Looking back on the Cubs' deadline deals

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Looking back on the Cubs' deadline deals

The 2012 Cubs could have had a representative on the AL-pennant-winning Tigers, as utilityman and lefty-masher Jeff Baker was dealt to Detroit at the trading deadline.

The only thing is, Baker was then dealt to the Braves roughly a month after the initial trade, and finished the year in Atlanta.

As it was, none of the Cubs' deals at the deadline had any impact on the MLB postseason landscape and in fact, both teams (Rangers, Braves) that wound up with the five former Cubs lost in their respective Wild Card play-in games.

Let's take a look at how the ex-Cubs fared on their new teams, and how the stable of young talent the Cubs received in return finished out the season:

Ex-Cubs

Ryan Dempster, TEX

Dempster put up a 5.09 ERA and 1.44 WHIP over 12 starts in Texas, but did compile a 7-3 record with 70 strikeouts in 69 innings. He didn't appear in the Rangers' lone playoff game, but he was a big reason why Texas had to participate in the one-game, winner-take-all matchup with the Orioles. Dempster allowed five runs on six hits and a walk in just three innings to the A's on the final day of the season, allowing Oakland to complete their miraculous run and capture the AL West.

What's next: Dempster is a free agent. Don't be surprised if he signs with the Dodgers, the team he originally wanted to be traded to.

Geovany Soto, TEX

Soto struggled during his time with the Cubs to start the season (.199 AVG, .631 OPS) and became expendable with the emergence of Welington Castillo and Steve Clevenger. The change of scenery didn't help the veteran catcher, as he actually hit a little worse in Texas (.196 AVG, .591 OPS). Soto played in 47 games for the Rangers, including the playoff game, in which he went 0-for-2 with a strikeout.

What's next: Soto is entering his third and final year of arbitration. With Mike Napoli currently a free agent, the Rangers may very well have interest in bringing Soto back next season.

Paul Maholm, ATL

The veteran southpaw enjoyed arguably his best pro season in 2012, turning in a 9-6 record and 3.74 ERA while with the Cubs. Maholm was even better with the Braves, posting a 3.54 ERA and 1.19 WHIP. It certainly was not his fault Atlanta didn't advance further in the playoffs.

What's next: Maholm has a 6.5 million team option on his contract, which is very affordable for a quality starting pitcher. It would not be shocking to see the Braves pick that option up.

Reed Johnson, ATL

Johnson, a fan favorite as a fourth outfielder and veteran presence while with the Cubs, held the same role in Atlanta, playing largely against left-handers. He hit .270.305.320, a rather significant drop from the .302.355.444 line he put up with the Cubs in 2012. He did not play in the one-game playoff.

What's next: Johnson is a free agent and provides value for a discounted price. There likely won't be a fit for him with the Cubs in 2013, but that could always change.

Jeff Baker, DETATL

Baker appeared in 15 games for the Tigers (about once every other contest), and struggled to find his groove, hitting just .200 with a .500 OPS. He was even worse in Atlanta, where he was used primarily as a pinch-hitter, posting a .105 AVG and .255 OPS. He also did not appear in the one-game playoff.

What's next: Baker just finished his third and final year of arbitration and is set to become a free agent for the first time in his career. Will sign on somewhere as a utility player, getting at-bats mostly against lefties.

Prospects

Jaye Chapman, RHP

Chapman, 25, is a former 16th-round draft pick coming over in the MaholmJohnson deal. He appeared in 10 games in the minors before making his MLB debut in September. He performed OK in 14 games down the stretch with a 3.75 ERA, 1.50 WHIP and 12 whiffs in 12 innings. Chapman boasts an above-average changeup, but may rely on it a bit too much.

What's next: Chapman has a chance to make the big-league bullpen with a strong showing in spring training, and will head back to Triple-A Iowa if that doesn't work out.

Arodys Vizcaino, RHP

Vizcaino, acquired from the Braves, was sidelined all season with Tommy John surgery, but should be good to go come spring. He turns 22 in November and has been ranked as one of the Top 100 prospects by Baseball America for three straight years. The Cubs have already said they will handle Vizcaino with care next year, and because of that, he may wind up in Triple-A to start the season. But he will surely get some time on the big-league roster at some point in 2013, though it remains to be seen whether it will be as a starter or reliever.

Jacob Brigham, RHP

Acquired in the Soto deal, Brigham made just two starts with the Cubs to end 2012, both for Double-A Tennessee. He got lit up, surrendering nine runs on 11 hits and four walks in just 3.2 innings. Brigham, 24, has never climbed above Double-A and has a 4.49 career ERA, though he provides value as a starting pitching option in a Cubs system that is decidedly shallow in that area.

What's next: Brigham will start 2013 in the minor leagues, pitching at either Tennessee or Iowa.

Kyle Hendricks, RHP

Hendricks came to the Cubs in the Dempster deal and the 22-year-old righty finished the season making five appearances -- four starts -- for High-A Daytona. He was 1-0 with a 4.24 ERA and 1.18 WHIP in those five games and finished the season at 6-8 with a 2.99 ERA and 1.07 WHIP in 25 games (24 starts) overall. Hendricks has not been considered one of the top prospects in the game, but is just two years into his professional career.

What's next: The former 8th-round draft pick may start the season at High-A Daytona in 2013, but should wind up getting some experience in Double-A.

Christian Villanueva, 3B

Villanueva was the main piece in the Dempster trade and the 21-year-old third baseman has impressed some -- he was voted the No. 100 prospect by Baseball America prior to the 2012 season -- despite his size (5-foot-11, 160 pounds). Villanueva hit .250.337.452 in 25 games (95 plate appearances) at High-A Daytona with the Cubs after the trade and finished the season at .279.353.427 overall. He has 53 steals and 33 homers in his minor-league career, but appears to be more of a gap hitter at this stage in his career.

What's next: Villanueva won't turn 22 until the middle of next season and the native of Guadalajara, Mexico may get a promotion to Double-A Tennessee at some point in the 2013 season, though he will likely start in Daytona to get more seasoning.

Marcelo Carreno, RHP

Ah, the good, old PTBNL (player to be named later). Carreno came over to the Cubs in mid-October to conclude the Jeff Baker deal with the Tigers. The 21-year-old righty has 84 career starts with a 3.70 ERA and 1.23 WHIP. He put together a very solid 2012 season for Single-A West Michigan, posting a 9-8 record, 3.23 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 27 starts.

What's next: The Venezuelan righty may start 2013 with the newly-acquired Kane County Cougars (Single-A) or may get a promotion to High-A Daytona. Depending on his development, Carreno could finish next year with Double-A Tennessee, but that seems overly optimistic.

Preview: White Sox host Cubs in Crosstown Classic Monday on CSN

Preview: White Sox host Cubs in Crosstown Classic Monday on CSN

The White Sox take on the Cubs in the Crosstown Classic tonight, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with an hour-long White Sox Pregame Live at 6:00 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tonight's starting pitching matchup: Miguel Gonzalez (2-5, 4.41 ERA) vs. Jake Arrieta (12-4, 2.60 ERA)

White Sox HR leaders Cubs HR leaders
Todd Frazier (28) Kris Bryant (25)
Brett Lawrie (12) Anthony Rizzo (24)
Jose Abreu (11) Ben Zobrist (13)

Looking Ahead:

Date White Sox Cubs
Tuesday James Shields (4-12, 4.99 ERA) Kyle Hendricks (9-6, 2.27 ERA)
Wednesday Jacob Turner (0-1, 14.73 ER Jason Hammel (9-5, 3.35 ERA)
Thursday TBD TBD

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.

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— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

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Bears mix of QB Jay Cutler with OC Dowell Loggains still a critical work in progress

Bears mix of QB Jay Cutler with OC Dowell Loggains still a critical work in progress

Back in January, before the Bears promoted Dowell Loggains from quarterbacks coach to offensive coordinator, CSNChicago.com took an advance look at Loggains and how he might fit with Jay Cutler were the Bears to make Loggains yet another in the long list of coordinators for Cutler. With the start of training camp at hand, a longer look at this pivotal coach-player situation comes into focus.

No change made by the Bears this offseason carries the weight of the one moving Dowell Loggains to offensive coordinator to replaced departed Adam Gase. Quarterback Jay Cutler is coming off the best statistical season of his career, founded on the ball-security foundation instilled by Gase and Loggains. The Gase-to-Loggains succession plan projects to catapult Cutler, and with him the offense, to a next level.

Not necessarily.

For now, as they were when Mike Martz, Aaron Kromer and others took the Chicago O.C. job, all the right things are being said:

From Loggains on Cutler’s improvement under Gase and himself: “I don’t think Adam or I should take the credit,” Loggains said. “I think Jay made the choice to improve and work on the things that we asked him to work on. And I hope that process continues.”

From Cutler: “I’ve known Dowell like I’ve known Adam, for a long time… . The backbone of this offense is still the same. Even if Adam was here I think we still would have changed some stuff and got better in certain areas. So we’re just kind of continuing down that road.”

But Cutler having a positive relationship with an incoming coach means…nothing.

Indeed, his history is not encouraging, even with coaches he ostensibly thought highly of coming in, even ones already on staff or had worked with him previously.

Mike Tice was promoted from offensive line coach to coordinator when Mike Martz was fired after the 2011 season, Cutler’s previous best for avoiding interceptions. Tice had been instrumental in balancing the offense in 2010 when Martz’s schemes and protections were getting Cutler annihilated.

But by mid-2012, Cutler’s relationship and communications with Tice had deteriorated to the point of backup Josh McCown needing to serve as go-between.

Notably, the 2012 friction was developing even as the Bears were on their way to a 10-6 season, and with Jeremy Bates having been hired as quarterbacks coach. That was based in part on Bates’ relationships with Cutler from a 2006-08 overlapping stint with the Denver Broncos. Cutler’s relationship with Tice was toxic, and Bates went down along with Tice and the rest of Lovie Smith’s staff after that season.

The Bears have added Dave Ragone, a member of the Tennessee Titans staff with Loggains and having played two NFL games in 2003. But the Bears’ offense will turn on the Cutler-Loggains axis and it relationship elements, both football and inter-personal.

“There’s definitely some honesty there,” Cutler said, smiling. “He’s not afraid to tell me when I’m completely wrong and rightfully so. I like to tell him whenever I think we’re not doing things right or we need to change things.

“I think at the core of that we kind of cut through some stuff and we get things done a little bit quicker… .No one’s really sensitive. We just try to get it done.”

When Gase talked, Cutler listened. Will Cutler’s receptors stay open when something goes wrong, as something invariably will sometime in an NFL season? That is on Cutler, and his openness to yet another coordinator was at the root of his improvement to a career-best passer rating of 92.3.

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Loggains has been notably vocal during open practices, with more than Cutler alone. That is a departure from Gase’s demeanor, although Gase was more than capable of tough love when anyone on his side of the football needed it.

“I think it’s a mutual respect,” Loggains said of his Cutler relationship. “I think I respect him and he respects me. I think that when you have that mutual respect then all dialogue is legal. So whatever I say to him, he knows where it’s coming from and vice versa.”

Cred issues?

Some questions hanging over Loggains have less to do with Loggains himself, but rather his background.

Gase came to the Bears from two years as offensive coordinator for the Denver Broncos under John Fox. Gase, quarterbacks coach for the preceding two seasons, moved into that job when Mike McCoy was hired to coach the San Diego Chargers.

The Denver gig included three seasons working with Peyton Manning. While Manning needed scant coaching at that point in his career, the point was less how much Gase coached Manning as much as what Gase brought with him from his time with Manning. Gase knew from up close what a Hall of Fame quarterback looked like.

Loggains’ NFL career stops have accorded him time with no one approaching Manning’s stature. Not surprisingly, in time with three different teams, Loggains has not been involved with an offense that ranked in the top half of the league:

Year Team Job Offense results
2015 Bears QB 21st ydg, 21st pass, 23rd pts.
2014 Browns QB 27th pass, 27th pts.
2013 Titans O.C. 21st ydg, 21st pass, 19th pts.
2012 Titans QB/O.C. 26th ydg, 22nd pass, 23rd pts.
2011 Titans QB 17th ydg, 15th pass, 21st pts.

The Tennessee Titans’ quarterbacks during Loggains’ years there were Ryan Fitzpatrick, Matt Hasselbeck and Jake Locker. The 2014 Browns put up the seventh-highest passing yardage in franchise history, with Brian Hoyer, Connor Shaw and Johnny Manziel as their quarterbacks.

No slight of any of the quarterbacks, but a point around Loggains might be not how little the offenses achieved in his time with them, but rather, how much.

“I think that I’ve had an opportunity working with Kyle Shanahan in Cleveland and Adam Gase this last year, obviously there’s stuff I’ve taken from both of them,” Loggains said. “Going back in the quarterback room, I think it was good for me. It was a good experience. Things you obviously change are, ‘hey, in Tennessee I like the way we did this and we’ll bring that here. In Cleveland, I like the way we did whatever.’. So it’s gaining knowledge from being around other people and being in different situations.”

Notre Dame unit preview: DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and the quarterbacks

Notre Dame unit preview: DeShone Kizer, Malik Zaire and the quarterbacks

With the start of Notre Dame preseason camp fast approaching, we’re looking at what to expect from each unit that’ll take the field in primetime Sept. 4 against Texas at Darrell K. Royal Stadium. 

Depth Chart

1A. DeShone Kizer (Redshirt sophomore)
1B. Malik Zaire (Redshirt junior)
2. Brandon Wimbush (Sophomore)
3. Ian Book (Freshman)

All eyes will be on Notre Dame’s quarterback competition in August, with coach Brian Kelly saying after spring practice Kizer and Zaire were entering the summer on an even playing field. Zaire needed the spring to catch up to Kizer in terms of some of the offensive wrinkles installed after his season-ending ankle injury in the second week of the season. 

Both quarterbacks will get an opportunity to win the starting job during preseason camp, though the slight edge has to go to Kizer given his experience (11 starts) against that of Zaire (three starts). While Zaire’s potential remains high (he did, after all, quarterback Notre Dame’s best win of the season last year, that 38-3 shellacking of Texas), Kizer showed last fall plenty of the traits Kelly has wanted out of a quarterback since arriving in South Bend in December of 2009. Kizer takes coaching well and rarely made the same mistakes on a week-to-week basis, and he accounted for 31 touchdowns with some solid other numbers, too. 

That’s not to say Zaire can’t win the job next month, but he probably has more of an uphill climb to earn it than Kizer does. 

Biggest question: When will a starting QB be announced?

Kelly said during spring practice he wants his offense to form an identity around a starting quarterback, so don’t expect this decision to drag on until right before kickoff of the Texas game (Ohio State’s handling of the Cardale Jones-J.T. Barrett competition last year stands as a lesson in how to not make a quarterback and an offense comfortable). The preseason camp portion of Notre Dame’s August practices usually runs for about two weeks, so with a start date of Aug. 6, expect Kelly to announce a starter sometime after Aug. 20. 

Whether that announcement becomes public is another question, but Kizer, Zaire and Notre Dame’s offense likely will have have about two weeks of practice/meetings before the Texas game knowing who their starting quarterback is. 

Youthful impact

Wimbush appeared in two games last year, with Kelly, Mike Sanford & Co. seeing the necessity to burn his redshirt to get him in-game reps in case he needed to take meaningful snaps in a College Football Playoff race. Kelly in the spring walked back a comment he made in February about planning to redshirt Wimbush this fall, but if Kizer and Zaire both stay healthy, Notre Dame would probably prefer to keep the talented sophomore on the sidelines in 2016. 

Book enrolled in Notre Dame this summer with far less hype than his predecessors (he was only a three-star recruit), but Sanford raved about his skillset and fit in the Irish offense on signing day in February. He’ll likely take a redshirt year and begin his quest to move up the rungs of the depth chart in 2017. 

They said it

“They are both that good. I already know that. But there will be a day, and we're going to have to say: It's time to go, he's our quarterback, everybody's behind him and we need to go, and that's who the quarterback is.” — Brian Kelly