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)
Interesting draft for both teams yesterday. I thought the acrobatics was the highlight of the evening. Time for both teams to make some trades. I think now that the draft is almost finished, teams can concentrate on making moves. Welcome!
Please tell me the Cubs are going hard after Soler? Any rumors on if were still the favorites to sign him?
Bruce Levine (1:02 PM)
I would have to say yes. The Cubs want to augment the draft with strong, international signings, and Soler is a good place to start -- a 19-year-old kid.
Any updates on Castro's possible benching? As much as I love Castro and think he is a future cornerstone of this franchise I think he needs a wake up call. If he is going to be a superstar he has to know he has to show up every single day focused whether they are 20 below .500 or 20 above
Bruce Levine (1:04 PM)
My perception is a little different. At certain points the coaching staff needs to realize this guy needs a day off once in a while. When Quade was the manager, it took him about a year to realize that just because Castro is young, it doesn't mean he's mentally prepared to play on a daily basis.
Austin (Madison, WI)
I've heard several rumors about the White Sox picking up a third baseman through a trade. Kevin Youkillis comes to mind. If the Red Sox keep sliding and the White Sox keep winning, do you see him the White Sox picking him up? I'm not worried about attendance by the way, if the Sox continue to win, it's only a matter of time.
Bruce Levine (1:05 PM)
The White Sox don't have the pro-rated $12 million to spend on Kevin Youkilis. You also have to figure out what Youkilis is right now. He doesn't appear to be the player he was a year or two ago.
Johnny (Chi-town )
Will Javier Baez be in Double A by the end of the year?
Bruce Levine (1:06 PM)
He could be. He's the Cubs' best hitting prospect in the minors after Rizzo. Everybody that has sen him feels he will hit at every level.
Mark (Pasadena, CA)
Opening Day 2016: Shark on the mound, Almora, Soler and Jackson in the outfield, Rizzo at first, Castro at short. Is this realistic? Who fills out the other 3 lineup spots (second, third and catcher)? Who else currently in the organization is in the rotation?
Bruce Levine (1:07 PM)
Guys that they get for Dempster, Soto, Maholm, etc. could fill out the other spots. Is it realistic? Why not? Of course those players can be part of the mix, but Theo & Co. will be stockpiling young talent over the next year and a half, so other players could fit in there too.
Paul (Denver, CO)
Bruce, what is more likely to happen, Garza traded or gets an extension?
Bruce Levine (1:09 PM)
For some reason I just don't see him getting a five-year, $80-90 million deal from the Cubs. He's a valuable pitcher, but I don't know if the Cubs think he's a #1 or not. He might be more valuable to them by what he brings back to them in a trade.
Adam (Orland Park)
It seems like Morel is somewhat close to returning to the club. I know Orlando Hudson hasn't been phenomenal at the plate, but I have more confidence in him than Brent. What will the 3B situation be when Morel comes back?
Bruce Levine (1:10 PM)
It's hard for me to say. If I was the manager, I would option him to AAA and let him play there until the All-Star Game. Not as a punishment, but just to build the confidence in his hitting approach. And if I can't make a trade for another 3rd baseman, I let him take a shot at it one more time.
Matt (Wilmette) [via mobile]
Bruce, what is your take on the Almora pick? I know he was number one on the Cubs board but they're so thin on pitching depth in the minors and still planning on going after Soler, I don't really understand their strategy.
Bruce Levine (1:12 PM)
I think you saw that the Cubs drafted four more RHP today, so rest assured that the Cubs personnel is addressing their pitching needs in this draft.
If Gavin Floyd continues to struggle do you see the White Sox starting Zach Stewart or Jose Quintana for a couple games? Are there any other options in the pen or minors to start?
Bruce Levine (1:13 PM)
I think the White Sox really like Quintana. If someone stumbles or if Floyd continues to underachieve I expect Quintana to step in at some point. The good thing for the White Sox is that they've been able to win with marginal starting pitching from a couple of spots in the rotation.
Guys, will a Cubs manager ever back up their tough talk of mental gaffes meaning getting benched until a player gets it?? The Cubs are already losing, so it's not like wins would be sacrificed over discipline and professionalism.
Bruce Levine (1:16 PM)
Part of player development is to make sure that you're teaching a player as well as being responsible for what they do on the field. The tough part for Sveum, as it was for Quade, is that you don't want to punish the team by taking out their best hitter for any period of time. People forget that Castro has been through a lot emotionally over the past six months. The kid is only 22. I'm not making excuses for him, but he is still just a kid.
Mike (The Loop )
Where do you think Almora will start? low A? High A?
Bruce Levine (1:17 PM)
Almora will likely start in rookie ball, then work his way through the system after that. There's no rush for a high school player.
Bruce- I'm thinking Castro is overrated to an extent. Sure he's young and might hit for power someday, but I sense he's not a Theo-type player. Do you think he's overrated?
Bruce Levine (1:20 PM)
I'm not smart enough to tell you at his age of 22 what this guy is going to be. I can tell you he walked onto a major league field at age 19 with very little experience and hit .300 from the first day on. That tells you he's an exceptional hitter, but maybe with many flaws in his approach. I think there are 29 teams that would love to trade for Starlin Castro. This is also a really nice kid on top of everything. He's been through the emotional ringer since being accused of a crime in October. Again, not making excuses for him, but pointing out realities for a 22-year-old that is in a foreign country and just growing up as a man. I think he should be allowed to make some mistakes, and he's still the best player that takes the field for the Cubs every day, even with his flaws.
Chris (Bartlett, TN)
Who gets traded first...Dempster, Garza, LaHair or, and I can't even believe I'm about to say this, Castro. Sure seems like the rumors that were shot down last week seem to have a little truth in them now.
Bruce Levine (1:24 PM)
Epstein will probably listen to teams when they ask about Castro. But baseball reality tells you that you don't trade a shortstop with superstar potential, unless someone gives you 4-5 players that you can project as major league talent. It just doesn't make good baseball sense. Did you ever think he might be playing a little bit better if he had better players around him? That's not to knock other players, but this is not a team that was built to compete and win this season. Don't think that I don't get frustrated watching Castro -- I do. But I do appreciate watching the talent and skill he possesses. I think Dempster is #1 on the clock depending on where he will allow them to trade him to.
Matt (Tinley Park)
Bruuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuce! Castro seems in need of a attitude adjustment or is it just me? Him and Dale don't seem to be on the same page. Will Dale hesitate to bench him if he keeps up the poor play in the field? The new Cubs way is holding people accountable i think and it should apply to him as well.
Bruce Levine (1:27 PM)
At some point-- and it might be tonight, Dale will realize that Castro needs one or even two days off. Not as a punishment, but as a way to watch the game from a different perspective. It's also a mental day off which is 100x more important than a physical day off for a 22-year-old. I know Sveum and the coaches believe that their number 1 job is to teach the young man to be mentally and physically prepared for every pitch, and this is the tough part of coaching because you want to remain positive. But you also want to impress on Castro that playing in major leagues is a privilege and it has to be earned.
Bruce, Thornton has not shown he can't pitch well anymore. Is there a trade market for a lety with so-so stuff, and what could the Sox get for him?
Bruce Levine (1:28 PM)
He's making a lot of money and he's been a horse, so some team will have to watch him for a week or 10 days and see him pitch well before they would make that move. Also, you have to be sure that Santiago is ready to step up into the set-up role that Thornton will leave behind.
David Kreis (Tinley Park)
Is there a chance Rizzo can be kept down untill Sept. call ups? What is the benefit in regards to Team control (arbitration) and when is it most advantageous to bring him up for most team control?
Bruce Levine (1:30 PM)
After June 23rd is when they would have control of another year of arbitration and free agency. I don't think that Epstein and Hoyer worry about that as much as other people might believe. I think they want Rizzo to be coming into a positive environment with his best chance to succeed. I think they worry about that much more than his arbitration/free agency clock.
Nobody is really talking about it, but 5 other Cuban players came on the market with Soler the other day. Are the Cubs in on any of the others?
Bruce Levine (1:31 PM)
Keep in mind they already signed 4 other Cuban players last winter, including the lefty Concepcion. The Cubs are on top of their game internationally, and I'd be shocked if they don't come up with the best bid when final bids are taken by the agents on June 7.
Drew (Barrington) [via mobile]
Do you see the cubs making a move for a big name anytime soon or before the season ends? It would be nice to see a move for the better.
Bruce Levine (1:33 PM)
Generally, I can only answer that question by saying any big move would be predicated on a team's control over a player and projecting him over the next 4-5 years. As I've said before, the Cubs still have to get a little bit worse before they get better. I know that's frightening to Cubs fans, but the hard part has began in stripping the team down in order to build it back up.
Tom (Pingree Grove, Illinois)
Hi, Bruce:Don't you think that the Cubs would be best served if they trade Ryan Dempster sooner rather than later? I respect and admire Dempster and his accomplishments, but my concern is that he will not maintain his current level as the season continues and will thereby lower his market value. Thank you.
Bruce Levine (1:35 PM)
Very good point. That could happen. But people who will trade for Dempster believe in him for the long haul. Other teams understand that pitching every day and trying to be perfect can impact a pitcher's approach. Dempster is a tremendously strong personality that can handle adverse situations. But he is only human and subject to self-doubt.
Dave (Tinley Park)
More of a statement, But I really liked seeing Samardzija putting his arm around Castro, settling him down, and even laughing. All this after he was clearly upset on the moung with Castro on his "how many outs are there" gaff. Is Jeff as good of a "Good Club House Guy" as he seems to be in front of the cameras?
Bruce Levine (1:36 PM)
He's not even aware a camera is on him. Samardzija just happens to be a splendid individual that understands the concept of team play. He's one of the best and most sincere guys you'd ever meet, and at the same time a ton of fun.
Bruce, is there any treade market for DeJesus? I dont hear his name being knocked around but he is having a decent season and for relatively cheap too.
Bruce Levine (1:38 PM)
That was the Cubs best off-season signing. He's a solid player, outstanding defender and a pretty good clutch hitter. At some point if he's of more benefit to you and the young people on your team now or trade bait. My guess is that you need these types of veterans to help youngsters learn how to do it the right way. At $4.5 million a year, that's pretty much a bargain contract.
For whatever team signs Soler..is he much like Almora in the fact that he probably would start in rookie ball and go from there? Or does he start higher?
Bruce Levine (1:39 PM)
I think because of his international experience he would start higher, maybe in High A at Daytona. Again, no rush for him to get to the bigs at age 19.
Mike (Los Angeles)
I don't think I've ever seen two back to back questions about the Sox, who doesn't care about them, you or the entire city of Chicago?
Bruce Levine (1:40 PM)
I'm an equal-opportunity answer machine. I believe that White Sox fans welcoming me back after spending a year covering the Cubs exclusively. I now cover both teams for an equal amount of games.
Dave (Springfield )
Bruce, what do you think about Tim Lincecum to the Cubs via a trade?
Bruce Levine (1:42 PM)
I don't think they're looking to spend $20 million a year on him right now, and Lincecum isn't the pitcher he was a few years ago right now. There appears to be some question as to whether or not his funky delivery has taken something away from his arm, even at his young age.
Could we see more of Joe Mather at Third Base this season?
Bruce Levine (1:43 PM)
You might. Talk is that Stewart is an above-average defender at third, and we don't know how well Mather would play there on a daily basis. What we do know is that Stewart continues to struggle and may have to be in a platoon situation over the next couple of months.
How long before the Sox hitting comes back to reality. I love seeing the play out of Rios, Beckham, Dunn, but something tells me this isn't going to last much longer.
Bruce Levine (1:44 PM)
Interestingly enough, the 2 coldest players on the team are Konerko and Dunn, a combined 4-42 during the last 6 games. So the team concept is a really good idea--someone picks up someone else when they are down, and right now Beckham and Viciedo are the hot hitters.
There is a developing pattern slowly creeping on Castro. I get all the young stuff, but a message needs to be sent. Everyone makes mistakes, but this isn't the first time. I have all the patience in the world with this team and the future, but there needs to be some accountability - this wasn't a one off incident. Thoughts?
Bruce Levine (1:47 PM)
I do agree with you. However, you have to make sure that the message isn't just punitive. There has to be a real message in whatever form of instruction the coaching staff comes up with. I don't see anything wrong with benching him for a few days. It's a part of player development and a part of the other players understanding that there is not a separate set of rules for a potential superstar. If Levine is managing this team he sits for 2 games. Not for punishment, but for instruction. Of course outside of a replacement player game in 1995, I've never managed big league baseball.
Beckham has been swinging well as of late and moved his batting avg up recently. Will this hold? I keep hearing he'll finally break out and figure this out at the plate, but I question that. He's an awesome defender, but I'm not buying into this recent surge. What is your opinion?
Bruce Levine (1:49 PM)
Nobody said that Beckham's a .300 hitter. but if he does end up at .270-.280, he can have a real positive effect on the offense. Subtly, his approach to pulling the ball has added some impact to his offense. For almost 2 years pitchers have been taking advantage of him with high, inside pitches and it seems he's finally made an adjustment on that.
Jackson is starting to hit again in AAA. Vitters is better this year(more BBs, fewer errors). Do you think we see either player this year?
Bruce Levine (1:51 PM)
Maybe, maybe not. September callups are a distinct possibilty for them. Getting their feet wet for 30 days is a no-risk venture for the team or the players. I still think Jackson needs 500 ABs at AAA this season, and the same goes for Vitters.
D Simon (Chicago)
Why do I keep hearing that the Sox are going to make a bid for Soler? Seems so out of character for us, even though we signed Viciedo a few years back. Gotta figure with The Cell being empty thus far, The Chairman isn't about to write that check.
Bruce Levine (1:53 PM)
The one thing you might be missing is that the White Sox are now in the mold of building with young players. Yesterday they drafted a high school player with their first round pick, for the first time in 11 years. This is a pronouncement that the White Sox will develop their own players and spend internationally as well. Don't forget that the Sox have had as much success with Cuban players than anyone in baseball-- they already have 2 starting for them. So yes, they are likely interested in Soler but probably won't outbid the Cubs.
In your opinion are the Sox for real. Cleveland lead by as many as 6 games last year and Detroit still won the division by 15. Can the Sox keep it up or will the paper tiger in Detroit finally start reeling things in?
Bruce Levine (1:54 PM)
Detroit has a lot of talent, but they also have a lot of problems. Injuries among those. I like the White Sox' chances if they can add a veteran pitcher and 3rd baseman. They know they need to add. The question is whether they have the money or not.
Chris Sale (Cooperstown)
If I keep this up, could I win the Cy Young?
Bruce Levine (1:55 PM)
Chris I'm sorry to say that you probably won't due to the fact that when we get to late-August, the White Sox will be looking to limit your innings. As a 23-year-old pitcher the Sox want to protect their investment in you. I hope haven't hurt your feelings.
dave lord (crown point)
Hey, Bruce. I am wondering if the cubs will actually spend some money on the big league team in the offseason. I am all in for a rebuild, but with all the money the cubs get year after year, I think the least they can do is spend some money this offseason. What is your take?
Bruce Levine (1:57 PM)
Great question. I don't know if 2013 will be a year when Epstein and Hoyer are ready to win. However, getting good players to be part of the organization really has no timetable. I don't think they would back away from trading for 25, 26, 27-year-old players from other organizations. Player development happens on every level including the majors.
Adam Dunn (IDK)
I'm having a great year, are you sold on my return to stardom?
Bruce Levine (1:58 PM)
Stardom is a relative term, I would say you're still on pace for 45 homers and 120 RBI. I think everyone around the Sox would be thrilled with that type of season, which is what they thought they would be getting when they signed you.
What does it mean that Almora has committed to attend the University of Miami? Is there a chance he doesn't join the Cubs and goes to college instead? Didn't something like that happen with Cashner?
Bruce Levine (2:00 PM)
It's just a formality. It doesn't mean he has to go to college. But if you make a commitment to a university it means that is the school he has to go to if he doesn't sign with the Cubs. But he can walk away from the scholarship at any time.
Bruce, the Cubs were in the cellar in '06 and bounced back to win the division in '07; can you foresee anything like that happening this season into next?
Bruce Levine (2:02 PM)
Not really. Unfortunately the Cubs are not ready to win. That doesn't mean they won't try to win, but they will need an almost entirely new pitching staff. With all due respect, how many of these pitchers do you see with the staff in 2014? That's why you've seen the Cubs draft so many pitchers after the first round. They know what areas they need to fortify the most. I guess my answer to you is: no. I don't see them contending next year.
Bruce, when it's all said and done, who will have had the better career in a White Sox uniform, Frank Thomas or Paul Konerko?
Bruce Levine (2:04 PM)
Another outstanding question--because you are making me think, something my family and girlfriend never accuse me of doing. I would say impact-wise, Frank Thomas. I've never seen anyone outside of Thomas and Pujols have a stretch of 7-10 years of dominance the way they did when they came to the bigs. But Konerko is a better all-around player.
If Dunn finishes the season out like you think he could, is he a lock for comeback player of the year? I don't think enough was made of his rush back from an emergency appendectomy last year which I think had a big effect on his season.
Bruce Levine (2:05 PM)
He's up for it, but don't forget about Peavy and maybe Beckham and Rios will want a part of that as well. But if Dunn hits 45 homers, he's probably the winner.
when is Danks expected to make his return start?
Bruce Levine (2:06 PM)
He's going to rehab this week. It's not known how long it will take for him to get back, but we'll know more by the end of the week.
Bruce Levine (2:08 PM)
It's been a fun week so far. I really enjoyed watching the draft yesterday. According to my scouting friends, the Cubs got all 3 of the players they wanted with their top 3 players, and the White Sox were extremely happy with the acrobat they got. Check me out on Twitter @ESPNBruceLevine and my buddy Doug Padilla t @ESPNChiCubs. Much like Starlin Castro, now I'm going to go and grab some bench.