Former rivals Hamilton, Hinrich show great chemistry

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Former rivals Hamilton, Hinrich show great chemistry

Through the Bulls first four preseason games, theres been a mix of good, bad and ugly. One of the bright spots has been the consistently solid play of the veteran backcourt pairing of Kirk Hinrich and Rip Hamilton.

Once former rivals in his previous Bulls stint, Hinrich frequently guarded the then-Piston Hamilton the two have shown remarkable chemistry thus far. After being plagued by injuries in recent years and questions about whether theyve lost a step, the experienced guard duo seemingly has something to prove.

For Hinrich, who was traded from Chicago to Washington and subsequently, to Atlanta in the Bulls effort to clear cap space prior to the free-agent frenzy of 2010, hes showing that hes still a starting-caliber point guard. His teammates have certainly noticed.

Just being back with him is cool because weve got such history. Hes a veteran. To have him back in Chicago is so good. The way he plays, he knows the game. Hes a real unselfish player. He gets everybody better. He has that good veteran leadership, Taj Gibson told CSNChicago.com. He seems real rejuvenated. In practice, he just goes really hard. Look at most of the preseason games; hes been a spark for us. The skys the limit for him, as long as hes healthy.

In Hamiltons case, after an injury-riddled debut campaign in the Windy City, remaining healthy is also the goal. After the early returns, albeit in exhibition games, the results of a therapist-aided offseason regimen have been obvious.

Playing against him, it was frustrating because it was like, Man, how hes getting open every time on the curl? He just never stops running and I think he wears down defenders when he runs because he can do it. A lot of people cant do it. Him and Ray Allen are real gifted at that, said Nate Robinson after Hamilton scored 23 points in last weeks home win over Milwaukee. I told Rip he can go a whole game without even dribbling the ball.

Its pretty fun to be on the other side. The grass is greener.

Added Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau: Well see how that unfolds. The big thing is his health.

I think when he was on the floor, he played well, but when you miss 40 games, thats a lot, he continued. Hes put a lot of work into improving his body. Hes feeling a lot better this year, so thats a good sign and then, he has to maintain it throughout the course of the season.

Thibodeau has been cautious with his starting guards, resting Hamilton in Minnesota last Saturday and sitting Hinrich against Milwaukee because of a minor right-thumb injury. But the duo is cut from the same cloth both are efficient offensive players and if not elite defenders, pesky with a lot of big-game experience and their hard-nosed similarities appeal to the coach.

At this point, it can be gleaned that although Hamilton privately yearns for more minutes, Thibodeau is gun-shy, due to his various ailments a season ago. The opposite could be true for Hinrich, whose workload could be heavier than its been in years with Derrick Rose out to begin the season.

Regardless, with Hamiltons preseason-leading 15.3 points per game in 25 minutes a night and Hinrichs 11.3 point and six-assist averages in 27.7 minutes per contest, for the time being, the veterans are getting the job done.

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

Michael Kopech, Luis Basabe, Victor Diaz and the rest of the return for Chris Sale

The White Sox return for Chris Sale has been generally praised in the aftermath of Tuesday’s megadeal with the Boston Red Sox, with the headliner being 21-year-old infielder Yoan Moncada

But the White Sox also acquired three other prospects with varying ranges of hype: 20-year-old right-hander Michael Kopech, 20-year-old outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe and 22-year-old right-hander Victor Diaz. Baseball America ranked all three among the top 20 prospects in the Red Sox farm system, while MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo ranked Kopech No. 5, Basabe No. 8 and Diaz No. 28 in Boston’s farm system. 

Kopech is a hard-throwing former No. 33 overall pick out of Mount Pleasant, Texas who was rated as a top 100 prospect in baseball by both Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus prior to the 2016 season. Over three minor league seasons from rookie ball to high Single-A, Kopech has 172 strikeouts, 69 walks and only three home runs allowed in 134 2/3 innings with a 2.61 ERA.

Whether or not Kopech sticks as a starting pitcher (35 of his 36 professional games have been starts) remains a point of contention among prospect evaluators, though he features a power slider and a low-90’s changeup that Baseball America’s Kyle Glaser wrote has drawn comparisons to New York Mets ace Noah Syndergaard. He also reportedly threw a 105 mph pitch last summer with Double-A Salem — and even if that radar gun reading was inaccurate, he’s able to fairly regularly throw his fastball at or above 100 mph. 

[Complete coverage of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale blockbuster trade]

There have been two off-the-field issues with Kopech, though, that are why he’s been dinged in some prospect rankings. In 2015, he was suspended for the final 50 games of the season after testing positive for amphetamine use, and in March of 2016 he fractured his hand following an altercation with a teammate

Basabe — not to be confused with his twin brother, infielder Luis Alejandro Basabe, who the Red Sox traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks last summer — is a toolsy outfielder who hit .264/.328/.452 with 25 stolen bases in 30 attempts between Single-A Greenville and high Single-A Salem last year. FutureSox’s Rob Young wrote that Basabe has “immense upside” as a potential five-tool player, while Baseball America’s best-case is Basabe’s raw talent develops into a "top of the order center fielder" 

Over four minor league seasons, Basabe has a .253/.353/.408 slash line with 21 home runs, 25 triples and 73 stolen bases in 93 attempts (78 percent). 

Diaz has had some control issues, issuing an average of 3.97 walks per nine innings, over his first two professional seasons. The hard-throwing right-hander posted a 3.88 ERA with 63 strikeouts out of Single-A Greenville’s bullpen last year, and with a fastball touching 100 mph, he could develop into a legitimate relief option down the road if he can find the strike zone more consistently. 

What’s worth noting here is the depth of the trade for the White Sox. This is a farm system that lacked both top-end and raw talent when Rick Hahn & Co. woke up on Tuesday, but adding Moncada, Kopech, Basabe and Diaz to a group headlined by recent draft picks like right-hander Carson Fulmer, catcher Zack Collins and right-hander Zack Burdi should have a significant impact on the quality of the White Sox minor league ranks. 

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

MLB releases postseason shares for Cubs

The Cubs' postseason shares were released Tuesday afternoon amid the craziness of the White Sox-Red Sox Chris Sale deal.

Fresh off a World Series win, the Cubs handed out 66 full playoff shares, worth $368,871.59 each. The organization also dealt 8.7 partial shares and four cash awards.

As champs, the Cubs received a share of $27,586,017.75 of the players' pool, which is formed from 50 percent of the gate receipts from the American League and National League wild card games and then 60 percent of the gate receipts from the first three games of the Division Series, the first four contests of the League Championship Series and first four games of the World Series.

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The 2016 players' pool set a new record at $76,627,827.09, up from the 2015 total of just under $70 million.

2015 champion Kansas City Royals received share amounts of just over $370,000 last season, split into 58 shares.

The Cleveland Indians received more than $18 million from the 2016 players pool.

The Los Angeles Dodgers and Toronto Blue Jays — runners up in the LCS — tallied more than $9 million from the players' pool.