Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

722292.png

Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

The Theo Epstein doctrine isnt quite with us or against us. But the Cubs president is using 2012 to evaluate everyone in baseball operations.

Rudy Jaramillo was fired on Tuesday because Epstein and his inner circle didnt think that the hitting coach fit into The Cubs Way. Nothing personal, they said, just philosophical differences.

Jorge Soler and Albert Almora two elite talents Jaramillo no doubt would have loved to work with appear to be close to joining the organization.

Sources indicated Soler agreed to a major-league deal on Monday reportedly worth around 30 million over nine years. Epstein declined to comment on the 20-year-old Cuban defector, a potential five-tool outfielder to build around.

I saw those reports, Epstein said Tuesday at Wrigley Field. But I cant really address anything until its official. In this case, theres usually a process where theres an agreement and a term sheet and then theres an immigration process with getting visas and then theres a physical.

Epstein said the entire process could take hopefully around a week-ish, maybe longer.

Almora, the No. 6 overall pick in last weeks amateur draft, is facing a July 13 deadline to sign with the Cubs. Advised by agent Scott Boras, the 18-year-old outfielder has emphasized his commitment to the University of Miami.

Weve talked briefly, but I think that process will hopefully pick up here in the coming days, Epstein said. Hes a great student who worked hard to get that full ride to a prestigious university and he does have options. (Those types of kids) should fully examine them. But he loves baseball, too, and well sit down and talk about it.

From here, the front office will pivot toward the July 31 trade deadline, with eyes on adding more prospects to the system. Ryan Dempsters no-trade rights dont seem to be an obstacle, and the Opening Day starter figures to be the first big name to leave Clark and Addison.

Youre constantly balancing or juggling different balls, Epstein said, but its true that once the drafts over with, there seems to be more of a focus on the trade market across baseball. There are more phone calls being made now than there were 10 days ago.

Certainly, thats something well evaluate. Were in a position where any opportunity to get better (and) improve our future is something that we have to take seriously, even if it means making difficult decisions about the product that were putting on the field right now.

Epstein took this job with the understanding that he would have total control over baseball operations. He has the luxury of looking toward the next decade. Hes not worried about breaking the franchise record for losses (103) this season.

Im more focused on where were going, Epstein said. When you focus too much on how fast, then sometimes you make compromises with exactly how youre going to get there. I know you guys are probably sick of hearing me say this, but there arent shortcuts.

We have to focus on putting building blocks in place, whether its acquiring young players who can be part of our core going forward, or making sure the right teaching philosophys in place.

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

bochy-maddon-0525.jpg
USA TODAY

Cubs Talk Podcast: Breaking down the World Series hangover

Do the Cubs have a World Series hangover?

On the latest edition of the Cubs Talk Podcast, NBC Sports Bay Area Giants Insider Alex Pavlovic joins CSN's Patrick Mooney to talk about the World Series hangover, how last year's playoff loss lingered in San Francisco, Johnny Cueto's quirks, the legend of Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija's ups and downs.

Plus Kelly Crull, Jeff Nelson and Tony Andracki break down the Cubs’ defensive struggles this year compared to an historic 2016 and how Ian Happ fits into the Cubs’ lineup in both the short and long term.

Listen to the latest episode below:

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

caleb-swanigan-0525.jpg
USA TODAY

What does Caleb Swanigan's departure for NBA mean for Purdue and the 2018 Big Ten title race?

Caleb Swanigan, unsurprisingly, is heading to the NBA.

Last season’s Big Ten Player of the Year announced Wednesday that he’ll pass up the final two seasons of his NCAA eligibility for a paying gig at the professional level, an awesome opportunity for a kid who battled obesity and homelessness to become one of the best basketball players in the country.

But Swanigan’s departure from West Lafayette means a heck of a lot to the Big Ten.

Without the league’s most dominant big man, what becomes of Purdue’s chances at winning a conference title? Similarly, with a weakened — though still strong — group of Boilermakers, what does the Big Ten race look like going into 2017-18?

First, Purdue. Matt Painter’s program is plenty healthy, and while there’s no doubt that losing Swanigan is a big deal, the Boilers got some really good news, too, Wednesday when Vincent Edwards announced he’ll be returning for his senior season. Seven-footer Isaac Haas also made the decision to return to West Lafayette, meaning the towering frontcourt hasn’t been completely decimated just because tha man called “Biggie” is gone.

Purdue will also return Carsen Edwards, who had an impressive freshman campaign, and Dakota Mathias, a terrific defender and 3-point shooter. Two more important pieces — P.J. Thompson and Ryan Cline — are back, as well. And Painter will welcome in freshman Nojel Eastern, a highly touted guard from Evanston.

So the Boilers are still in very good shape. There will be a big magnifying glass on Haas, who despite his physical attributes hasn’t always found consistent on-court success. But there have been plenty of flashes of brilliance from the big man. A big step forward in his game would go a long way in easing the blow of losing Swanigan and could keep Purdue as one of the frontrunners for a conference title.

That brings us to the Big Ten race. Ever since Miles Bridges, the conference’s reigning Freshman of the Year, announced he’d be returning to Michigan State for his sophomore season, the Spartans have been the near-unanimous favorite. Only something like Swanigan deciding to stay at Purdue could’ve changed that. And with Swanigan expectedly heading to the NBA, Michigan State remains the preseason pick to win the conference crown.

Like any good year in the Big Ten, though, there will be challengers.

But Michigan State is the popular choice to win it because of Tom Izzo’s insane 2016 recruiting class is returning completely intact: Bridges, Nick Ward, Cassius Winston and Joshua Langford are all back. And Izzo brings in one of the top 2017 recruits in forward Jaren Jackson.

But Sparty isn’t the only one with an impressive returning group. Purdue’s experienced roster has already been covered. Northwestern, a surprise contender in 2016-17, should be even better as Bryant McIntosh, Vic Law and Scottie Lindsey enter their fourth year playing together. Dererk Pardon, a shot-blocking whiz at center, is also back, as is sharp-shooter Aaron Falzon, who sat out the 2016-17 season with an injury after starting during his freshman year in 2015-16.

There will be big shoes to fill for some perennial contenders like Maryland — which must replace Melo Trimble — and Michigan, which watched eligibility run out on Derrick Walton Jr. and Zak Irvin before D.J. Wilson decided to head to the professional ranks Wednesday. But those teams have plenty of talent returning, too. The Terps will have all three of their fab freshmen — Justin Jackson, Anthony Cowan and Kevin Huerter — back for sophomore seasons, while the Wolverines have Moe Wagner back in the fold alongside Xavier Simpson and Duncan Robinson, among others.

And what of last year’s shocking contender, Minnesota? The Golden Gophers didn’t lose too much this offseason and will return almost every main player from last year’s 24-10 squad: Amir Coffey, Nate Mason, Reggie Lynch, Jordan Murphy, Dupree McBrayer and Eric Curry.

There are up-and-comers to think about, too, such as last year’s freshman-heavy squads at Iowa and Penn State. And could new head coaches Brad Underwood and Archie Miller make instant splashes at Illinois and Indiana, respectively?

If it sounds a little too much like the annual coach speak that “any team can win on any night” in the Big Ten, that’s because there is a good deal of truth to that oft-used phrase.

There are definitely tiers to this thing, though. Even without Swanigan, Purdue is still in one of those upper tiers. But there might be no team besides Michigan State at the very top of the heap, something underscored by Swanigan turning pro.