Blackhawks

Kaplan: Trading Castro should be on the table

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Kaplan: Trading Castro should be on the table

With the First-Year Player Draft in Major League Baseball scheduled for Monday, the Chicago Cubs have a chance to add impact players to a fairly weak farm system as they own four of the first 67 selections. The draft is not considered exceptionally strong in position players, but pitching does have solid depth throughout the draft and the Cubs are most definitely in the market for power arms.

With Jason McLeod now in charge of the Cubs scouting department and Tim Wilken -- one of the best evaluators in the game -- crisscrossing the country to see all of the top players, the Cubs have a chance to restock a system that is woefully short on impact players who can play a prominent role in the core of Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyers rebuilding plan.

However, while the draft is the lifeblood of the system, the Cubs also have an opportunity to turn a down 2012 season at the major-league level into a major component of their organizational overhaul.

That opportunity will take tremendous guts to execute because it will require completely gutting the major league team of most anything of value. That includes star shortstop Starlin Castro, who is one of the better young hitters in the game, but is also a question mark defensively and does not have a plate approach that is in line with Epsteins vision for how the game should be played.

What I am in favor of is a systematic dismantling of the big-league team that trades anything of value for players that embrace the EpsteinHoyer philosophy and replacing those parts with young prospects that the Cubs can build with and grow with.

Will it upset the fan base to trade Starlin Castro? Absolutely. However, that doesnt mean it is the wrong decision if it makes you a better team down the road. After all, isnt that what the Cubs are trying to build towards?

Castro is a wonderfully talented player who should be one of the games best hitters for the next 15 years. He is a solid athlete and he will probably be a perennial all-star for the next decade or more. And that is why the Cubs must do all they can to see what the market will bring for a player of his abilities.

Why not see if a contender will overpay to add his bat? What about a team that is in serious need of a star to excite their fan base? One has to believe that Castro would summon quite a haul if he were traded and that haul could be far more valuable to the Cubs than what he currently brings to a team going nowhere in 2012.

The same goes for Matt Garza, who is a rare commodity in the game. He has top-of-the-rotation stuff and he is not saddled with a long term contract that limits who can afford him. The Cubs control his rights for another full season and he could be the piece that a contender needs to add to their rotation to put them over the top.

Yes, the Cubs do need pitching and Garza is a fine piece to a rotation. But what could the Cubs add in the right deal to the right team? They must explore all of their options to see what they can get back in a trade.

Ryan Dempster is another attractive trade piece because he is a solid starter and he has no long-term contract to deal with. He is a free agent after this season, so a contender can acquire him and then decide if he is worth the investment going forward. He is also one of the best clubhouse guys in the game so he can make an impact on a contender in a variety of ways which increases his trade value.

Other pieces that the Cubs have that could interest a contender include Jeff Baker whose versatility makes him highly valuable to a contending team. He can play first, second, third or the corner outfield spots and he is a solid pinch hitter and also has a little bit of power in his bat.

What about Geovany Soto, who is currently rehabbing an injured knee but is expected back on the roster soon? There are a number of teams that need catching help and if the Cubs are willing to pay some of his remaining salary, there should be some teams willing to trade for him.

Is Soto the Cubs catcher of the future? Absolutely not. He is questionable at calling a game and his offense is mediocre at best. The fact that the Cubs are paying him 4.3 million speaks to how ridiculous salaries are in the game.

I would much rather see Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger share the catching duties every day for the rest of the season so that the organization knows what they have for the future. If one of them can assume the role of starter, then that is one less problem area that the Cubs need to address. If not, then it is better to find out now. Soto, though, could net something in a trade as some contenders, such as the Washington Nationals that are dealing with injuries and could use a veteran presence for the rest of the season.

There should be no untouchables on this roster and Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer should explore every possible deal that moves veterans who will not be a part of the future and moves salary off of the books so that the Cubs have some flexibility in the free agent market next winter. That means trading some popular names who the fanbase likes. But Epstein and Hoyer cannot worry about upsetting the fan base and hanging on to players who are not in their long term plans.

So who would I keep that is on the major league roster?

Jeff Samardzija is the Cubs biggest surprise of the season as he has shown that he can be a major part of the rotation for a long time to come. He is a power pitcher who has transformed himself from thrower to a pitcher who really seems to understand what it takes to be a consistent winner in the big leagues. He is also a solid guy who is well liked in the clubhouse and he should be a fixture on the North Side for the next several years. Beyond that, there is nothing else left that I wouldnt trade in the right deal.

This season has to be about two things and that is clearing out players who dont figure to be a part of the future and finding out exactly what is on the roster that can fill a need long term. Thats it.

The 2012 Chicago Cubs have no chance of winning consistently and no chance of turning around a rough start to their season.

But none of that matters. All that does matter is using this season as a lab experiment to determine the strengths and weaknesses of the organization and the big league club. Anything other than that is a waste of a season that offers that opportunity. And these types of opportunities dont come along very often.

All in all, there is not much on the current roster that looks like it will be a lock to be here when the rebuild turns from also-ran to contender status in 2014 or 2015. That means the Cubs front office has to get as much as they can for just about anyone on the roster despite how painful it may be in the short term to the fan base and ultimately attendance and perception.

Epstein has been given a rare opportunity in sports by having an owner who is committed to the long-term plan and is willing to also show the patience to let it play out. He and Jed Hoyer cannot squander this opportunity no matter how loud the protestations get from the fans and the media.

In the end, if they build a consistent run of high-level success, the pains of 2012-14 will be a distant memory. And that is all that matters.

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

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AP

How all 13 Blackhawks performed at 2019 IIHF World Championship

The Blackhawks had 13 players represent the organization at the 2019 IIHF World Championship in Slovakia. Here's how each of them performed, sorted by country:

Canada (Final ranking: Silver medal)

— Dylan Strome ... In his first career IIHF World Championship, Strome had five points (one goal, four assists) in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 12 shots on goal and averaged 11:59 of ice time. Strome ranked fifth among all centers with a faceoff win percentage of 63.3.

Czech Republic (Final ranking: 4th)

— Dominik Kubalik ... Kubalik, whose rights were acquired by the Blackhawks from Los Angeles in January, finished eighth among all skaters in scoring with 12 points (six goals, six assists) in 10 games and his plus-10 rating was tied for fourth overall. He also recorded 28 shots on goal and averaged 13:55 of ice time.

Denmark (Final ranking: 11th)

— Mathias From ... From, who was drafted in the fifth round (No. 143rd overall) in 2016, was pointless in four games. He was a minus-1 rating, had one shot on goal and averaged 5:02 of ice time.

Finland (Final ranking: Gold medal)

— Henri Jokiharju ... Jokiharju compiled three points — all assists — in 10 games. He also had a plus-1 rating, 13 shots on goal and averaged 11:44 of ice time. He and Kaapo Kakko became the seventh and eighth players in IIHF history to win gold at the Under-18s, World Junior and World Championship in their career. They also became the first players since Jonathan Toews (2007) to win the World Junior and World Championship in the same year.

— Kevin Lankinen ... Lankinen was the breakout star of the tournament. The 24-year-old ranked first in goals against average (1.50), second in save percentage (.942) and tied for first in shutouts (2). He was named player of the game in the semifinal contest against Russia with a 32-save shutout then stopped 43 of 44 shots for a save percentage of .978 in the gold medal game against Canada.

Germany (Final ranking: 6th)

— Dominik Kahun ... Kahun was one of Germany's most productive players. He racked up five points (one goal, four assists), ranked second on the team in shots on goal (16) and averaged 19:18 of ice time. He finished with a minus-1 rating in eight games.

Norway (Final ranking: 12th)

— Andreas Martinsen ... Martinsen, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, was tied for the scoring lead on Norway with six points — all assists — in seven games. He had a minus-1 rating, 11 shots on goal and averaged 15:28 of ice time. Coaches voted him one of the three best players on Norway at the end of the tournament.

Russia (Final ranking: Bronze medal)

— Artem Anisimov ... Anisimov recorded six points (four goals, two assists) in 10 games, and tallied one game-winning goal. He also registered 14 shots on goal and averaged 14:25 of ice time. His plus-11 rating was tied for third among all skaters.

Sweden (Final ranking: 5th)

— Erik Gustafsson ... He had four points (two goals, two assists) and a plus-5 rating in eight games. His 25 shots on goal ranked first on Team Sweden and 18:29 average time on ice ranked sixth.

— Marcus Kruger ... Kruger, who's set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, scored two goals — one of which was a game-winner — and added an assist in eight games. He was one of four players on the team that had a negative rating (minus-3). Kruger averaged 10:37 of ice time and ranked 15th among center with a faceoff win percentage of 59.2.

Switzerland (Final ranking: 8th)

— Philipp Kurashev ... Kurashev, who was taken in the fourth round (No. 120 overall) in 2018, accumulated four points (one goal, three assists) in eight games. His plus-4 rating also ranked tied for third on the team. Kurashev registered eight shots on goal and averaged 11:02 of ice time.

United States (Final ranking: 7th)

— Alex DeBrincat ... DeBrincat picked up right where he left off with the Blackhawks. He finished second among all skaters in goals (7) despite playing in eight games, and compiled nine points. Two of his goals were game-winners and three of them came on the power play. His shooting percentage was 43.8.

DeBrincat now has 18 points (eight goals, 10 assists) in 18 career tournament games. 

— Patrick Kane ... After being named tournament MVP in 2018, Kane also didn't skip a beat. He averaged 1.50 points per game with two goals and 10 assists in eight contests, and led his country in shots on goal (28) and forwards in ice time (22:26 per game).

The three-time Stanley Cup champion surpassed U.S. Hockey Hall of Famer Mark Johnson for most points (33) in World Championship history. Kane pulled away even further by the end of the tournament, totaling 42 points in 25 career IIHF World Championship games.

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Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

Kris Bryant's injury looms large as Cubs finish home stand in underwhelming fashion

There are 162 baseball games in a season and some days, you’re just not going to have it. On Sunday afternoon, in a 10-2 loss to the Reds, the Cubs just didn’t have it. 

“It’s already in the trash can...” Maddon said. “... so let’s flush it out and move on.” 

Things were bleak from the very first at-bat of the game, when Kyle Schwarber took a 3-2 fastball looking for one of his three strikeouts on the day. Anthony Rizzo was the only starter not to strike out at least once, as the Cubs’ finished with 11. Reds starter Tanner Roark was responsible for 9 of them, his season-high. 

Things weren’t much better on the basepaths or in the field. Besides making two errors, Anthony Rizzo was thrown out at the plate in the 2nd inning and David Bote got doubled-up at first after drawing a walk in the 6th. The Cubs were playing playing their 13th game in 13 days, and it showed.

“I feel really good about how we’ve been playing until today,” Maddon said. “This whole month we’ve been in almost every game except for this one, and maybe the [7-0 loss on May 10th] against Milwaukee. There’s not a whole lot to be upset about, and I’m not. I just want to make sure everyone’s well moving forward.” 

There was a scary moment in the 6th inning, as Kris Bryant and Jason Heyward collided in the right field gap while trying to make a play on a fly ball from Eugenio Suarez. Bryant was slow to get up and eventually had to leave the game. He’s still being evaluated for a head/neck injury, and the Cubs don’t yet know if he’ll go into concussion protocol. For what it's worth, Bryant was cleared to fly with the team. 

“He’s doing okay,” he said. “He’s still under evaluation. We don’t know exactly what we’re doing with this whole thing yet, but we’re trying to talk with the doctors and find out exactly where we’re at.”

“We collided, and I called for the ball,” Heyward added. “We were both going hard to make a play and ran into each other.”

The loss dropped starter Jose Quintana to 4-4 on the season. Quintana went 5.1 innings while allowing six runs on 12 hits with one walk and two strikeouts. Despite relatively weak contact, the Reds hit well all weekend. Their 42 hits over three games was the most for them in a three-game series at Wrigley since 1976, and they finished the weekend with a .404 BABIP. 

“Yeah, I just had to keep pitching, you know?” Quintana said. “Keeping my focus. It was really tough - too many base hits. In some contests that happens. I just try to stay close in the game.” 

The Cubs finished their 7-game homestand at 3-4, and now hit the road for a two-city trip. Up first comes the 35-19 Astros, who are 20-7 at home. This season Houston ranks first in on-base percentage, second in slugging percentage, and third in home runs. Their closer, Ryan Pressley, has the lowest ERA of all qualified relievers and is fresh off a streak of 40 straight scoreless appearances.

“I’m excited,” Joe Maddon said before Sunday’s game. “Let’s get by today, but I’m excited for the whole week. Look at our schedule - it’s been pretty firm, and it continues to be pretty firm. And that’s the way it should be. I’m looking forward to it.”