What the Carlos Lee trade means for the Cubs


What the Carlos Lee trade means for the Cubs

Just because it's a holiday doesn't mean MLB front office executives aren't still wheeling and dealing.

The Astros traded veteran first baseman Carlos Lee to the Miami Marlins Wednesday for two prospects -- third baseman Matt Dominguez and left-handed pitcher Rob Rasmussen.

Both players were considered among the Marlins' Top 10 prospects before the season. Dominguez was taken 12th overall in the 2007 draft, while Rasmussen was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft. Dominguez was rated No. 81 on Baseball America's top prospect list before the 2011 season.

So what does this mean for the Cubs?

The deal proves that it really is a seller's market out there. There are way too many teams within sniffing distance of at least the second Wild Card spot, so those teams that choose to sell will have plenty of suitors.

The Astros had to eat most of Lee's contract, but that's still a really good haul for a 36-year-old first baseman who is a free agent at season's end and hasn't posted an OPS over .800 since 2009.

Lee is hitting .286.336.412 on the season, but his power is way down -- only five home runs after hitting at least 16 every season of his career to this point.

If the Astros could pick up a potential franchise third baseman (Dominguez has struggled with the bat, but is a very good defender and still just 22 years old) and a 23-year-old pitcher for a player of Lee's caliber, imagine what the Cubs could get for guys like Ryan Dempster or Alfonso Soriano.

Of course, Tom Ricketts and his front office staff would have to eat almost the entire contract on those types of guys, but it would be worth it to receive better prospects in return.

If the Marlins made a move, too, it could mean more good news for the Cubs. Heading into its game Wednesday, Miami sat 9.5 games out of first with a 38-42 record, but only five games behind the second Wild Card spot. The fact that they are looking to pick up pieces shows just how much of an impact that second Wild Card has on the market.

Right now, there are only eight teams with a worse winning percentage than the Marlins. If they made a move, it could mean that more than 20 teams would be interested in adding pieces before the end of the month, leaving the Cubs in the driver's seat as they try to acquire the best package available.

Rob Gronkowski "highly unlikely" to play Sunday against the Bears

Rob Gronkowski "highly unlikely" to play Sunday against the Bears

Sunday's game against Tom Brady and the Patriots will be a tough test for the Bears, but it looks like they're going to receive a big break.

According to ESPN's Adam Schefter, Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski didn't travel with the Patriots to Chicago and is "highly unlikely" to play Sunday.

Avoiding Gronkowski, who is one of Brady's favorite targets, would be a huge break for the Bears' defense. In six games this season, the tight end has 26 receptions for 405 yards and a touchdown; in 14 games last season, Gronkowski had 69 catches for 1,084 yards and eight touchdowns.

Meanwhile, Khalil Mack appears set to play Sunday after despite dealing with an ankle injury. Between having Mack on the field and Gronkowski off of it, good news keeps coming for Bears' defense.

Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

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Final thoughts: Cody Parkey quickly moves on from missed game-winning kick

There’s, probably, only one position in sports that can match the you-had-one-job scrutiny of a placekicker attempting a critical field goal late in a football game. As in: If you make the kick, it was expected; if you miss it, well, you didn’t do the one thing you were brought on to do. 

The comparison here is a closer in baseball. The expectation is whoever is called upon with a one-to-three-run lead in the ninth inning will convert the save and win his team the game. 

But when a closer blows a save and is in the spotlight during baseball’s regular season, there’s always a game the next day or, at worst, in two days. The immediacy and pace of a Major League Baseball team’s schedule lends itself to closers having to “flush” a bad outing and move on to the next one, since it might be tomorrow. 

For Bears kicker Cody Parkey, though, he’s had to wait a week until he gets his next “meaningful” chance at making a field goal after missing a game-winning 53-yard attempt last weekend against the Miami Dolphins. But moving on from a critical missed kick has never, and is not, a problem for the fifth-year veteran. 

“(It takes) five minutes,” Parkey said. “You kick the ball, and if it doesn’t go in you’re not going to sit there and cry on the field, you’re going to continue to move on with your life. I don’t think there’s really much to it other than knowing you’re going to have to kick another one sometime throughout the season, next game, in the next week, you never know. You stay ready so you’ll be ready for the next week.”

Not allowing those missed kicks to fester is an important trait for a placekicker to possess. What helps Parkey quickly work through his misses is focusing on having a good week of kicking in practice, and also an even-keel mindset that’s been instilled in him since a young age. 

“I think I’ve always been pretty mellow,” Parkey said. “At a young age, my coaches told me never let the highs get to high, never let the lows get too low. And I’ve kind of taken that to heart. If I miss a game winner, make a game winner, I’m going to have the same demeanor. I’m just going to be super chill and knowing it’s a game, it’s supposed to be fun, we’re supposed to go out there and try our best. I put in a lot of work and I try my best on the field.”

That’s something, too, that special teams coach Chris Tabor sees in Parkey. 

“He's always been like that,” Tabor said. “He hit a good ball, his line was just off. In his career going in he was 7-of-8 over 50 yards. I'll be honest with you, I thought he was going to make it. And next time we have that situation, I know he will make it.” 

Age is just a number

Sunday will mark the 6th time in Tom Brady’s career that the 41-year-old has faced a head coach younger than him, but the first time it’ll be a coach other than Miami’s Adam Gase (who’s 40). Brady is 3-2 against Gase’s Dophins. 

Matt Nagy, meanwhile, is also 40. Brady just missed playing Kyle Shanahan (38) and Sean McVay (32), facing the San Francisco 49ers and Los Angeles Rams in 2016, a year before both those youthful coaches were hired. 

Meanwhile, the youngest player on the Bears — 21-year-old Roquan Smith — was three years old when Brady made his unassuming NFL debut on Nov. 23, 2000. 

They said it

A couple of amusing one-liners out of Halas Hall this week…

Nagy, when it was brought to his attention that Mitch Trubisky (105.6) has a better passer rating than Brady (98.2), chuckled: “You want to say that one more time?” 

Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, when asked if he’d ever heard of “Baby Gronk” Adam Shaheen: “(long pause)… Sometimes.”