White Sox

Cubs setting sights on Jorge Soler


Cubs setting sights on Jorge Soler

MILWAUKEE The Cubs werent surprised to hear Albert Almora using the Scott Boras playbook and saying his main priority is going to the University of Miami.

Its all part of the negotiations. Besides, the immediate focus is on another dynamic young outfielder the Cubs would love to pair with the No. 6 overall pick.

The Cubs were one of several teams that had representatives at Wednesdays workout for Jorge Soler, the Cuban defector who was finally declared a free agent after months of anticipation.

Weve obviously scouted him extensively a lot of teams have, general manager Jed Hoyer said. We had a similar situation with (Yoenis) Cespedes this winter and itll be intriguing. But certainly weve done our work on him. That doesnt make us unique. Thats our responsibility (to) scout him heavily and get to know him and weve tried to do that.

Weve been following this carefully and we certainly plan to be involved.

The Cubs felt like they established a level of trust with Cespedes, another Cuban defector who wound up with a four-year, 36 million deal from the Oakland As. The Cubs were comfortable with the money, but wanted it spread over a longer term.

Soler represents the last talent grab before the cap on international signings kicks in July 2, a key detail in the new collective bargaining agreement that could spark a bidding war among a wide field of teams.

Its not surprising, Hoyer said. Hes really talented and there is that July 2 uniqueness, which adds to it.

The Cubs keep saying that they need to add impact talent to the organization. The draft ended Wednesday, and as advertised they went after power arms. Of their 42 selections, 22 are pitchers.

The Cubs dont appear to be worried about signing Almora, who is being advised by Boras, the most powerful agent in the business.

Almora has always sought out higher levels of competition, making the Mater Academy varsity as an eighth-grader, playing for the elite travel teams in South Florida and winning five gold medals for Team USA.

We got to know Albert really well, Hoyer said. We spent a lot of time with him and we felt really comfortable with the background information that we had on him.

The Cubs certainly had unique insight into their 39th-round pick, an infielder from Desert Mountain High School in Arizona. Rustin Sveum got a call from his father and let out a big scream.

That was one of those proud days, Dale Sveum said. But hes still got to develop and he better not sign. He better go to college.

Whatever happens the next four years, hell always be able to say he got drafted by the Chicago Cubs. It will always be on your resume.

Rustin is committed to go to Dixie State College of Utah. The Cubs manager laughed when a reporter asked if his sons a Boras guy: Hes a Sveum guy.

The Cubs intend to bring Almora to Chicago this summer and have him take batting practice with the team. As Hoyer said, A place like Wrigley sells itself.

Where Solers people can demand Cespedes money, Almora and Boras are restricted by the labor deal. The assigned value is 3.25 million, and the Cubs cant go much higher than that without being severely penalized.

But Almora, Soler and a few players weve never heard of before could become part of the foundation at Clark and Addison.

I think every team feels good about their draft today, Hoyer said, and well find out in five years if we were right.

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avi Garcia's played in fewer than 20 games since April, but could he still attract trade-deadline suitors?

Avisail Garcia returned from his latest disabled-list stint with a bang, smacking a three-run home run in the fourth inning Saturday in Seattle.

The White Sox right fielder hasn't even played in 20 games since late April, when he went on his first DL trip, which lasted two months. A second, also featuring an injury to his hamstring, made it two weeks between games.

But when he has been able to step to the plate this summer, Garcia has been tremendously productive. He came into Saturday night with a .333/.347/.783 slash line and a whopping eight home runs in the 17 games he played in between his two DL stays. Then he added that homer Saturday night off longtime Mariners ace Felix Hernandez, giving him nine homers in his last 14 games.

Keeping this up could do an awful lot of things for Garcia: It could make his ice-cold start a distant memory, it could prove that last year's All-Star season might not have been a fluke, and it could keep him entrenched in the conversation about the White Sox outfield of the future, giving the team one of those good problems to have when deciding how he would fit into the puzzle alongside top prospects like Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert.

But here's another possibility: Has Garcia swung a hot enough bat in his limited action that he could be a trade candidate before this month runs out?

The White Sox don't figure to have too many players who are going to get contending teams worked up into a lather. James Shields, Joakim Soria, Luis Avilan, Xavier Cedeno. Those guys could classify as additions that would bolster teams' depth, but they might not be the attractive upgrades the White Sox were able to trade away last summer.

Garcia, though, could be. He might not slide into the middle of the order for too many contenders, but someone looking for a starting corner outfielder might be enticed by the kind of numbers Garcia has put up in June and July, albeit in a small sample size. Teams would also have to consider his health. He's already been to the disabled list twice this season. Teams would certainly have to be confident he wouldn't return in order to make a deal.

On the White Sox end, Garcia would figure to fetch a far more intriguing return package than the aforementioned pitchers, given that he's still pretty young (27) with one more season of team control after this one.

The White Sox have plenty of options when it comes to Garcia. They could deal him now, deal him later or keep as a part of the rebuild, extending him and making him a featured player on the next contending team on the South Side. But with a lot of significant injuries this year perhaps having an effect on when all those highly rated prospects will finally arrive in the majors — not to mention the disappointing win-loss numbers the big league team has put up this season — perhaps it would make more sense to acquire some rebuild-bolstering pieces.

Of course, it all depends on if there are any deals to be made. Do other teams' front offices like what they've seen from Garcia in this short stretch as much as White Sox fans have? We'll know by the time August rolls around.

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

Cubs fight back after Javy Baez ejection: 'We're not animals'

If baseball wants stars that transcend the game, they need guys like Javy Baez on the field MORE, not less.

That whole debate and baseball's marketing campaign isn't the issue the Cubs took exception with, but it's still a fair point on a nationally-televised Saturday night game between the Cubs and Cardinals at Wrigley Field.

Baez was ejected from the game in the bottom of the fifth inning when he threw his bat and helmet in frustration at home plate umpire Will Little's call that the Cubs second baseman did NOT check his swing and, in fact, went around. 

Baez was initially upset that Little made the call himself instead of deferring to first base umpire Ted Barrett for a better view. But as things escalated, Baez threw his bat and helmet and was promptly thrown out of the game by Little.

"I don't think I said anything to disrespect anything or anyone," Baez said after the Cubs' 6-3 loss. "It was a pretty close call. I only asked for him to check the umpire at first and he didn't say anything.

"I threw my helmet and he just threw me out from there. I mean, no reason. I guess for my helmet, but that doesn't have anything to do with him."

Baez and the Cubs would've rather Little check with the umpire who had a better view down the line, but that wasn't even the main point of contention. It was how quickly Little escalated to ejection.

"We're all human," Baez said. "One way or the other, it was gonna be the wrong [call] for one of the teams.

"My message? We're not animals. Sometimes we ask where was a pitch or if it was a strike and it's not always offending them. I think we can talk things out. But I don't think there was anything there to be ejected."

Upon seeing his second baseman and cleanup hitter ejected in the middle of a 1-0 game against a division rival, Joe Maddon immediately got fired up and in Little's face in a hurry.

Maddon was later ejected, as well, and admitted after the game he was never going to leave the field unless he was tossed for protecting his guy.

"He had no reason to kick him out," Maddon said. "He didn't say anything to him. I mean, I watched the video. If you throw stuff, that's a fine. That's fineable. Fine him. That's what I said — fine him — but you cannot kick him out right there.

"He did nothing to be kicked out of that game. He did throw his stuff, whatever, but he did not say anything derogatory towards the umpire.

"...You don't kick Javy out. If he gets in your face and is obnoxious or belligerent or whatever, but he did not. He turned his back to him. That needs to be addressed, on both ends."

Maddon and the Cubs really want Major League Baseball to get involved in this situation. 

There are many other layers to the issue, including veteran Ben Zobrist having to come into the game as Baez's replacement. Maddon was not keen on using the 37-year-old Zobrist for 1.5 games during Saturday's doubleheader and now feels like he has to rest the veteran Sunday to lessen the wear and tear of a difficult stretch for the team.

There's also the matter of the groundball basehit in the eighth inning that tied the game — a seeing-eye single that just got past Zobrist as he dove to his left. It tied the game at 3 and the Cardinals took the lead for good the following inning.

Does Baez make that same play if he were out there instead of Zobrist? It's certainly possible.

"The dynamic of our defense was lessened by [the ejection]," Maddon said. "Again, listen, if it's deserved, I'm good. It was not. They don't need me out there, we need Javy out there.

"And it surprised me. I stand by what I'm saying. It was inappropriate. MLB needs to say something to us that it was inappropriate because it was and it could've led to the loss of that game."