Can Mets afford to sign star SS?

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Can Mets afford to sign star SS?

From Comcast SportsNet
NEW YORK (AP) -- The biggest win for the Mets this season may have come this week in a federal courthouse. The team's owners have been relieved from much of a 1 billion lawsuit filed on behalf of the victims of Bernard Madoff's Ponzi scheme. Whether that gives the financially hobbled ballclub more flexibility to retain Jose Reyes remains to be seen. Mets fans will be watching, for sure, after New York's third straight losing season and fifth in a row without a playoff appearance. In a year that was described from the start as transitional, the Mets brought in a new general manager in Sandy Alderson and a new manager in Terry Collins. Yet Reyes, clearly, was the exuberant face of a team that went 77-85. The dynamic shortstop won the NL batting title on the final day of the season, drawing some heat after leaving the last game after a bunt single in the first inning. He led the major leagues with 16 triples and was superb in the field. He also made two trips to the disabled list with more hamstring trouble, derailing an MVP-like season. He's now in line to file for free agency after the World Series. Alderson said Thursday he expected discussions to begin with Reyes' agent "in the next day or two." "We were fortunate to experience an outstanding year from Jose. There is obviously some uncertainty as to where he's going to be next year," Alderson said. "We will see where that takes us." "We will try to be as creative as we possibly can and look at what's available across the board," he said. But can owner Fred Wilpon, who told Sports Illustrated this spring the Mets were "bleeding cash," afford one of this offseason's most desirable free agents? Can he afford not to keep the team's most popular player and biggest draw? Despite the losing record, the Mets did make strides on the field under the enthusiastic Collins in his first managerial job since 1999. Their real trouble, though, came in the board room. -- Attendance dropped to a low not seen since 2004, hurting revenues. Wilpon has said the Mets could lose 70 million this year. -- The Mets put a portion of the team up for sale this winter because of the financial uncertainty created by the Madoff mess. -- A 200 million deal to sell a minority share of the team to hedge fund manager David Einhorn fell through and now Wilpon and co-owner Saul Katz are looking to sell 20 million shares to family members and other investors. Alderson and the players insisted the off-field trouble did not have any effect on their play. And despite several key injuries to stars early, the Mets remained on the margins of the NL wild-card race into July. They traded closer Francisco Rodriguez and All-Star Carlos Beltran -- New York improved to 55-51 on July 28, they day he was dealt. "That team we put together in spring training, I know that if we had been out there we would have been a lot different-looking club than what we ended up being," Collins said. Ike Davis was off to a promising second big league season before a mild collision with David Wright turned into a season-ending bone bruise in his ankle. Wright missed two months and Johan Santana did not pitch after having offseason shoulder surgery. Reyes had a remarkable first half, but missed the All-Star game with a hamstring strain and re-injured it in August. Still he finished with 101 runs scored, 39 steals and a .337 average. "Certainly every day I hope the shortstop returns because he gives us the best team," said Collins, who had the 2013 option for his contract exercised Tuesday. With the stars out, several youngsters proved they could play at the major league level. Justin Turner lost out in the competition for the second base job in spring training but took advantage of his April call-up and batted .354 with runners in scoring position. Ruben Tejada and Lucas Duda also showed they belong. Duda, who hit several long home runs, could be the starting right fielder next year. "I think there's a lot of optimism moving forward," Wright said. "We had some young players come up and make a name for themselves. I think that you like the feeling that is in this clubhouse every day." While Mike Pelfrey (7-13, 4.74 ERA) took a huge step backward after being named the Mets' No. 1 starter with Santana out, Dillon Gee (13-6) became first Mets rookie to win at least 13 games since Dwight Gooden won 17 in 1984. "I really thought a lot about taking the next step in the offseason and getting even better," Pelfrey said. "After April ended, I thought it got better. Obviously not where I wanted to be, but it got better. I think it's going to help me better prepare for next season." The 24-year-old Jonathon Niese won a career-high 11 games in his second full season in the rotation, and R.A. Dickey was stellar down the stretch to finish with a 3.28 ERA. One area of concern is the closer role. Collins wanted 27-year-old Bobby Parnell with his 100 mph fastball to seize the spot but he was only 6 of 12 in save opportunities down the stretch. With the hefty contracts of Beltran and Rodriguez off the books for 2012, along with those of Luis Castillo and Oliver Perez -- both cut during spring training -- the Mets should have some flexibility. But Alderson has said that the team's payroll would be in the range of 100-110 million next year, down from more than 140 million this year. One area the Mets might spend on is making Citi Field friendlier for their struggling power hitters. Alderson has indicated that the team is looking into lowering the 16-foot left-field wall and bringing in the fences at the spacious ballpark, where New York hit just 50 homers this year and 162 in the three seasons since it opened. Wright has hit only 22 homers at Citi. In 2008, the Mets' last season at Shea Stadium, he hit 21 homers at home. Jason Bay, who has struggled mightily in his two seasons in New York, hit just six of his 12 homers at home and had a .374 slugging percentage overall this season, the lowest of his career. All told, the Mets got off to a 5-13 start, then went 12-16 in September. In between, not so bad. "I would have hoped that we could have done better, not only in the overall season but even finishing up," Alderson said. "One of the disappointments for me was that we started poorly and ended poorly. First impressions are important and last impressions are important. We did a lot of good things between those two bookends but I think the poor start and difficult finish may obscure some of that," he said.

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Why Cubs are excited for pitching prospect Dylan Cease: He's 'throwing lightning bolts'

Theo Epstein's front office is heading into Year 6 with the Cubs and they're finally talking about a pitcher as one of the organization's most exciting prospects.

That's how senior vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod framed his Dylan Cease report to fans at the Cubs Convention at the Sheraton Grand Chicago last weekend.

It was a tongue-in-cheek summation from McLeod after he spent the previous few minutes fawning over Cease, the Cubs' sixth round pick in 2014.

Of course, McLeod and the Cubs can poke fun at the lack of impact pitching the farm system has developed when the homegrown position players like Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber just helped lead the franchise to its first World Series championship in over a century.

Cease, however, has been one of the more intriguing Cubs prospects for years — a right-handed pitcher capable of touching 101 mph on the radar gun.

"This guy is throwing lightning bolts out of his arm," McLeod said. "It's really exciting. But we also understaned he's only in Low-A this year, so he's far away."

The Cubs expect Cease to pitch for Class-A South Bend in 2017 after spending last season pitching for short-season Eugene and the 2015 campaign working in the rookie league in Arizona.

Cease — who just turned 21 in late December — put up some impressive numbers at both stops in the Cubs system, posting a 2.36 ERA and 1.165 WHIP to go along with a whopping 91 strikeouts in 68.2 innings. He also only surrendered one homer and walked more batters (41) than reached via a basehit (39).

Control is obviously an issue for Cease, but the upside is evident.

"He's so far away," McLeod said. "He's gonna go into 2017 as a starter. As with a lot of young guys, it's gonna come down to command and depend on that third pitch and the ability to land them for strikes.

"It's a special arm. He can pitch 95-100 mph with a big power curveball. He's unlike anyone else we have in our system since we've been here in terms of pure stuff."

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One fan compared Cease to Carl Edwards Jr. in terms of their lanky build and high velocity, setting McLeod up for a layup joke.

"Well, Dylan is much stronger physically than CJ is...as is everybody in this room," McLeod said as the ballroom filled with laugher. "Don't tell [CJ] I said that. 

"They have different body types, obviously. Carl is long and lanky and Dylan has probably put on 20 pounds since we drafted him, so he's more like 6-foot-2, 190."

By comparison, Edwards — who goes by "The String Bean Slinger" for his slight build — is listed at 6-foot-3, 170 pounds.

Edwards was drafted in the 48th round in 2011 and spent his whole minor-league career as a starting pitcher until the Cubs converted him to a reliever in 2015.

Cease may eventually go down the same path, but the Cubs are going to give him every opportunity to make it as a starter first.

Cease was one of the top pitchers available in the 2014 draft, but his stock took a hit when he was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery on his pitching elbow while at Milton High School in Georgia.

That scared off a lot of teams — as did the potential signability issues with college offers looming — but the Cubs took a chance and have now watched Cease soar to a top prospect in the system (No. 4 by Baseball America; No. 7 by FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus) despite the cautious approach and lack of innings in professional ball.

"We have to thank Kyle Schwarber, actually, as one of the main reasons we got to sign Dylan Cease," McLeod said. "Because we took Kyle fourth overall, we were able to save money on the selection with him, which gave us the resources to go get Dylan Cease.

"He was a Top 10 pick in the draft — a high school arm that got hurt, fell down to the fifth round and he had a commitment to Vanderbilt, I think it was, and we were able to use the money we saved from Kyle.

"Just another reason to love Kyle Schwarber."

Could the Bulls go after Chris Bosh for next season?

Could the Bulls go after Chris Bosh for next season?

The basketball world woke up Friday morning to a report from ESPN senior writer Marc Stein saying the Bulls may go after Chris Bosh for the 2017-18 NBA season.

It's surprising and intriguing for multiple reasons: 

1) Bosh was believed to have played his last days in the NBA due to blod clot issues.

2) The Bulls are at something of a franchise crossroads, sitting as the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference following Thursday's games and still determining what the right step is for the near future and the long term. 

3) Bosh will be 33 in March and hasn't played in an NBA game in nearly a year (last appeared with the Heat Feb. 9, 2016).

But Stein said the Heat are not planning on waiving Bosh before March 1, so he wouldn't be eligible to join the roster of a playoff contender.

Stein then says: If Bosh does return to the hardwood, "word is that the Chicago Bulls are already plotting a run and will be at the front of the line to try to sign him."

Bosh is an 11-time All-Star who has averaged 19.2 points and 8.5 rebounds per game throughout his career. He helped the Heat win several titles as part of the Big Three with Dwyane Wade and LeBron James.

Bosh was also just in Chicago visiting Wade earlier this month:

Could he form another Big Three with Wade and Jimmy Butler, this time in Chicago?

It's worth noting Wade just turned 35 earlier this week and will be in his 14th NBA season next year.