White Sox

A Forte overview: '22' needed to play in 2011

772516.png

A Forte overview: '22' needed to play in 2011

By 3 p.m. Chicago time on Monday, Matt Forte either will have a multi-year contract with the Bears or a one-year deal paying him a guaranteed 7.74 million under the teams franchise tag. He wont be happy about the latter, may not overjoyed with what the former ends up being, but it will be his only option for the 2012 season.

It is a situation both enviable and unenviable (depending on your feelings about someone stuck with a one-year salary just a little south of 8 million.)

A question that may nag Forte and agent Adisa Bakari is whether or not there was a window of opportunity missed to this point.

It shouldnt.

The overall here is that neither Forte nor the Bears is the heavy. Two parties in a negotiation simply disagree on a value. The Bears have left a solid offer on the table for nearly a year now; Forte sees what others at his position have gotten and wants more. The Bears have an interim ceiling amount available to them under the rules and theyre using it.

(If Forte wants to take issue with anyone, it might be his players association, for reasons coming up shortly.)

Holding out no real option now or then

Holding out is sometimes the only leverage available to an NFL player. For Forte, it wasnt a realistic course of action last year and its even less of one now.

One slant on the extended Forte situation has been that he made a mistake by not holding out during camp and into the 2011 season, when his leverage perhaps was stronger. The Bears had what they considered a solid multi-year offer on the table at the time camp opened. Forte demurred and he played, played very well.

In reality Forte needed those superb weekly performances to make the case that he now has in front of the Bears. He simply was not Matt Forte, elite back going into last year.

He finished the 2010 season with only one 100-yard rushing game and two rushing touchdowns over his last five -- clearly not the stuff of elite even with his consistently high presence in the passing offense.

The 2010 season was his first ever with more than a 3.9-yard average. He needed to play in 2011, not hold out.

Indeed, a good case can be made that then-GM Jerry Angelo and the organization were offering a deal that was reflective of what they thought Forte was on his way to becoming, not so much what hed done. The Bears were not going to bury the salary needle for a back with only one of his three seasons averaging more than 4.0 yards per carry.

He was not going to pry the Bears off their position by not playing last season.

This isnt suggesting that Forte was obligated to play simply because he had a contract. That may seem like a logical point of order, but the reality of NFL contracts is that teams fail to honor contracts whenever they cut a player with time remaining on his deal. Contracts arent guaranteed beyond specified bonuses and if a team can hold out when a player has a contract, the reverse should apply as well.

And Forte was still playing under and out-performing his rookie contract, not a renegotiated longer-term deal.

For different reasons, holding out in the 2012 season hurts Forte but arguably not the Bears. They spent this offseason diversifying their offense and roster in ways that make them less dependent on Forte or any one player (even Jay Cutler, with the addition of Jason Campbell).
The time crunch

Fortes public persona has ticked up and down during the process, from a near-universal pay the man sentiment during the first half of the 2011 season to less enthusiastic support during times he voiced unhappiness.

But Forte wanting to squeeze this situation for everything possible is less greed than recognition that this is potentially his only major contract.

Do the math.

Forte is 26. A four-year deal sends him onto the market at age 30 or, more likely, adding a year, maybe two, onto this deal in the form of an extension. That will not carry with it the kind of guaranteed money that comes with either a franchise tag or multi-year deal, regardless of what a new TV deal does to the cap in a couple years.

Forte and the Bears can both read a contract. They also can read a calendar.

The CBA twist

The franchise tag, as Phil Emery said in his first public comments after becoming Bears general manager, was negotiated by the players and the league. The Bears and every team were accorded the right to hold onto a key player with a pair of platinum handcuffs.

Players may not like it but it has always been part of the collective bargaining agreement since its 1993 inception as a concession to owners, giving them a means of retaining a franchise player for a year as long as the salary was the average of the top five at his position.

That took an unfortunate (for Forte) twist in the renegotiated CBA package arrived at a year ago. Instead of the franchise tag guaranteeing players the average of the top five for the most recent season, it became the average of the top five for the past five seasons.

For Forte, Ray Rice in Baltimore and others, that meant the guaranteed tag salary dropped from 9.5 million previously to 7.74 million. Thats not unique to running backs; the same happened to other positions like wide receiver (Wes Welker, New England) and defensive end (Cliff Avril, Detroit).

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

mickeradolfo.jpg
USA TODAY

White Sox prospect Micker Adolfo sidelined with elbow injuries

PHOENIX, Ariz. — One of the White Sox prized prospects will be on the shelf for a little while.

Outfielder Micker Adolfo has a sprained UCL in his right elbow and a strained flexor tendon that could require surgery. He could avoid surgery, though he could be sidelined for at least six weeks.

Though he hasn’t received the same high rankings and media attention as fellow outfield prospects Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert, Adolfo is considered a part of the White Sox promising future. He’s said to have the best outfield arm in the White Sox system.

Adolfo had a breakout season in 2017, slashing .264/.331/.453 with 16 homers and 68 RBIs in 112 games with Class A Kannapolis.

Adolfo, along with Jimenez and Robert, has been generating buzz at White Sox camp in Glendale, with a crowd forming whenever the trio takes batting practice. Earlier this week, the three described their conversation dreaming about playing together in the same outfield for a contending White Sox team in the future.

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

Javy Baez can do anything defensively, but what's next for him at the plate?

MESA, Ariz. — You don’t need to spend long searching the highlight reels to figure out why Javy Baez goes by “El Mago.”

Spanish for “The Magician,” that moniker is a fitting one considering what Baez can do with his glove and his arm up the middle of the infield. The king of tags, Baez also dazzles with his throwing arm and his range. He looks like a Gold Glove kind of player when you watch him do these amazing things. And it’s no surprise that in his first media session of the spring, he was talking about winning that award.

“Just to play hard and see what I can do. Obviously, try to be healthy the whole year again. And try to get that Gold Glove that I want because a lot of people know me for my defense,” he said Friday at Cubs camp. “Just try to get a Gold Glove and stay healthy the whole year.”

Those high expectations — in this case, being the best defensive second baseman in the National League — fall in line with everything the rest of the team is saying about their own high expectations. It’s been “World Series or bust” from pretty much everyone over the past couple weeks in Mesa.

Baez might not be all the way there just yet. Joe Maddon talked earlier this week about his reminders that Baez needs to keep focusing on making the easy plays while staying a master of the magnificent.

“What I talked to him about was, when he had to play shortstop, please make the routine play routinely and permit your athleticism to play. Because when the play requires crazinesss, you’re there, you can do that,” Maddon said. “But this straight up ground ball three-hopper to shortstop, come get the ball, play it through and make an accurate throw in a routine manner. Apparently that stuck. Because he told me once he thought in those terms, it really did slow it down for him. And he did do a better job at doing that.”

But the biggest question for Cubs fans when it comes to Baez is when the offense will catch up to his defense. Baez hit a game-winning homer run in his first major league game and smacked 23 of them last season, good for fifth on a team full of power bats. But arguably just as famous as Baez’s defensive magic is his tendency to chase pitches outside of the strike zone. He had 144 strikeouts last season and reached base at a .317 clip. Seven Cubs — including notable struggling hitters Jason Heyward and Ben Zobrist — had higher on-base percentages in 2017.

Baez, for one, is staying focused on what he does best, saying he doesn’t really have any specific offensive goals for the upcoming season.

“I’m not worrying about too much about it,” he said. “I’m just trying to play defense, and just let the offense — see what happens.”

Maddon, unsurprisingly, talked much more about what Baez needs to do to become a better all-around player, and unsurprisingly that included being more selective at the plate.

“One of the best base runners in the game, one of the finest arms, most acrobatic, greatest range on defense, power. The biggest thing for me for him is to organize the strike zone,” Maddon said. “Once he does that, heads up. He’s at that point now, at-bat wise, if you want to get those 500, 600 plate appearances, part of that is to organize your zone, accept your walks, utilize the whole field, that kind of stuff. So that would be the level that I think’s the next level for him.”

Will Baez have a season’s worth of at-bats to get that done? The versatile Cubs roster includes a couple guys who split time between the infield and outfield in Zobrist and Ian Happ. Getting their more consistent bats in the lineup might mean sacrificing Baez’s defense on certain days. Baez, of course, also has the ability to slide over to shortstop to spell Addison Russell, like he did when Russell was on the disabled list last season.

Until Baez learns how to navigate that strike zone a bit better, it might make Maddon more likely to mix and match other options, rather than considering him an everyday lock like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant.

But like Russell, Albert Almora Jr. and Willson Contreras, Baez is one of the young players who despite key roles on a championship contender the last few years still have big league growth to come. And Maddon thinks that growth is right around the corner.

“I want to believe you’re going to see that this year,” Maddon said. “They’ve had enough major league at-bats now, they should start making some significant improvements that are easy to recognize. The biggest thing normally is pitch selection, I think that’s where it really shows up. When you have talented players like that, that are very strong, quick, all that other stuff, if they’re swinging at strikes and taking balls, they’re going to do really well. And so it’s no secret with Javy. It’s no secret with Addy. Addy’s been more swing mode as opposed to accepting his walks. That’s part of the maturation process with those two guys. Albert I thought did a great job the last month, two months of getting better against righties. I thought Jason looked really good in the cage today. And Willson’s Willson.

“The natural assumption is these guys have played enough major league at-bats that you should see something different this year in a positive way.”