Kap: Cubs need to think long-term, not 2012

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Kap: Cubs need to think long-term, not 2012

While the 2012 Chicago Cubs are playing decent baseball and looking far better fundamentally than most Cubs teams of the past decade, their bullpen has been largely responsible for several late inning losses.

Change a handful of those losses into wins and you have a team that would be right in the thick of contention in a very weak National League Central.

Through games of May 16th, the Cubs have lost five games after having the lead in the seventh inning or later. Former closer Carlos Marmol has three blown saves and has been an adventure most every time out, as has top setup man Kerry Wood. Their poor performances have been a major reason why the Cubs sit 15-22 and seven games in back of the division leading St. Louis Cardinals despite outstanding starting pitching.

With the poor bullpen costing the Cubs several games early in the season, there has been considerable angst among Cubs fans who are clamoring for Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to make a move or two to solidify the back end of the pen. However, premier relievers do not come cheaply and for the Cubs to acquire one would cost them one of the few trading chips that they have.

An honest assessment of what the Cubs have of value that they would also be willing to part with is a very short list.

I believe that it is a foregone conclusion that Ryan Dempster will not be on the Cubs roster after the July 31st trade deadline. He is throwing extremely well and with his contract up at the end of the season, he will not require a major financial commitment from whoever acquires him. As long as he stays hot, the Cubs will be able to extract a fairly substantial package of players from a contending team as starting pitching is very tough to add in season.

However, adding a top flight reliever should not be at the top of Epstein and Hoyers list.

Instead, the Cubs will be looking to add a piece to their team that will impact the team 145 or more times a year. That means finding a long-term answer at third base, second base, corner outfield or catcher. They could choose to add a young, top-flight starting pitching prospect but those deals are very tough to make because with the price of pitching in the free agent market skyrocketing, most teams are unwilling to trade such a precious commodity.

Who has trade value that the Cubs would be willing to deal? Dempster -- who I am 100 percent confident will be traded -- and Matt Garza who is a top-of-the-rotation talent but could bring back a huge haul in a blockbuster deal if the Cubs choose to move him and perhaps a prospect or two out of the system if the deal made sense.

Beyond that, the current crop of Cubs talent has very little value to contending teams in terms of being able to receive an impact player back in trade.

So while it is extremely frustrating to watch a struggling bullpen continually give away games, the current state of the Cubs does not have the luxury of trading key players in their system to improve the bullpen of a very suspect 2012 team.

While I do expect Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer to be active in moving veterans for young players with outstanding potential, they must remain focused on the long-term plan that they developed upon their arrival in Chicago last fall.

Chris Sale scratched from start due to 'clubhouse incident'

Chris Sale scratched from start due to 'clubhouse incident'

Chris Sale has not been traded, but he was scratched from his scheduled start Saturday due to a "clubhouse incident."

White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said in a statement about 25 minutes before the scheduled start of Saturday's game against the Detroit Tigers that Sale was sent home from the park after a "non-physical" incident that is being investigated by the team. 

Here's Hahn's statement in full:

“Chris Sale has been scratched from tonight’s scheduled start and sent home from the ballpark by the White Sox due to a clubhouse incident before the game.  The incident, which was non-physical in nature, currently is under further investigation by the club.

“The White Sox will have no additional comment until the investigation is completed.”

Multiple reports, which CSNChicago.com's Dan Hayes confirmed, have the incident stemming from Sale not wanting to wear a 1976 throwback jersey for Saturday's game. The White Sox announced in March they would wear those uniforms on July 23, instead, the White Sox wore their 1983-style uniforms for Saturday's game. 

Matt Albers instead started for the White Sox on Saturday.

CSN Chicago's Chuck Garfien reported the incident started over something "stupid," while ESPN's Jerry Crasnick reported the incident wasn't with any of Sale's teammates. 

The news of Sale’s scratching set Twitter ablaze with questions about if this year’s American League All-Star starting pitcher was on the move. On Friday, rumors circulated that the Texas Rangers were pushing to acquire Sale, but the White Sox reportedly were asking for a hefty return. 

On Saturday, the Dallas Morning News’ Evan Grant reported the Rangers had moved on from talks with the White Sox and were focusing on acquiring a starting pitcher from the Tampa Bay Rays.

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MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported Saturday the cost to acquire Sale would be “five top prospects.”

Earlier this week, general manager Rick Hahn said the White Sox were open to anything (except acquiring a second-half rental) but added that it might be “extreme” to undergo a full rebuild with Sale and fellow All-Star left-hander Jose Quintana under team control through 2019 and 2020, respectively. 

“We certainly have desirable players that people would want to help them win a championship,” Hahn said Thursday.” But at the same time, we’re aware of the fact that we have a lot of high-quality talent under control for years beyond 2016.”

White Sox expect Brett Lawrie back soon, Alex Avila needs 2-4 more weeks

White Sox expect Brett Lawrie back soon, Alex Avila needs 2-4 more weeks

White Sox second baseman Brett Lawrie was out of the lineup for the second consecutive day with a tight left hamstring, and while he won’t require a stint on the 15-day disabled list, his injury has left manager Robin Ventura a little shorthanded. 

The White Sox are carrying 13 pitchers, so with Tyler Saladino filling in for Lawrie at second base, they’ve been left with only three players on the bench for this weekend’s series against the Detroit Tigers. Ventura said he expects Lawrie to be ready to return to the lineup in the next couple of days. 

Had outfielder Adam Eaton, who left Friday’s 7-5 loss after fouling a ball off his foot, needed to miss Saturday’s game, Ventura said the White Sox might’ve had to make a move to bring up another position player. Eaton is back leading off and playing right field on Saturday. 

“It's a little tight having enough players on the bench,” Ventura said.

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The White Sox position player depth has already been tested by injuries to outfielder Austin Jackson (knee) and catcher Alex Avila (hamstring), with both players unlikely to come off the disabled list for at least another month. 

Avila, who re-aggravated his strained right hamstring Wednesday during a rehab game with Triple-A Charlotte, said he probably tried to return too quickly the White Sox. The 29-year-old Avila leads White Sox regulars with a .362 on-base percentage and said he’ll need at least two to four weeks to heal up. 

“I probably tried to rush back a little too quick and wasn’t ready,” Avila said. “It's frustrating. I’d like to be back, but you have to let nature take its course."

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Bears OL Nate Chandler has retired

Less than two months after Nate Chandler signed with the Bears, the team announced on Saturday that the offensive lineman has retired.

Chandler, 27, signed with the Bears on June 2. He is the second offensive linemen the Bears have signed this offseason that has retired. Manny Ramirez retired in June after signing in March.

Chandler was expected to push Charles Leno for playing time at left tackle. 

Amini Silatolu was signed by the Bears earlier this week to add more depth to the offensive line, but was thought to be more of a replacement for Ramirez at guard.

Chandler played collegiately at UCLA. He went undrafted, but signed with the Carolina Panthers and played in 37 games, with 19 starts, from 2012-2014. Due to a knee injury he was placed on injured reserve in 2015 and did not play.