The Chicago Sports Exchange provides a brief look at each pro team in the Chi each week and decides whether fans should “buy,” “sell,” or “hold” their investments in each team. Check back for more CSE reports each Monday.
By Drew Stevens (@lookwhatdrewdid)
The week that was saw the sloughing off of more pieces from the Chicago Cubs’ 2016 World Series championship puzzle as well as, perhaps, any realistic probability of a Bears playoff berth.
Throw in the expected retirement of the “un-Hollywood as hell” former Bull Joakim Noah and things have suddenly gotten darker than Chicago’s afternoon horizon.
Luckily, Bulls basketball is on tap for the first time since March.
SELL! SELL! SELL! – Bears Bottom Out Against Lions
A week after playing poorly enough to have warranted being chased off the field by the Apollo Theatre’s Sandman, the Bears failed to keep another rival, Detroit, on the hook of a 10-point fourth-quarter deficit and instead found new, innovative ways to bomb in a 34-30 head shaker.
The defense has now given up more points in the last two weeks than it has in any two-game stretch this year.
Matt Nagy attempted to light a fire under that unit specifically in the days leading up to Sunday’s seventh defeat of the season and sixth in successive fashion. And yet for all his ballyhoo, his is the seat with a distinct sizzle.
Whether or not that heat soon rises to meet the hind parts of Ryan Pace and Ted Phillips remains to be seen.
But considering Pace bought the groceries for a meal Nagy has proven unable to pull together while Phillips presides over the both of them unbothered, a complete front-office overhaul seems reasonable if not altogether necessary.
Even if the Bears were to somehow find ways to win each of their last four remaining games and miraculously sneak into the playoffs, it’d be viewed primarily as a forfeiture of good draft position than a rallying team saving a season rife with comedies of error.
BUY – Chance of Fresh Play Sets Stage For Welcome Return of Bulls
It wasn’t particularly delectable when it was last spooned out, but a hunger remains for Bulls basketball, which returns this week.
Part of the reason why we welcome back the Bulls fondly is that they’re bringing enough new flavor to reclaim the interest of fans.
Mounting intrigue as to how new head coach Billy Donovan plans to repurpose the ingredients of a team that won no more than two games in a row last season makes a typically routine pair of home preseason contests feel momentous.
Sam Smith’s 2020-2021 Chicago Bulls Roster Preview (Bulls.com)
Not to mention they’ll mark the end of a nine-month hiatus owed to mediocrity and malady, and also happen to scrimmage against a Houston Rockets team that just recently swapped one allegedly disgruntled former superstar guard (Russell Westbrook) for another (John Wall) with the Washington Wizards.
Both Friday and Sunday’s tilt with the Rockets will be played in an empty United Center as will be the case for every Bulls home game to begin the 2020-2021 season.
One of the Bulls’ fresher faces, Garrett Temple, is hoping to be cleared for individual workouts this week after he revealed Sunday that he tested positive for COVID-19 on Nov. 28. Temple, who has been quarantining at a Chicago hotel, can return to the team after producing consecutive negative PCR tests 24 hours apart.
HOLD – Cubs Tender Some Fan Favorites, Are Less Tender With Others
For all of its inevitability, the non-tendering of a contract to Kyle Schwarber still struck Cubs fans like a sucker punch.
A former fourth overall pick, Schwarber never quite recaptured the magic from his 2016 World Series performance that catapulted him into Chicago sports lore and helped the Cubs secure their first title in 108 years. Schwarbs’ more recent struggles — including a .188 batting average and 11 home runs in 59 games last season — made shelling out the $8 to $9 million he was projected to make non-nonsensical for an organization determined to recoup COVID-era losses at the gates.
Cubs president of baseball operations Jed Hoyer didn’t rule out the possibility of signing Schwarber to a more cost-effective deal, though Hoyer is sure to face competition for the 27-year-old’s services, especially if last season’s universal designated hitter rule continues and thereby enhances the allure of a still undeniably powerful swing for the Ohio native.
Albert Almora Jr., another former top-10 pick and championship linchpin who has found tough sledding at the plate in recent years, was released into free agency as expected as well.
Quite the opposite could be said about Len Kasper’s sudden Southern migration. The Cubs’ longtime television play-by-play man is leaving “The Friendly Confines” to call games from the radio booth of the crosstown rival White Sox. Fox Sports broadcaster Chris Myers, who was hired by the Marquee Network for part-time play-by-play and hosting duties upon its launch, is the leading candidate to replace Kasper.
If Cubs fans were floored by the latest turnover, the tendering of contracts to Kris Bryant, Wilson Contreras and Javier Baez were the smelling salts.
It’s still possible Bryant could be traded before next season. But he, along with Contreras and Baez, can either negotiate a one-year or longer-term deal or go to arbitration in February to determine future salary.
Hoyer’s decisions thus far give credence to his promise to oversee an off-season of retooling, not rebuilding. Though this week’s Winter Meetings may paint an even clearer picture of the course ahead.
BUY – White Sox Lining Up As Contenders For Top Free Agents
While retool is the word of the off-season on the North Side, refinement better describes what’s in order for the on-the-verge White Sox.
In the wake of non-tendering contracts to oft-injury-bug bitten Carlos Rodon and the underwhelming Nomar Mazara, the White Sox need to plug holes in their starting pitching rotation and right field. Designated hitting could also be addressed depending on top-ranked prospect Andrew Vaughn readiness for the big leagues.
Acquiring either player would rip the South Siders’ championship window from its hinges. But even if the White Sox strike out on the picks of the litter options won’t shrink too much as there’s an historically deep free agent pool from which to fish this off-season as a result of league-wide penny pinching.
Drew Stevens is a writer based in Chicago