Kap: Future is bright with Almora signing


Kap: Future is bright with Almora signing

With the agreement on a 3.9 million signing bonus with top draft pick Albert Almora now done pending his passing a physical, the Cubs have all of their Top 20 draft picks from Junes first year player draft in the fold.

Almora is a highly polished outfielder who projects as a .300 hitter with 20-25 home run potential as well as a very heady player who understands the game as well as any player in the 2012 draft. He is expected to take his physical today and once he is cleared, he and his advisor Scott Boras will finalize a contract with Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer.

A look at the Cubs organization since Epstein and Hoyer were hired shows a far different future than the Cubs had under former GM Jim Hendry.

Almora joins the likes of Anthony Rizzo and Jorge Soler as players acquired in trades and signings since the regime change. The 20-year-old Soler is a Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year 30 million deal with the Cubs in late June and is projected as a tremendous power bat.

Today though, the big news is the signing of Almora, who has been confirming his agreement by re-tweeting from his Twitter feed most anyone who is congratulating him on signing with the Cubs. He will be on a fairly fast track to this big leagues, but even the most optimistic projections have him arriving at Wrigley Field no earlier than 2015 when he would be just 21 years old.

Almoras deal was handled by super-agent Scott Boras who once upon a time was a minor leaguer in the Cubs system. He told Paul Sullivan of the Chicago Tribune, They knew the player and they knew the value of the player. With where the Cubs are at, I think the fanbase has to believe in player development. So that means these types of signings are very important.

A look at the future of the Cubs in 2015 or 2016 has a lineup that could have these pieces in place:

SS Starlin Castro
1B Anthony Rizzo
RF Jorge Soler
CF Albert Almora
3B Javier Baez
LF Brett Jackson

Add in prospects that will be acquired in potential trades for Ryan Dempster, Matt Garza and others plus a very high pick in the 2013 draft and you could have the makings of a very solid team. Plus, with the Cubs almost done with long-term commitments to aging veterans, the payroll room should allow for some free-agent signings over the next couple of winters to strengthen a rotation that will obviously have holes after the trades of Dempster and potentially Garza.

Right now, the only long-term piece of a five-man rotation appears to be Jeff Samardzija with not much additional starting pitching expected to come from the farm system that Epstein and Hoyer inherited.

This years draft had a major emphasis on pitching and the Cubs hope that at least two starters are now in the organization at some level, but I would expect that they will be players in free agency for starting pitching over the next winter or two.

McDonald's All-American Games return to United Center

McDonald's All-American Games return to United Center

The McDonald's All-American Games return to the United Center for the seventh consecutive year on Wednesday night as the nation's elite boys and girls high school basketball players take the floor.

The 40th annual games begin with the girls game at 4 p.m. while the boys game will follow at 6 p.m.

The 2017 McDonald's game won't have a lot of local talent to keep an eye on, besides Chicago native and center Brandon McCoy, but the national Class of 2017 is still a fun group to check out for local basketball fans.

Headlined by top prospects like small forward Michael Porter Jr. (Missouri), center DeAndre Ayton (Arizona),  center Wendell Carter (Duke) and point guard Trevon Duval (uncommitted), this year's McDonald's game features a lot of flashy guards, high-flying wings and talented big men.

Over the years, fans at the United Center have been able to see some of the NBA's best young players before they went to college as alums of recent McDonald's games include Anthony Davis, Andrew Wiggins, Jabari Parker and Karl-Anthony Towns.

You can view the full rosters for the 2017 McDonald's All-American Games here

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

Why the Bears finally feel like they're in striking distance of a winning team

PHOENIX – Where the relationship between Bears GM Ryan Pace and coach John Fox goes beyond 2017 remains to play out with their third season together. At this point, however, despite a combined total of nine wins over their first two, the critical bond between coach and general manager appears both clear and solid.
Which is no small state of affairs with the growing pressure on both and the organization, pressure that will only intensify if the on-field fortunes of their team does not begin to dramatically reverse. And both know it. Losing doesn't build character, it reveals it, and the same applies to a relationship; if there are cracks, adversity of the kind the Bears have endured the past 32 games will widen and expose them.
That relationship has been the subject of speculation virtually since its inception, when Pace hired Fox following the end of his tenure with the Denver Broncos. Much of it centered around who was in fact making the final decisions on personnel and who was the advisor, with some positing that Fox was in fact the final authority if only because age, seniority and experience. The primacy of Pace, however, has become clearer with each decision and traces or shadings of any fractiousness are conspicuously absent.
"His people skills are tremendous," Fox said Tuesday during the NFL owners meetings. "His evaluation skills are very good. I think humility is always a great quality in this business. And I've seen that. He's the same guy. He hasn't changed. Sometimes people get [elevated] positions, whatever position that may be and they change. It's just how some people react. And I haven't seen that."
Pace, who recently turned 40, is by his own description wanting buy-in on decisions. In the cases of free agency, which have involved the high-dollar commitments designed to have immediate payoff, he has identified pro targets and involved Fox in the decisions.
Looking for an immediate hit at linebacker to upgrade the entire defense about this time last year, Pace targeted Denver leading-tackler Danny Trevathan. Fox was his first consult.
"Just having drafted [Trevathan] and seeing him develop and get better and his work ethic and his preparation and study habits and how he is as a teammate in the locker room," Pace said of what insight Fox provided. "Those were all things that were taken into consideration."
This year, with the max need of improvement, the franchise-grade decision was to make a change at quarterback. Jay Cutler effectively made the decision on himself and he was out. Whether Mike Glennon is or is not an upgrade will play out this year, but Fox was involved in and endorsed the decision to go in a decidedly less-experienced direction.

[RELATED - No signs Bears are locked into drafting a QB in 2017]
Pace had attempted in the past to trade for Glennon, which Fox agreed with. Fox had familiarity with Glennon from his time coaching in Carolina.
"I was in North Carolina when [Glennon] was playing [at N.C. State], actually," Fox recalled. "I was exposed to two guys there. A good friend of mine was the head coach at NC State. Both Russell Wilson and Mike Glennon were coming through at that period in time, so I got exposed to them, watching games and kinda following them.
"And obviously evaluating both of them coming out, they were in different schools then. So I had a high opinion of them then. And then really [Glennon] was talked about a little bit before this year as a potential guy to get, and then this year, being free and without any kind of compensation, we dove in pretty good and feel good about it."
Most expectations are that the Bears will not repeat a three-win season, and that an improvement from the first two years keeps both Pace and Fox in their jobs. Key players (Trevathan, Eddie Goldman, Kyle Long, Kevin White) returning from injuries, free-agency upgrades on both sides of the ball and a draft class currently with two picks in the first 36 point to perhaps the kind of turnaround Fox has produced (in years two) at Carolina and Denver.
Fox did not dwell on what the roster was or wasn't when he arrived, or on how much of an overhaul Pace needed to do when he took over from Phil Emery and brought in Fox to replace Marc Trestman. But the reality was there.
"Going back to a lot of the changes, we've had a lot of change," Fox said. "I think we're better for it. Unfortunately, you can't walk around with your chest out about that because of our record the last two years. But I have total confidence and [Pace] has done an outstanding job and will continue to.
"I understand you have to win. And I finally feel like we're in striking distance."