Fire

Kap: Cubs moving closer to trading Dempster

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Kap: Cubs moving closer to trading Dempster

After working the phones late last night and today, it appears that the Cubs are going to be very busy this weekend trying to close a handful of deals that could accelerate the rebuilding process exponentially.

Team Theo and Co. are looking at a number of scenarios, with sources telling me this afternoon that a multi-team trade that would send Ryan Dempster to his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Dodgers while netting the Cubs a handful of prospects built around starting pitching is getting closer to happening.

A major league source confirmed to me that the Cubs were operating under the premise that Dempster strongly preferred Los Angeles but would consider a deal with the Atlanta Braves. After weighing offers from both teams, Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer went with the Atlanta deal which was superior to what Ned Colletti and the Dodgers were offering.

However, Dempster was not ready to write off a trade to LA and told the Cubs he was not ready to approve any deal other than with the Dodgers. The Braves, wanting a resolution quickly so that they had time to evaluate other options, then pulled the plug on the trade when Dempster was unwilling to make a decision according to their timetable.

Epstein reportedly was livid when the deal with the Braves fell through and it appears for good reason as a handful of scouts that I spoke with in other organizations felt that the Cubs had made a tremendous deal getting Randall Delgado for essentially a two-to-three month rental.

The Cubs have made it clear to other teams that they are open for business on almost anybody on the roster and are having extensive conversations with nearly every team in the playoff hunt.

Several players could play key roles on a contender and Cubs management is doing all they can to close a handful of deals to restock a farm system that was among the worst in the game when they took over, especially from a pitching standpoint.

Since Epsteins and Hoyers arrival, the Cubs have taken their minor-league system, which was ranked near the bottom just a year ago, and added several key pieces to it, including first baseman Anthony Rizzo, who is now the starter on the big league club.

Add in outfielder Jorge Soler, pitchers Gerardo Concepcion and Juan Carlos Paniagua and a very strong draft class, and you have the makings of the turnaround of the Cubs system.

In addition to the upgrade of the players in the system, the new front office also has the enormous undertaking of overhauling how the Cubs evaluate players, how they develop prospects in the minor league system and developing the Cubs Way of playing the game. Some of which is already becoming evident at the big league level in the Cubs defensive game plan and their approach to base running.

While the fan base is hopeful of major free agent signings next winter to accelerate the major league clubs turnaround, a former GM confirmed to me that is not the game plan he hears Epstein and Co. have drawn up.

The Cubs are a long way from contending and they will not be active in high-profile free agents for at least another year if not two. Theo has carte blanche from Tom Ricketts to spend a lot of money when he feels it is warranted but until he believes that the major league team is ready to take a big step up and contend, he is going to stick to his long term plan.

"Id look for a few more David DeJesus-type signings in the next off season. Fans who are expecting big names and big money deals will be disappointed, but I agree with what they are doing. That system was so badly broken and the organization so poorly constructed for a very long time that a complete tear down is the only way they can fix all of the problems, he told me.

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.