Was the price right for Soler?

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Was the price right for Soler?

Jorge Soler hasn't seen one pitch in professional baseball. He hasn't fielded one fly ball, taken one round of BP. He hasn't even put on a uniform in America yet.

So how does a guy like that earn 30 million?

Simple: That's what the market was.

"Soler's deal is kind of like on an island by itself," Baseball America's Jim Callis said when he joined David Kaplan on WGN Radio Monday night. "He was the last big-time international free agent who's not going to be subject to the new bonus rules. Going forward, if you're under 21 or 22, 2.9 million is the max. In the future, there's going to be a sliding scale. If you're a better team, you're going to have less than 2.9 million.

"It was a case where you had a lot of the big guns -- the Yankees included -- where they figured 'you know what, this is the last time we're going to be able to go all in on one of these guys.'

"It's just the cost of doing business. If you wanted Jorge Soler, it's going to cost 30 million. If you want Cubs' 2012 first-round pick Albert Almora, it's going to cost 3 million. Last year, with the different draft system, the Cubs spent a franchise-record 12 million."

Soler had until July 2 to sign a deal without any limit to spending by the new CBA. Cuban outfielder Yoenis Cespedes signed a four-year deal worth 36 million last winter with the Oakland Athletics. The Cubs were reportedly in on Cespedes and OK with the money, but they wanted more years on the contract.

Soler's nine-year deal accomplished that. Plus, it just makes more sense, as he's only 20 and still a few years away from the big leagues. Cespedes, meanwhile, is 26 and already starring for the A's.

"Individually, you look at some of these bonuses and they seem kind of crazy,' Callis said. "But the flip side of it is, a lot of these guys -- and Soler is included -- you're not just signing the guy. You're signing the guy and getting his rights for six years in the major leagues before he can go anywhere and become a free agent.

"I think a lot of time, it's easy to look when these guys fail and be like 'oh this guy got 2 million and didn't pan out, that's a terrible investment.' But when you do hit on a guy...I'll use Albert Almora as an example. If he's as good as he's supposed to be, he's probably going to be worth -- conservatively -- 60 or 70 million to the Cubs in the first six years of his career and they'll probably play him something around 20 million in salary over that span.

"It's more of a case when you hit, the return of investment on these guys is huge and it more than makes up for the guys who fail. But when you pay a guy a lot of money and he fails or he doesn't get out of Double-A or something, that really sticks in your crawl. But overall, I think the return of investment on these guys is worth it."

Soler instantly becomes one of the Cubs' top prospects, if not the No. 1 guy, and one of the best position player prospects in the game. Of course, not every promising young player hits, and there are many stories of Cuban players failing to live up to their hype.

But Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts saw their man and they went for it. When he was with the Red Sox, Theo was reportedly very upset when the Yankees outbid his squad for the services of Cuban pitcher Jose Contreras. The new Cubs president of baseball operations wasn't going to let the same thing happen this time around.

"I don't think it's any surprise," Callis said. "You look at what Theo did in Boston and what Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod did in Boston and then in San Diego. There's no surprise that these guys are going to be aggressive in player development. It's a shame, really, that the league changed the rules and you can't be as aggressive as you want to be.

"But if fans weren't convinced that Tom Ricketts was in this to win it, he spent 12 million on last year's draft and was very aggressive internationally and then goes and spends 30 million on Soler. You can't ask for much more of a commitment from your owner. If you're a fan, you want to see your owner spending money on your team. And Ricketts has done that.

"Yes, the big-league team is terrible right now and they're going through a down phase, but he's shown that they're going to do whatever it takes to get the top talent available."

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."