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Soler, Almora and Theos next moves with Cubs

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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.

Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

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Nerds in Sports Podcast: Being a 'professional nerd' and Star Wars theories about Rey's parents

On this edition of Nerds in Sports, we talk with io9.com senior editor Rob Bricken.

Rob explains how he juggles being a fan with being a ‘professional’ nerd, how he came to run io9.com, plus his theory on why Rey’s parents are in Star Wars may shock you.

Kevin Anderson and Michael Piff co-host. We are Nerds. In sports.

Listen to the Nerds in Sports Podcast here.

Blackhawks Camp Synopsis: Roster starting to take shape

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks Camp Synopsis: Roster starting to take shape

One week down, roughly one week to go.

Some things have fallen into place during the Blackhawks’ first seven days of training camp but this week is when it really gets interesting. The roster will continue to take shape and the competition for the few vacancies will intensify. Here’s a look at what we’ve already seen in Week 1 and questions for Week 2.

Stock Rising

Jordan Oesterle. We could put a few of the young forwards here, but we’ve talked about them quite a bit and will continue to do so. So right now let’s look at Oesterle, who coach Joel Quenneville liked “a lot” in Thursday’s game against the Red Wings. A puck moving defenseman, Oesterle said he played on the right side with the Edmonton Oilers but could also play on the left. If Oesterle has another good week of camp, that and his versatility might get him a chance on a Blackhawks defense still looking for the right pieces.  

Stock Falling

Tomas Jurco. Please realize where we’re coming from with this assessment: where does he fit in this lineup? He didn’t get a lot of opportunities last season but when he did play there wasn’t anything that made him stand out. Stan Bowman likes him and much like with David Rundblad, the Blackhawks want to give the Jurco a chance to justify the draft pick they gave up for him (a third-round selection from the 2017 draft). Several young guys are pushing hard for roster spots. Can Jurco be an every-day player or do the Blackhawks have a decision to make in favor of some of those up-and-coming players? Just very interested to see how this turns out.

Biggest surprise

Nick Schmaltz’s second-line center opportunity. Maybe we should’ve been more open minded to this happening but considering how little that line changed last year you figured Artem Anisimov and Patrick Kane would stay together even after the Artemi Panarin trade. But given the strides Schmaltz has made in his own game and the skating work he and Kane did together this offseason, Quenneville wants to see what Schmaltz can do in the middle. There’s always tinkering with this team; we really should have seen the possibility coming but we didn’t.

Some Remaining Questions

- If there’s one forward spot vacant out of training camp, which young player wins it? John Hayden. Here’s why: even if Alex DeBrincat doesn’t make this team out of camp, the Blackhawks’ top six is looking pretty good. Meanwhile the bottom six, especially that fourth line, has some holes. Getting a young player with some size, speed, skill and sandpaper that Quenneville likes and trusts (and he likes and trusts Hayden) would be a great addition to the bottom six.

- Will there be any surprises on defense? Maybe. Part of it depends on what the Blackhawks do about the Michal Rozsival situation. Rozsival didn’t pass his physical (upper body injury) and is not participating in camp. You hate to see someone go out like this, but it may be the end for the veteran. If so, the seventh defensive spot opens up and so do the Blackhawks options. After Duncan Keith, Brent Seabrook and Connor Murphy you have Cody Franson (if the Blackhawks sign him), Oesterle and Jan Rutta who have made good preseason impacts. Michal Kempny’s in the mix, too. Gustav Forsling is on the bubble. He had a great camp last fall but didn’t improve off it; that has to change this season.

- Will the top line combination work? There’s no doubt the Blackhawks missed Brandon Saad. He may not have been facing the sturdiest Red Wings team on Thursday but Saad’s powerful game was nevertheless impressive and a reminder of how much the Blackhawks missed that element the last two seasons. But the Saad-Jonathan Toews-Richard Panik combo hasn’t gotten a great look yet — Toews missed Thursday’s game due to illness. Saturday should be the first chance to see if these three can really click.