Cubs in position to be dealmakers

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Cubs in position to be dealmakers

MESA, Ariz. The front office must be prepared for disaster. So while it seems like a surplus, just remember the mood 12 months ago, long before sweeping changes hit Clark and Addison.

Last year the Cubs felt pretty good about the rotation at this point, general manager Jed Hoyer said this week during a session with beat writers. It kind of blew up.

The Cubs were toast once Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner were injured during the first week of last season. Braden Looper, Todd Wellemeyer and Carlos Silva (blah, blah, blah) turned out to be nonfactors.

So you can analyze what the Cubs might do at the crossroads with Matt Garza trade him or extend him and wonder if Wells or Chris Volstad will be a long man making around 2.7 million.

Travis Wood appears ticketed for Triple-A Iowa, and Rodrigo Lopez has quietly put together a nice spring that has kept him in the picture. It doesnt necessarily mean the Cubs will make a deal.

I feel like whenever you think you have pitching depth dont ever really talk about it out loud, because you dont, Hoyer said. So, yeah, in theory, on paper (thats) right. But things usually have a way of working out.

Nothings guaranteed two weeks from Opening Day. But Jeff Samardzija looks like a lock for the rotation. In Hoyers words, hes grabbed that competition by the throat.

Decision time is coming soon, particularly for the final spots in the bullpen, and things will begin to come into focus after Wednesdays off-day. The Cubs will have to listen and see whats out there.

For the most part, GMs dont call around too much until the end, because they realize everyones assessing, Hoyer said. There will be a lot of phone calls made around the next 10 days or so, because I think everyone has an area or two theyd look to improve or a guy (who) they liked in the offseason (now becomes) available.

I wouldnt be surprised if we made a move, but I also think we have the pieces in place that we wouldnt need to. But, yes, well certainly be active in those conversations and I dont think wed be doing our job if we werent.

The Cubs have room in the budget to add an impact player or two, and Theo Epstein has said that he hopes to be buyers, not sellers, at the trade deadline.

The president scaled back spending on the on-field product and invested in technology and expanding what had been perhaps the smallest front office in baseball. The baseball operations department has gone from around 90 employees to more than 120.

Our total major-league payroll will be a little under where it was last year, Hoyer acknowledged. But we sort of left some flexibility so we can make some moves over the course of the season if we need to.

The bill for the big-league team will be around 112 million, according to sources, and include the roughly 15 million the Cubs are paying the Miami Marlins to take on Carlos Zambrano, the 5 million payment on Carlos Penas pillow contract and Silvas 2 million buyout.

The projected Opening Day roster will cost around 90 million, a relatively modest amount for a franchise that Forbes found has risen 14 percent in value during the past year to 879 million.

In its annual Major League Baseball survey released on Wednesday, Forbes ranked only the New York Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers and Boston Red Sox ahead of the Cubs in terms of overall worth.

Epsteins explicit goal is to build a sustainable team that will be playing deep into October every year. So the Cubs arent going to rush top prospects Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson to Wrigley Field. They will take the long view and place a high value on years of club control.

But the Arizona sunshine fuels optimism, and Hoyers anything can happen attitude can be traced back to rotation depth. At the moment, the Cubs dont seem to be inclined to take away from this strength and be exposed to a potentially huge weakness.

Were going to throw a good starting pitcher at the other team every night, Hoyer said. When you break camp every year, you want to win the World Series. Obviously, thats your goal. But I dont see any reason why we cant be incredibly competitive this year.

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

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AP

Morning Update: Dwyane Wade comes up clutch in close win vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

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Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

Dwyane Wade gets a little help but saves the day defensively vs. Kings

It was a gift and the Bulls weren't going to look it in the mouth as Dwyane Wade was poised to finish off another one of his sterling defensive plays with a breakaway dunk with the game tied and Arron Afflalo and DeMarcus Cousins trailing.

Lightly touched by the small of his back by Cousins, Wade miscalculated his liftoff and missed the dunk but was bailed out by the refs for a foul with 14 seconds left.

Then, he bailed the Bulls out.

Wade had his fifth fourth-quarter defensive play, stripping Cousins on a steal on the ensuing possession with the Sacramento Kings having a chance to win, leading to a Michael Carter-Williams dunk and finishing a 102-99 win Saturday night at the United Center.

It was a clock-turning performance for Wade on both ends of the floor, even if his missed dunk is a reminder that he is 35 years old. 

"I took off too far as I look at the instant replay," Wade said. "I should've took maybe one more dribble. Can't say I felt 35, I just took off too far (laughs). But hey, sometimes you get calls, sometimes you don't. I'm a person who hasn't gotten a lot all year so I'm not gonna apologize for nothing."

Stripping Cousins on his spin move was the finale, but he swatted an Arron Afflalo corner triple in the fourth, smothered Ty Lawson at the rim twice for blocked shots to end the third and tortured Lawson again in the fourth for another steal that led to him following up a Jimmy Butler missed layup with a follow and foul.

"Just a read," said Wade on stripping Cousins. "We knew he was gonna go to DeMarcus at that point. Once we forced him left, I knew he had to come back to the right hand. And being in the right place at the right time, the ball was right there for me."

Wade played like a desperate and motivated man, putting up 30 with six rebounds and four assists on the second night of a back-to-back is proof positive he took Friday's loss to Atlanta personally and used his play to back up those feelings.

He took to twitter to apologize for the poor effort against the Hawks, producing his best all-around performance as a Bull.

"We've been good in desperate moments," Wade said. "We haven't been good in non-desperate moments, when we win three in a row or playing a team that we should beat. But (in) the desperate moments I like us."

He scored 13 in the fourth, along with the last of his four blocked shots and all three of his steals took place in the final 12.

"I thought he was terrific," Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. "He was aggressive all game long, taking the ball to the basket, getting to the line 15 times. He came up with two big plays."

Hoiberg threw out different lineups and rotations, playing Paul Zipser as a sixth man and having the second-round draft pick close the game. Zipser took advantage, hitting three triples and scoring 13 points.

"I thought it was night and day from last night," Hoiberg said. "Our energy was really good all night long. We got just enough stops to find a way to win."

Cousins dominated the game with 42 and 14 rebounds in 35 minutes, the only Kings player in double figures all night.

"He was pretty much unguardable for the majority of the game, Taj did a solid job on him," Hoiberg said. "When Robin was on him, they put him on the perimeter and let him shoot threes. He's a monster."

Back-to-back triples from Cousins gave him 40 and tied the game at 97, as a third one rimmed out with a little under two minutes left.

Cousins dominated the start of the third quarter, hitting midrange jumpers over Lopez and taunting the Bulls bench after hitting a jumper to put the Kings ahead, 70-63 midway through the third.

But the Bulls stayed close, with Hoiberg choosing to sit Rajon Rondo for the second half after playing him six minutes in the second quarter, using Wade as a point guard and going with Carter-Williams for defense, along with Zipser, who didn't look scared of the moment.

"I like the wrinkle coach put in there, putting him in early," Wade said. "He gave him an opportunity and he helped us big time."

Butler scored 23 with seven assists and five rebounds in 39 minutes, didn't have to play the hero for once and made fun of Wade's apology tweet.

"He was due for a big night," Butler said. "He can tweet again if he can come out again and give us 30 and some big steals and big dunks."

"I think that's what called of him, to score baskets and guard. It's kinda sneaky. You never really expect it until it happens."

It looked like the worst was over when the Bulls made a short run to end the third, surviving the onslaught from Cousins — and surviving their own experimenting with Zipser instead of going with Denzel Valentine, switching things up altogether.

But the tone was set by the leaders, who can only manufacture but so much urgency on a nightly basis.

"I like this team when we're desperate," Wade said. "A desperate team, we're not bad."