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."

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Blackhawks assistant Kevin Dineen appreciates interview opportunities

Kevin Dineen is back with the Blackhawks but there were times this summer you wondered if another team would take him away.

The Blackhawks’ assistant coach was a major candidate for the Colorado Avalanche head coaching job, according to the Denver Post, following Patrick Roy’s surprising departure. There were probably other inquiries, too.

“It’s always nice to go through a process of talking about the way you do your business. It’s also a reflection of where you are,” said Dineen following the Blackhawks’ White-Red scrimmage on Saturday. “No. 1, you have to get permission to do that, and the Blackhawks have been great about giving me the opportunity to go out and do that. But also, when you have success, a lot of people want to get your feedback or whatever it is.”

Dineen’s name will likely come up whenever there’s a coaching vacancy. He coached the Florida Panthers from 2011-13 and coached Team Canada women’s team to a gold medal at the 2014 Winter Olympics. Dineen will get another opportunity in the NHL but for now, life is good in Chicago.

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“For me, I couldn’t be happier right here,” he said. “I have a great person and hockey mind to work with in Joel [Quenneville]. But you know, down the line, those things play their way out and we’ll see where it goes.”

Arriving soon

Patrick Kane, Ville Pokka and Michal Kempny will join the Blackhawks’ training camp on Tuesday. The three finished up round-robin World Cup of Hockey play with their respective teams on Thursday.

Dineen said there’s a chance one of the defensemen, Pokka or Kempny, play in Wednesday night’s preseason game against the Pittsburgh Penguins.

“They’ll get into the swing of things here on Tuesday,” Dineen said. “So that’ll give them a good rest after a long, tough September, and we expect them to hit the ice flying.”

Briefly

  • Duncan Keith will skate during one of the Blackhawks’ practices on Sunday and Monday.
     
  • Team White defeated Team Red 4-3 in Saturday’s scrimmage at the United Center. Spencer Abbott led Team White with two goals.

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

After locking up homefield advantage, Cubs flummoxed by Cardinals in blowout loss

At the end of the day, a loss means essentially nothing for the Cubs right now.

But the Cubs also certainly don't want to hand games to their division rival as the St. Louis Cardinals make a run at the National League wild card spots.

After the Cubs clinched homefield advantage throughout the NL playoffs with the Washington Nationals' loss Friday night, they had no answer for the Cardinals in a 10-4 loss in front of 40,785 fans at Wrigley Field Saturday afternoon on national TV.

A few disturbing trends popped their heads above ground for the Cubs again Saturday, including the offense's struggles at manufacturing runs, Jason Hammel getting shelled and some bullpen woes.

The Cubs had no trouble putting runners on base against Cardinals phenom Alex Reyes, but they had a tough time plating those guys, cashing in only once with a runner on third base in six tries over the first four innings.

In two of those spots, a Cubs hitter came up with only one out, but failed to bring the run home as Addison Russell struck out in the first inning and Kris Bryant popped out to shallow left in the second.

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Hammel recorded only seven outs and was tagged for six runs on six hits and a walk, watching his season ERA rise nearly 30 points to 3.83. The veteran right-hander fell to 15-10 as he attempts to make a push for one of the Cubs' final postseason roster spots.

"Honestly, I would love to be a part of [the playoff roster], as the rest of the guys on the team would love to," Hammel said. "I know there's only a certain amount of spots, so if I'm handed the ball, I'll be ready. That's the way I'm gonna view it.

"Obviously you wanna be a part of something special like that, but I think everybody here has already been a part of something special to get to this point. We're all very proud. We still got eight regular season ballgames left to build some momentum. Whether I'm on the roster or not, I'm still gonna enjoy it."

Hammel was also clearly on the wrong end of some bad luck Saturday, as the four runs he allowed in the first came via a check swing and a couple hits just out of the reach of his fielders. 

Joe Maddon won't put too much stock into one rough start in late September.

"I'm not too worried about a good or bad outing right now. I'm not," he said. "Pretty much, you know who the guy is. You know if the guy's go this stuff going on or if he doesn't. ... The greater body of work matters."

Setup man Hector Rondon struggled in his appearance, needing 26 pitches to notch just one out, giving up three runs on three hits and a walk before handing the ball off to Felix Pena.

Of course, it's also just one game and one loss for a team with 98 victories and hopes of the World Series.

Rondon had been nearly unhittable since returning from the disabled list two weeks ago and the Cubs offense had been efficient and relentless in the past four games after Maddon's meeting with the hitters earlier in the week.

Maddon also used the blowout to get regulars like Anthony Rizzo, Ben Zobrist, Jason Heyward and Russell out of the lineup to help keep them fresh for October.

After the game, Maddon chose to look on the bright side.

"Our starter had a tough day today; that's it. Otherwise we did some nice things," he said, referencing the solid offensive days from Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. "We had chances to score runs - runners on third, less than two outs - and we didn't fulfill that.

"We made their starter throw 115 pitches in five innings; I think that's a positive."

The Cubs will close out their season series with the Cardinals on another nationally-televised showdown Sunday night between Jon Lester and St. Louis ace Carlos Martinez.