Bears

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Sergio Santos, Ted Lilly

Steve Stone's Mailbag: Sergio Santos, Ted Lilly

Friday, April 23, 2010
10:35 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag to answer some of your questions about Sergio Santos, Ted Lilly and more!

Question from Bryan, Alsip, IL: Can history repeat itself & Sergio Santos move into the closer role by late July?

Steve Stone: I am not sure what the significance of late July is but Sergio Santos has closer stuff. What he doesnt have is experience. Santos has only pitched for a year. All who follow the Chicago White Sox know that Santos was a number one draft choice for the Diamondbacks as a power hitting shortstop. He finally decided that it wasnt going the way he wanted it to go and so he decided to start pitching. He has been very good so far in five appearances covering a total of 5 innings. He has only walked one, struck out 8 and given up one hit in those 5 innings but before we anoint him as a closer, we have to see a whole lot more of him in some pressure situations and allow him to get comfortable in a major league situation.

Question from &8232;&8232;Sacramento, Chicago, IL: Hey Steve, what are your thoughts on Konerko and Pierzynskis contracts? Do you think both sides will work something out before the end of this year? Or is this the last year for both in a Sox uniform?

Stone: Thirteen games into the season, its not really the right time to even think about contracts for next year unless you are talking about guys like Joe Mauer or really talented young guys that will be the foundation of your organization for years to come. I think that Kenny Williams will take a wait-and-see approach to both of these players, both Paul and AJ have done a good job. A lot depends on the economics and what each will want to give up their free agency and what some of the young guys might be able to do. If Dayan Viciedo shows that he can hit and Tyler Flowers is what the White Sox thought he was when the acquired him from Atlanta, then you have some candidates for first base as well as behind the plate or a combination of those 2 positions plus designated hitters. A lot has to do with what kind of attendance the Sox have this year which certainly have to do with how well they do in the standings. Right now with a payroll touching 105106 million dollars, Im not too sure how much higher if at all the Sox will go next year. It is safe to say that those decisions are best left for considerably down the road in both cases.

Question from &8232;&8232;Anthony, Frankfort, IL: What do you expect out of Ted Lilly when he rejoins the Cubs this weekend? What does he bring to the starting rotation?

Stone: He brings one of the most dependable left-hand pitchers in the National League in the last couple years. Lily has been a very reliable starting pitcher since putting on that Cub uniform in the 2007 season. In 2007 he was 15-8, in 2008, he was 17-9 and last year he was 12-9 for a mediocre Cubs team. In the 3 seasons with the Cubs, he has won more games than Carlos Zambrano.
Question from Eric, Northbrook, IL: Do you think Andrew Cashner could be on his way to provide bullpen help for the Cubs?

Stone: Since the Cubs drafted Andrew Cashner in the first round of 2008 with the 19th overall pick, I believed that the 66 210 pound right-hander is better suited for a role in the bullpen. The Cubs however have used Cashner almost exclusively as a starting pitcher. The cubs also feel that Jeff Samardzija is a candidate to be a starting pitcher. I dont agree with them on that assessment either. So it all depends on what the Cubs feel on the future of Cashner but the one thing we do know for sure, is at this point of the year with 5 blown saves, a 1-5 record, a 5.59 ERA and already one of the relievers on the disabled list, the Cubs bullpen is a mess. And if Jim Hendry does not get it straightened out, its going to be a very long year for the Northsiders.
&8232;&8232;Question from Larry, Schaumburg, IL: Who would you say is the MLBs top three MVPs these first couple weeks of the baseball season and why?

Stone: First of all, we do realize that MLB persay doesnt give out 2 week MVPs. If they did, it might surprise people around baseball that Scott Podsednik is leading the American League in hitting at .457 so I doubt that one of the newest members of the KC Royals is going to spend the majority of the season there and I dont believe he will win the MVP as well as Pudge Rodriguez leading the National at .444 for the Nationals and I dont think that he is going to stay there. If you like runs batted in, you could choose Nelson Cruz from Texas, hes got 15 to lead the American League. Or you can go to Jorge Cantu of Florida leading the National league at 16. If home runs is your choice, well you can stay with Cruz who has 7 and the National League you can go to Chase Utley who has 6. But its probably safe to say that somewhere along the line, you have to figure the usual suspects will start to creep up as the pretenders start to fall down.

An interesting note for Chicago fans is the Milwaukee 3rd baseman given to them for 20,000 courtesy of the Cubs is a fella by the name of Casey McGhee . McGhee is hitting .400 which places him 3rd in the National League and he has 4 homeruns which ties him for 4th in the National League. After hitting over .300 last year, he seems to be off to another great start. If you prefer pitchers, well then you can look at Derek Lowe, Roy Halladay, Ubaldo Jiminez or Tim Linecum as they are all 3-0. Thats in the National League. In the American League, youd have to say John Rausch was pressed into the closing role for the Minnesota Twins when Joe Nathan was lost for the season who is 6-6 in saves for the season. All this however goes to show you one thing, that is, the reason why they dont hand out 3 week MVPs.

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2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

anthony_davis.jpg
AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”