Kaplan: Trio of suitors for Dempster

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Kaplan: Trio of suitors for Dempster

After a busy Monday evening that saw Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer swing two deals sending Reed Johnson and Paul Maholm to the Atlanta Braves for two minor league pitchers and catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for another minor league arm, Tuesday looks like it has the potential to be another extremely busy day for Cubs management.

Baseball sources have confirmed to me that three teams are in play for Ryan Dempster and he will approve a deal to any of the three teams if the Cubs can agree on a suitable return in exchange for the veteran right-hander who is enjoying one of the best seasons of his career. The Los Angeles Dodgers, who have long been Dempster's preferred destination will have to increase their offer as the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees have stepped up their pursuit over the last 48 hours. With Roy Oswalt having another poor performance on Monday evening, the Rangers have decided to upgrade their rotation and are looking at all available options including Dempster and Matt Garza.

"Texas is serious about adding a starter and Dempster isn't as expensive to trade for as Garza would be, but after finishing as runners-up in the last two World Series and seeing the Angels add Zach Greinke, Texas management has decided to make a run at adding pitching, a baseball source told me. "However, with three teams seriously involved, it won't be cheap to acquire him even though it is potentially a three-month rental."

"Dempster has made it clear to Cubs management that he would like to play in Los Angeles but he also understands that Epstein and Hoyer have a job to do and he will not stand in their way if it means that the best deal is somewhere else," a source with knowledge of the discussions told me this morning. "He never told them he would only go to LA, he only said that he wanted time to make the best decision for him and his family and that is his right as a 105 10 years in the majors, the last five with your current team man. Ryan is serious about wanting to win a World Series and he will approve a deal if it gives him that chance. People who have been critical of him about the Atlanta deal don't have all of the facts."

Former major-league reliever Mitch Williams told me yesterday on Chicago Tribune Live that he believes Dempster is right to use his veto power to determine where he plays next.

"Fans and media who are critical of Dempster are wrong to feel that way," Williams said. "He earned the right to determine his future and any one of us would use that privilege if we had it. He has been a tremendous player and teammate for the Cubs and he will go right up to the deadline before he makes a decision if that is what it takes to get him to the best situation for him and his family."

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger 'pretty close' to returning for Blackhawks

Marcus Kruger has been sidelined a little longer than the originally expected three weeks with his right hand injury. Not that any missed time is enjoyable.

"I wanted to get back there probably a few weeks ago but unfortunately I couldn't," said Kruger, who suffered his injury on Dec. 30 against the Carolina Hurricanes. "I tried to listen to the doctors and do everything I can instead to be ready when I get cleared. That's my mindset."

Kruger is close, but not quite there, as the Blackhawks prepared for Sunday night's game against the Vancouver Canucks. Kruger skated with his teammates for the first time since being injured but wasn't among the line rushes. The center took faceoffs on his own at the end of practice. Kruger pronounced himself, "pretty close," to returning. Coach Joel Quenneville said the Blackhawks will see how Kruger is over the next few days. The Blackhawks play again Tuesday and Thursday before heading into the All-Star break this weekend.

The Blackhawks have missed Kruger's versatility and especially his play on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks' kill has been fine through Kruger's absence but he nevertheless is a big part of it when he's healthy.

"We have a lot of options and when he's out everyone gets a more important role, whether starting or faceoffs. And we have a rotation of five guys who are in there most of the time. But he definitely absorbs the most responsibility when he's playing in that area," Quenneville said of Kruger. "So it's nice you get to try some other guys and you get deeper as you go along."

[SHOP: Gear up, Blackhawks fans!]

One of the players who's emerged in Kruger's absence is Tanner Kero, who filled his third-line center void. Kero and linemates Vinnie Hinostroza and Marian Hossa clicked on the dads trip, coming up with big plays and points in the Blackhawks' victories over Colorado and Boston. As of now, Kero appears to have the hold on third-line center.

"I don't see too many things that would change his positioning because he really helped himself," Quenneville said.

Kruger said he's fine if that means returning to fourth-line center duties. Regardless, he'll help bolster the Blackhawks' forward lines. The last step is likely contact, which Kruger got a little of – outside of faceoffs – in Sunday's skate. Kruger's had to wait a little longer than expected on his injury but he's getting there.

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

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AP

Cubs, White Sox react to tragic deaths of Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

The sports world woke up to some tragic news on Sunday morning.

Former major leaguer Andy Marte and Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura were both killed in separate car accidents in the Dominican Republic within an hour of each other, according to multiple reports. A Royals representative confirmed the death of 25-year-old Ventura.

The Cubs and White Sox took to Twitter to give their condolences:

Ventura was a member of the Royals from 2013-16 and won a World Series title in 2015 with Ben Zobrist and Wade Davis, who the Cubs acquired this offseason for Jorge Soler. Ventura also played with White Sox pitcher James Shields in 2013-14.

Marte, 33, played a majority of his seven-year career with the Cleveland Indians. He was teammates with Todd Hollandsworth (Atlanta 2005), Kerry Wood (Cleveland 2009-10), and Miguel Montero (Arizona 2014).