like crazy talk, but if the Cubs hang in there around 5 games out in July will Theo/Hoyer try to make some moves to improve the club or are we sellers no matter what?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
I think you have the question of the day, but I do not have the answer. I can tell you that any baseball man that has the chance to seize the moment may divert from their long-range plan in order to steal the division or take a playoff spot. In this case the Cubs are going to have to add bullpen depth. The Cubs will not trade young players they feel have a chance to have a good future with the team in order to win this year, but they still might go for it.
John(NJ) [via mobile]
Jake Peavy is healthy for the first time in over 2 years, Adam Dunn is hitting dingers, and things are looking bright. Does this team hang around all year, especially now that there is an extra wild card?
Bruce Levine (1:19 PM)
Could be. Also, Detroit is showing a tendency to squander their talent at this point. The Tigers lack the killer instinct that separates the great teams from the good teams. So that opens up a whole lot of possibilities for teams like the White Sox and the Indians to compete all year.
How much authority does Hoyer have - you hear Theo's name in every talk about the Cubs
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
I believe Jed Hoyer has a tremendous amount of input on what happens with the Cubs. As a matter of fact, the trade that they made for Rizzo was aggressively pushed by Hoyer and I'm told Epstein was skeptical of the deal, not because he didn't believe in Rizzo's talent, but because he didn't want to trade a power arm in Cashner. Hoyer is no puppet.
you think smaradjza can sustain success throughout the year, facing teams a 2nd and 3rd time?
Bruce Levine (1:22 PM)
That's a fair question, but one we can't answer right now. But I think he's learning how to pitch to these teams just like they are learnign how to hit them. The bigger question is can he continue to pace himself and get at least 7 innings an outing. The talent is certainly there.
Ventura/Cooper/Williams - Who has the final say on pitching staff decisions?
Bruce Levine (1:23 PM)
Another great question, especially after what occurred recently with Sale. Ultimately, there are discussions between the three. Final say on how a player should be used should be the manager's. Final say on a pitcher's health or a long range plan should be the GM's.
I understand that dealing Soriano is a near impossibility unless you're willing to eat most of his contract and receive little in return. However, if he continues to underproduce, and management feels that Rizzo is ready, would they not shift LaHair to LF?
Bruce Levine (1:25 PM)
I don't think with Soriano still on the team that they would move LaHair to LF. Soriano's status in the game and the respect that the team has for him would make it to difficult to make him a bench player. More importantly, if he was coming off the bench you couldn't put him in for defense or use him as a pinch-runner, so he would be a liability as a late-inning substitute. Ultimately the only solutions are to trade him or release him.
Mr. Cox (Greenville, NC)
What can be attributed to Brett Jackson's current slump?
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
I think he's getting used to pitchers that can actually command breaking pitches. A lot of players have trouble with moving up to AAA from AA because they don't see as many fastballs as they saw at AA. You also see more veteran pitchers that throw the cut fastball in AAA, which is a pitch that young hitters like Jackson have to learn to lay off of or hit it when it's in the zone. All indications are he has the baseball IQ and aptitude to make the adjustment.
David (San Diego)
What's the status of Clevenger? Any chance Nationals come calling for Soto?
Bruce Levine (1:29 PM)
Clevenger is still recovering from the tear in his upper ribcage area. The answer about Soto to Nats is probably yes and yes on AJ Pierzynski and yes on a lot of veteran catchers that the Nats will kick the tires on. They have a lot of good, young talent in their organization. I'm just not sure that either team - Cubs or White Sox - are ready to trade their starting catcher.
Can we please stop the madness and move Kenny upstairs and give the reigns to Rick?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
Is this Rick's father? Rick would love to run a major league team. However, I think he's content being the highest-paid assistant GM in baseball. And he's well worth it. Kenny and Rick work extremely well together. I think Williams gets a bad rap because of some of the aggressive moves he made which have not worked out. Personally I like a GM that is not afraid to make a mistake.
Dolis is the closer, but do you see that lasting? I think James Russell has been our most reliable arm out of the bullpen. Also would love to see Welington Castillo start more than Soto.
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
It's not common to have a left-handed closer that doesn't have a dominant pitch. If you look at history, the Billy Wagners, John Francos, Randy Myers, Norm Charlton, etc, all had dominant pitches. Russell is more of a finesse pitcher and he's done a great job of learning how to pitch and get hitters out. For example, look at the problems Sean Marshall is having as a closer in Cincy. He's an outstanding set-up man but really doesn't have a dominant pitch that you look for in a closer.
Bobby B (Newport Beach, CA)
Hey Bruce! I just want to know why every future speculation involves trading Lahair? Hes got at least 5 good years ahead of him and I just don't see hitters like him available for his salary. Why not groom him for left field and platoon him w Soriano til hes traded?
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
That could happen, but you can't platoon LaHair -- he has to play everyday and against all left-handed pitching. I don't see where Soriano can be a part-time player for any team. I think he's someone else's DH. I think he'd be a better offensive player without having to use any energy in the outfield. With all that said, his trade value is still minimal.
Will the cubs shop Dempster or Garza to teams requiring pitching help before the deadline? Seems like teams like the Yankees and red sox might be getting anxious due to injury or performance
Bruce Levine (1:37 PM)
I think yes is the answer. I believe the Cubs would love to sign Garza to a long-term deal, but if the agents for Garza are unreasonable in their requests, it's incumbent upon the Cubs to move him. Dempster has no-trade clause, although he'd love to stay with the Cubs he may accept a deal knowing he will be a free agent after the season.
With Reed seemingly being so dominate (and sun burnt), is the closer role now his to lose?
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
I think he's just the latest in a trial and error period that the White Sox coaching staff is going through with these young pitchers. Next in line could be Nate Jones. There's a lot to like about these young arms and the development will continue to take place here at the major league level. Nothing is set in stone that Reed is the closer for the rest of the season.
joedirt (arlington heights)
Bruce you just said: Soriano's status in the game and the respect that the team has for him would make it to difficult to make him a bench player. In this day and age why should this matter the guy is getting paid either way isn't the object to put the best team on the field to win the game??
Bruce Levine (1:41 PM)
Maybe I wasn't clear with my point--thanks for re-asking the question. As good as a teammate Soriano is, you do not want a disgruntled superstar sitting and grousing on your bench. It's just not good for morale. Yes he could do it, but from a team standpoint and a results standpoint I just don't think it would work. That's just my opinion; not necessarily that of the Cubs.
Not really a question but a lesson for all Sox fans. I remember last year when the talk was all about getting rid of Walker due to bad offense. Manto has Rios and Dunn hitting pretty well but Walker is in charge of Braves hitters and their offense is awesome. Is this just a perfect example of people looking to an easy explanation of why something isn't working as opposed to the actual root of the problem?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
Yes. Expanding on your explanation, the bottom line is talent. And the Braves have an abundance of talented hitters where it remains to be seen whether Morel, Beckham and Viciedo will be considered that in the future. None of them really dominated in the minors before they were called up to the majors.
I think Kenny Williams deserves a bad rap for not focusing on the simplest aspect of Sabermetrics, on base percentage. That line-up is littered with players that won't take a walk, which is why it's often difficult for them to score runs.
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
I think with his limited payroll, the ability to add high on-base percentage hitters is definitely missing.
If Sori doesnt pick it up at all over the next two months any chance they just cut him loose? Thats a lot of money, but doesnt do you any good if its not getting much.
Bruce Levine (1:46 PM)
I think ownership can at some point rationalize that the money on Soriano's contract has already been spent. It's already spent regardless of if he plays for you or not. Therefore, are you better off with another player out there instead of Soriano if you release him. It's much the same theory they used in both the Zambrano and Byrd trades. teh Cubs basically ate the entire contract of Zambrano and Byrd, and at this point got marginal talent in return. However, the Cubs feel that they are better off with Campana out in CF than they were with Byrd out there. This is how they would have to look at releasing Soriano, if they ever get to that point.
Do you see the Cubs going after Hamels this off season?
Bruce Levine (1:48 PM)
If they sign Garza to a long-term deal, then they are going to have to add another dominant, top of the rotation pitcher. With Dempster's salary coming off the books, you can make a case for them going after him. The question is are you really willing to spend $20 million a year for five years for Hamel's services?
how can the Sox keep sticking with Morel? he was decent, but far from great in the minor leagues. In my mind, they need to turn the page as this guy is horrible and is causing them to lose games.
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
You are right, however the White Sox have no replacement for him at this point. You have to make either Escobar or Lillibridge your full-time 3rd Baseman. That may be a reach. But there's no argument with your comments.
Should the Ricketts family be alarmed that there are still tickets available for the Cubs-Sox series?
Bruce Levine (1:51 PM)
No, that's just a reality check of having a team that has only been over .500 only 4 times in the last 3 years. Cubs tickets are still expensive and the product isn't always worth the price. Cubs fans are not stupid, and contrary to popular baseball folklore, do not go to games just to party.
Bruce Levine (1:53 PM)
Looking forward to an interesting commute to the White Sox/Cubs games this weekend. Everyone be careful when going to the games. Follow me on Twitter @ESPNBruceLevine and follow Doug Padilla at @ESPNChiCubs. Thanks for all the great questions!