Cubs

In the Clutch: McElrath leads Simeon to Finals

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In the Clutch: McElrath leads Simeon to Finals

Friday, March 18, 2011
Posted: 10:41 p.m.

By Michael O'Brien
YourSeason.com

PEORIA Glenbard East coach Scott Millers scouting report said that Simeon senior Rashawn McElrath was probably the Wolverines worst free-throw shooter. So with the game on the line, it was McElrath that continually found himself at the free-throw line. Time and again, the 6-7 senior came through. He made all seven of his free throws in the fourth quarter to help Simeon hold on to a 56-53 win over Glenbard East in the Class 4A state semifinals at Carver Arena. The most crucial pair of free throws came with 14 seconds to play and the Wolverines clinging to a two-point lead. McElrath had been raked across the face by Zach Miller on the foul.I was just trying to see, McElrath said. So thats all I thought about. I was fine.Simeon opened the game with a 15-0 run, dominating every phase of the game. But when Simeons second line of players came in, the Rams came right back, draining three three-pointers to close the first quarter. By halftime, Glenbard East only trailed by five.It gave us a sense of urgency, Simeon sophomore Jabari Parker said. We came out tougher after that. They showed they could play with us.The second half was a classic state tournament game, with two poised and talented teams battling. In the end, Simeons near perfection (17-for-18) from the free-throw line was the difference in the game.Give them credit, Scott Miller said. I didnt know who to foul, they all just kept stepping up and making the shots.McElrath led Simeon (29-2) with 17 points and Parker scored 16. Senior guard Tywon Pinkney added 12 for the Wolverines.Glenbard East (27-4) was able to survive Simeons massive height advantage by shooting 12-for-31 from three-point range, eventually forcing Simeon to play man defense.We just went out and played with all the heart we had, Glenbard East senior Johnny Hill said. Everyone on the team gave everything, everyone on the court and on the bench.Hill, who finished with 22 points and five rebounds, was consistently terrific throughout the state tournament.He really stepped up his game and led his team during the playoffs, Simeon coach Robert Smith said. Hes a great player.Kevin Priebe scored 11 for the Rams and Dante Bailey added nine. Bailey made a three with six seconds to play that brought Glenbard East within two points. The Rams received a delay of game techincal for throwing the ball into the stands after the basket.That didnt effect the outcome of the game, Scott Miller said.Simeon will face the winner of the Warren-Normal game for the Class 4A state title Saturday night at 8:15 p.m.

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

Potential Cubs target Shogo Akiyama is reportedly in the U.S. during the winter meetings

The Cubs could use a leadoff hitter and a center fielder. One player who can fill both of those holes is available is looking to sign soon.

Japanese center fielder Shogo Akiyama is in the U.S. with his agent, according to Sports Nippon, while the winter meetings take place in San Diego.

Akiyama is a center field option when center field options are limited this offseason. Brett Gardner is a free agent, but the 36-year-old wouldn’t be easy to pry away from his only professional organization.

Akiyama is 31 and saw a dropoff in his numbers in Japan last season, but still had a .392 on-base percentage with 20 home runs in 143 games.

Albert Almora’s struggles last season left the Cubs with uncertainty in center going forward. That saw Jason Heyward spending some time in center with Kyle Schwarber and Nicholas Castellanos on the corners. That’s not a pretty defensive outfield. Meanwhile, Akiyama has two Golden Glove awards in Japan.

He would also bring on-base skills and speed to a Cubs lineup that has resorted to having power hitter Anthony Rizzo play leadoff at times.

Akiyama would also likely not be an expensive option, which is key for a Cubs team reportedly looking to get under the luxury tax this offseason.

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Report: Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies

Report: Cubs have discussed Kris Bryant with the Phillies

While most teams with World Series aspirations are looking to bolster their roster in free agency, the Cubs are in a precarious situation.

Theo Epstein and team need to shed payroll before being able to make any moves, and have reportedly been telling representatives of free agents as much.

And the easiest path to shedding payroll is trading away high-priced players. Two names that have come up frequently are former NL MVP Kris Bryant and catcher Willson Contreras.

While that's all been speculation, 670 The Score's Bruce Levine reported the Cubs talked to the Phillies about a Bryant deal.

The big hold up surrounding could be Bryant his unresolved service time grievance. What the arbiter will determine is how many years of team control are left, one or two years. That would impact Bryant's value on the market and a trade partner would be foolish to not wait to see how that plays out.

But as free agents come off the board, it could make teams more desperate and create a bidding war. That market could have already been shaped by Stephen Strasburg's extension in Washington.

It's worth nothing, Bryant's friend Bryce Harper signed with the Phillies last offseason for a mega contract and he could be intrigued by the option of playing with his pal. Not to mention, former Cubs teammate Jake Arrieta is on the Phils' pitching staff.

But with Harper's massive contract on the books for another 12 seasons, would a Bryant move land him a big, long-term contract to stay in the City of Brotherly Love? Perhaps not.

The Phillies entered free agency with about $150 million in committed payroll for the 2020 season, there is a lot of room under the expected $208 million luxury tax threshold to add a player like Bryant.

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