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For Chicago GMs, shopping season is year-round

Don’t be a turkey.

When the next person tells you how professional sports is all about blood, sweat and tears, go ahead and call their bluff. It’s also about something else: Shopping.

OK, so maybe Gar Forman isn’t stuffing a shopping cart full of clothes from the clearance rack. But he applied the same philosophy as he filled the Bulls’ bench with cheap veterans.

And, yeah, perhaps Rick Hahn hasn’t signed up to e-mail lists for everything from appliances to zoom lenses. But it’s a safe bet that he has spent hours studying free agents from A-Z as he acclimates to his first season as the White Sox general manager.

So today, on the busiest shopping day of the year, here is a salute to our sports teams’ most powerful shoppers.

May they never have to wait in line for a highly touted prospect.

PHIL EMERY, BEARS

Bargain buy: Brandon Marshall (cost: two third-round draft picks)

No refunds: Jason Campbell (cost: one year, $3.5 million)

Bottom line: Although Emery has spent only about 10 months on the job, he has offered reason to believe that the Bears could be a playoff contender for the long haul. In one move, he undid years (decades?) of neglect by adding a legitimate No. 1 wide receiver. He also pleased veterans by restructuring Lance Briggs’ contract and finding common ground with Matt Forte to avoid a messy holdout.

A two-year deal for Tim Jennings also looks brilliant. Emery’s next big move will be whether to re-sign 34-year-old linebacker Brian Urlacher.

GAR FORMAN, BULLS

Bargain buy: Tom Thibodeau (cost: first two years, $6.5 million)

No refunds: Carlos Boozer (five years, $75 million)

Bottom line: Forman was promoted to general manager in May 2009, and since then the Bulls have posted a 158-83 regular season record and a 12-15 playoff record. Almost any team would be happy with those results, but in the city where Michael Jordan won six titles, Bulls fans want a seventh. It’s fair to question whether Forman has done enough to steer the Bulls on that course, especially when one considers how his big-money deal for Boozer has limited the team’s ability to add a second star alongside Derrick Rose.

STAN BOWMAN, BLACKHAWKS

Bargain buy: Jonathan Toews (five years, $31.5 million)

No refunds: Steve Montador (four years, $11 million)

Bottom line: Bowman catches a ton of grief from die-hard Blackhawks fans, but has he really been so bad? He wisely locked up the Hawks’ core of talented players, including Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook. He added Marian Hossa on a 12-year deal that diluted Hossa’s annual salary-cap hit. But NHL teams need depth players to win a Stanley Cup, and in that category, Bowman has provided more than a couple of head-scratchers. What if he had kept Antti Niemi instead of Niklas Hjalmarsson?

JED HOYER, CUBS

Bargain buy: Anthony Rizzo (cost: Andrew Cashner)

No refunds: Chris Volstad (cost: 3-12 record, 6.31 ERA)

Bottom line: It’s way too soon to judge Hoyer and his boss, Theo Epstein, who inherited a complete mess when they replaced Jim Hendry after the 2011 season. Their mantra – “Progress is not always linear” – suggests that more tough times lie ahead as part of the greater goal of sustained success. Check back in a couple of seasons to see how their plan is working out, but so far, they have acquired at least one cornerstone player in Rizzo while locking up another one in Starlin Castro.

RICK HAHN, WHITE SOX

Bargain buy: TBD

No refunds: TBD

Bottom line: Hahn is a familiar face at U.S. Cellular Field, where he spent the past 12 seasons as Ken Williams’ right-hand man before being promoted to general manager in October. Hahn is credited with negotiating several long-term deals with Sox players such as Paul Konerko, Gavin Floyd and John Danks, and he acted quickly this fall to re-sign Jake Peavy to a two-year deal for $29 million. As with the Cubs’ brass, Hahn’s long-term goal will be to develop talent through the minor leagues.

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