Kap: Cubs moving closer to trading Dempster


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.

Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7


Trey Burton, Adrian Amos earn Bears’ top grades from Pro Football Focus for Week 7

The Bears were not at their best against the New England Patriots on Sunday. They made plenty of mistakes on all three phases and gave Tom Brady too many opportunities to control the game.

It wasn’t all bad from Chicago, though. Trey Burton emerged as a new favorite weapon of Mitchell Trubisky, and the tight end was the Bears’ highest-graded player in the game by Pro Football Focus.

Burton had a career high 11 targets, nine catches and 126 yards with a touchdown, giving Trubisky a 144.7 passer rating when targeting his top tight end.

Seven of Burton’s targets and six of his catches traveled 10 or more yards in the air, according to PFF.

Defensively, safety Adrian Amos led the pack with a 74.6 overall grade. He did not miss a tackle after missing a career-high five last week, and he allowed only one catch for eight yards against the Patriots.

On the bottom of the scale, outside linebacker Leonard Floyd received the second-lowest grade of his career (38.9 overall) for his performance. He did not record any pressure on the quarterback in 13 pass rushing snaps, and he allowed two catches for 13 yards and a touchdown in coverage against running back James White.

Wide receiver Allen Robinson had a career-low grade as well at 44.9 overall. He was clearly limited by his groin injury, targeted five times with one catch for four yards and a dropped pass.

Overall, the Bears were able to stick with one of the top teams in the AFC while also leaving a lot of room for improvement. It’s a step in the right direction from where Chicago was in recent seasons.

Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career


Wendell Carter Jr. survives gauntlet of centers to begin career

Don't tell Wendell Carter Jr. the center position is a dying breed.

The 19-year-old rookie hasn't exactly been able to ease into the NBA, finding himself up against a handful of All-Stars and powerful frontcourts just five days into his career.

It culminated Monday night with a date against Mavericks center DeAndre Jordan, and once again the seventh overall pick held his own. It was much of the same as it was against Philadelphia's Joel Embiid and Detroit's Andre Drummond last week (and Nikola Jokic in the preseason finale): some good, some bad, plenty of poise and zero backing down. The NBA is unforgiving, but this could very well be the toughest stretch Carter faces all season.

"He’s playing against top level centers now," Fred Hoiberg said before Monday's game. "It’s a great experience for him. He’s going to learn and get better and he plays within himself, we will continue to look for him to be more aggressive."

He was as aggressive as the Bulls have seen him against Jordan and the Mavericks. He blew by the 20 and 18 minutes he played in the first two games of the year, totalling 32 minutes. His final line won't tell the story - 4 points, 9 rebounds, 4 assists and a block - of a Carter who defended well at the rim, picking and choosing his spots on when to attack shots and when to simply use his verticality.

He wasn't credited for a block but he contested a Jordan dunk that turned into a Bobby Portis dunk on the other end. Plus-minus isn't always a good indicator of a player's worth, but Carter was a +5 in a 14-point Bulls loss. He even attempted a corner 3-pointer early in the shot clock, showing no hesitation. Carter's had his moments, but it's also apparent he's got a 19-year-old body going up against veterans each night. That'll come with time in the weight room. For now the experience is 

"I appreciate the fact I’m able to play against these very talented bigs early in my career," Carter said after the loss to the Pistons. "What I need to work on is I have to get stronger; that’s the first thing I recognize; just being up against the best. I love the competition. It’s always a great feeling going against the best."

What the Bulls are finding out is they have a player mature beyond his years. As he progresses he'll continue to get more difficult assignments. He had his rookie moment late in Monday's loss, committing a turnover in the backcourt after the Bulls had cut the deficit to five with 35 seconds left. The fouls are also an issue, as Carter has committed 10 in three games (after committing 17 in five preseason games).

That doesn't necessarily seem important for a Lottery-bound team, but considering the continued struggles of Robin Lopez (and Cristiano Felicio is entirely out of the rotation) it is. Lopez had 2 points and 1 rebound in 10 minutes while committing five personal fouls. In three games he has 11 personal fouls and 11 points, and also has more turnovers (five) than rebounds (four). If the Bulls are going to compete until Lauri Markkanen returns, Carter will need to hover around the 32 minutes he played Monday.

He'll get a much easier test on Wednesday when the Charlotte Hornets arrive in town. Cody Zeller doesn't exactly have the credentials of a Jokic or Embiid, meaning Carter may have a little more room to work. 

The Bulls know they have something in Carter. It'll be abother month until they can deploy him alongside Markkanen, but if the first three games are any indication, Carter won't have any problems matching up with some of the league's best.