Five Stories to Watch for the Week Beginning July 16.

Bears Close to Signing Forte to an Extension
Multiple reports say that the Bears and Forte are close on a contract extension. If they do re-sign him, it will be close to the 3p Monday deadline for franchise players. If they cannot reach an agreement by the Monday deadline, Forte would be paid $7.74 Million for the 2012 season. Vaughn McClure of the Tribune is reporting that Forte wants a five year $40 million deal with $20 Million guaranteed. The Bears countered with a five year $30 Million deal with $15 million guaranteed.

Update: McClure reports that the extension has not yet been signed.

Bulls and Free Agency

Bob Dylan’s “The Times They are a Changin” fits the Bulls 2012-13 roster perfectly. The Bulls roster is going to be very different than the one that gave the Bulls the NBA’s best record each of the last two seasons.

Kyle Korver was traded earlier this week to Atlanta for a draft pick and a trade exception that would save the Bulls the $500,000 guarantee on his contract according to K.C. Johnson of the Tribune.

Earlier in the week the Bulls decided not to tender Ronnie Brewer or C.J. Watson. Watson signed with New Jersey this weekend.

The Bulls will have some big decisions to make this week. Internet rumors are abuzz about what the Bulls will do. Michael Redd and O.J. Mayo have been mentioned as possible additions in the backcourt. The Bulls only have the $5 million exemption to offer any potential free agents. It seems unlikely that Mayo would take that entering the prime of his career. Redd is a definitely possibility. He has played just 112 games in the last four seasons. In 61 games in the last two years, the 2008 Olympian has averaged just 7.6 PPG. He made just $1.3 Million with Phoenix last season.

The biggest question mark for a few weeks has been whether or not the Bulls would resign Omer Asik. The three year $25 million offer sheet that Houston is expected to sign Asik too could be too much of a hit for the Bulls to take. With Joakim Noah slow to recover from his ankle injury suffered in the playoffs against Philadelphia, the Bulls might need Asik back. The contact has a $15 million third year. That would put the Bulls over the luxury tax. The Bulls will have three days after Asik officially signs with the Rockets to either match the offer or let him go.

Houston just signed Knicks Point Guard Jeremy Lin to an offer sheet that is also for three years and $25 million. Having Lin and Asik for three years and $50 Million seems a lot. It should be an interesting week. The Bulls free agent signings seem like they will last well into summer.

The White Sox starting rotation

The White Sox 2012 starting rotation seems to be perpetually in flux. Philip Humber completed his rehab stint with AA Birmingham Thursday night. He allowed two hits and one run in seven innings. After the first inning, Humber retired the last 16 batters he faced. His return would give the Sox a big boost in the rotation.

It seemed as if the White Sox would be able to stabilize their rotation a bit with Humber’s return. Then it was announced over the weekend that Gavin Floyd was not going to be able to pitch on Monday night in Boston because of tendinitis in his elbow.

According to WhiteSox.Com beat writer Scott Merkin, the White Sox are hopeful Floyd can the final game of a four game series in Boston on Thursday. If he cannot go, then it’s likely Floyd will be headed to the disabled list. The rearranged rotation will have Dylan Axelrod pitching Monday, Humber likely going Tuesday and then Jose Quintana Wednesday. Axelrod will likely be pitching after two days rest following a 31 pitch two inning stint in Kansas City on Friday night.

Many rumors abound on if the White Sox will make a move. With the trade deadline two weeks away, Kenny Williams has sometime. A lot will depend on what happens with Floyd. If he does go on the DL, his returns would be timed close to the July 31 deadline depending on when his stint on the DL commences.

It’s not looking good for John Danks returning anytime soon. This is likely Williams’ favorite time of year. He always seems to make moves at the trade deadline. A quality starting pitcher seems to be the White Sox most glaring need. It will be an interesting couple of weeks to watch.

White Sox in Boston, Detroit For Two Key Series

The Red Sox have had starting rotation issue similar to the White Sox this season. The Red Sox have used seven pitchers in the rotation. Jon Lester who will start game two on Tuesday, has his highest ERA in five years is the only name most fans will recognize against the White Sox in the four game series.

Journeyman Aaron Cook, and youngsters Felix Doubront and Franklin Morales will start the other three games. The White Sox rotation should be interesting in Fenway this week.

The teams played a four game series earlier this year in Chicago. The Red Sox won the first three, before the White Sox salvaged the final game 4-1. Floyd picked up the win in that game out dueling Josh Beckett. He pitched 6.2 innings giving up just three hit and one walk while striking out nine. Doubrant, Daniel Bard and Lester were the winning pitchers for Boston, while Humber, Danks and Jake Peavy took the losses.

After the trip to Boston, the White Sox head to Detroit for the most important series of the season to date. Neither the White Sox or the Tigers have announced their pitching matchups for the three game series in the motor city. The White Sox are 4-4 against the Tigers this season and lead the Tigers by 3.5 games in the AL Central with second place Cleveland three games back.

The series in Boston will be Kevin Youkilis' first since the Red Sox traded him to the White Sox about three weeks ago. It should be an emotional trip for Youkilis who has been a big reason the White Sox have regained first place.

Cubs Host Miami, Travel to St. Louis
The Cubs will conclude their seven game homestand on Tuesday after a Monday off day with a visit by Mark Buehrle, Ozzie Guillen and the Marlins followed by a weekend trip to St. Louis. Carlos Zambrano will not pitch for the Marlins in the series. His return to the mound at Wrigley as an opponent would have been interesting. This will be Buehrle’s return to Chicago. He was used to pitching at Wrigley as a member of the White Sox when they faced the Cubs every year. He has been spectacular as of late. In his last four Starts, Buehrle has pitched at least seven innings and stuck out seven, while giving up just three earned runs in 28.2 innings. He will face Paul Maholm on Thursday.

The first two games of the series will feature Travis Wood against Anibal Sanchez and Jeff Samardzija against Josh Johnson.

The Cubs were swept by the Marlins in Miami earlier this year. The Marlins outscored them 19-6 in the three game series. Wood has been a bright spot for the Cubs this year. He enters Tuesday’s start 4-3 with a 3.05 ERA.

After giving up nine earned runs in 4.1 innings against the Mets to conclude a brutal month of June in which he finished 0-4 with a 10.41 ERA, he has been solid in his two July starts. Samardzija is 1-1 with a 2.57 ERA and 15 strikeouts in 14 innings so far in July.

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