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The NFC North looks set to be the tightest division in the NFL in 2019. The Chicago Bears, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings all have serious – and realistic – playoff ambitions, while the Detroit Lions are still in contention, having picked up six wins in 2018.

It was a quiet offseason in the Windy City, with their first two draft selections owed to other teams after the Mack and Anthony Miller trades last summer. Continuity has its own, admittedly unquantifiable, value, however. The Bears won 12 regular season games in 2018 and will come into the 2019 campaign full of confidence they can win the division again, particularly if Mitchell Trubisky takes a much-needed step forward.

There’s nothing immediately suggesting that Trubisky will regress or that the Bears’ defence will be incapable of replicating its 2018 dominance. For those backing the Bears to again reign supreme, there are plenty of online options for placing bets that say the NFC North is theirs to lose. However, it’s telling that they’re only slight favourites over their two rivals west of Chicago.

So don’t be surprised to see the race for the division go down the final weekend. The tone for the season, though, could be set when the Packers and Bears meet in week one as the post-Mike McCarthy era begins in Green Bay and Chicago look to build on their disappointing playoff exit earlier this year. The contest of Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks against Aaron Rodgers is always doing to be box office – even more so in a division that will be fiercely competitive.

Matt La Fleur, the former offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans, has succeeded McCarthy as the Packers’ signal caller. His relationship with Rodgers will be crucial. Green Bay prioritised defence in the draft, and understandably so. Will they have enough weapons for Rodgers to guide them back to the postseason?

The Vikings’ offseason was about protecting their most valuable asset, Kirk Cousins. Garrett Bradbury and Josh Kline were brought in to improve the offensive line, after the veteran quarterback was bombarded throughout the 2018 regular season. Their talent isn’t in question, but there are doubts about Cousins’ ability to lead the team to a deep playoff run. Whether those doubts are fair or not is up for debate.

In Xavier Rhodes and Harrison Smith, they have two stars who can make game-changing plays on defence. In Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, Cousins has two of the most consistent offensive options in the league. Don’t write off the Vikings this season, even if the attention will be on the Bears’ terrifying defence and the Rodgers soap opera.

Detroit made one of the moves of the offseason, adding Trey Flowers from the New England Patriots in free agency. CBS Sports graded the Lions as having the best offseason in the NFC North, thanks to making upgrades across the roster without significant cost financially or in draft picks. Veteran Jesse James provides a solid option at tight end, while TJ Hockenson, who was their first-round pick, has a limitless ceiling and could quickly become a major contributor offensively.

It’s going to be a battle for supremacy in the NFC North this year. There’s uncertainty in Green Bay and Minnesota, Chicago are running it back, and Detroit could be sneakily good after a shrewd offseason.

The post NFC North is set to be the NFL’s most competitive division appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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The off season comes and goes and there have been a lot of changes in the Eastern Conference.

One of the teams with not so much going on is Boston, they’ve been relatively quiet in the offseason despite losing two off their biggest stars.

I think everybody knew that Kyrie Irving was on his way out the door with reports of locker room arguments. Irving seemed destined to leave even after just last year he pledged to stay if the fans wanted him, loyalty eh?

But one of the bigger shocks was Al Horford leaving. With Horford being Boston’s main line of defence it left them looking very slim at the five.

Enough about guys who used to be on the team, let’s get down to the fresh faces making their way to the Garden.

Boston signed former Charlotte Hornets point guard Kemba Walker to a four-year max deal. Walker averaged 25 points per game last year and almost led Charlotte to the playoffs – they just narrowly missed out on the eight seed to Detroit.

Another man they signed to fill the hole that Horford left was Turkish born Enes Kanter. The Celtics signed Kanter on a two-year, $10 million deal. Kanter joined Portland midway through the year and a big impact when it mattered most, after Jusuf Nurkic went out injured. He stepped up in the playoffs putting up 13 ppg and 9 rebounds.

So that’s the main drama of the arrivals in Boston but what about the draft?

Boston went into the draft with no great expectations. They picked Romeo Langford at 14, for a 6ft 6 guard he drives well to the basket, getting a lot off and one calls. He averaged 16 points last year with 74% from the line.

With their next pick they selected Grant Williams at 22. he averaged 15ppg and 6 rebounds.

Boston had another pick but they traded their 24 pick along with Aron Baynes to the Phoenix Suns for a future first round pick.

But arguably the steal of the draft was Carsen Edwards with the 33rd pick for the 76ers but Boston traded for him.

They showcased him in the summer league in Vegas and he put up some great numbers for a rookie averaging 19ppg and shooting 47% from long range. These numbers earned Edwards a shoe deal with Adidas which is rare for such a low pick. Edwards will most likely be the backup point guard for Brad Stevens.

Staying on the subject of summer league we can’t forget about the man himself Tacko Fall, originally from Senegal.

Fall moved to the USA when he was 16. The 7’7” sensation had a rough time at the draft as he was not selected as teams didn’t want to take a risk on a rookie who is 23 years old and an injury risk.

The Celtics threw him a lifeline offering him a 14 day contract. He’s been trying to earn his spot putting up 7ppg and 5 rebounds in the 12 mins per game. He’s still training with the Celtics at the minute but they have a big decision on their hands (literally). I’d say its low risk high reward.

Let’s get down to the real question: can the Celtics win the East?

Most say no but I think if former third overall pick Jayson Tatum can improve on his 16ppg and show that he can be a superstar along with Jaylen Brown, and if Hayward can improve on last year after that bad injury, then why can’t they win the East?

With the new point guard in Walker and the new centre in Kanter, along with a bench full of young talent then I’d say there’s no reason as too why Boston can’t challenge.

Everyone has overlooked Boston and as the old saying goes, work in silence and let your success be your noise. I’d say that could be the case in the Garden this year.

The post Can the Boston Celtics defy the odds and win the East? appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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It seems a long time since the Minneapolis Miracle now, doesn’t it? But since Stefon Diggs reeled in one of the most memorable plays in football history, the Vikings have been a bit of a mystery.

The 2018 season started out pretty well with the freshly-minted Kirk Cousins ruling the offence well, averaging just under 25 points and over 370 yards per game, but after their Week 10 Bye, they dropped off to over 19.8 points per game, and 300 yards.

It didn’t seem like anyone had any answers, and the Vikings eventually toppled into obscurity. John DeFilippo took the fall, with many of the fans taking their ire out on Kirk Cousins. But obviously they didn’t look too deeply, because Cousins actually has some amazing statistics.

Cousins faced the second most quarterback pressures in the NFL, and has the least productive running game and a terrible offensive line. He had a TD/Int ratio of 3/1, which considering the pressure and lack of running game/OL, is fantastic, especially when coupled with the second highest completion percentage in the NFL.

You’re gonna blame him? You’re going to blame him despite his 5th place QB under pressure ranking, behind the 29th worst offensive line? I’m gonna say it; do you even football, bro?!

Yes, he could do better under the spotlight, and maybe there are questions about his ability to turn up in clutch moments, but you’re asking a pocket passer to do his job behind an offensive line that even veteran scramblers like Russell Wilson and Cam Newton would struggle behind.

But, anyway, now that I’ve fully explained my love for Kirk Cousins, we should get to the point of this piece: Where do they go from here?

Firstly, they need a running game. They need Dalvin Cook. He’s dynamic, elusive, a quality runner, and can catch out of the backfield. Having him at 100% behind Cousins is just a massive deal. It’s a release valve, a safety blanket, that can not only take a ball the necessary yards for a first down on a broken play, but can take it all the way to the house. I have a good feeling for him this year, and not just because I have him in two fantasy leagues. I think he’s going to be fit all year but I did touch the wood of the table as I typed this. I do like Alexander Mattison, but I think Cook is more than a band above.

The Offensive Line is still a problem, though, as they’re still ranked low at 25th in the league. That’s just not good enough considering how much they struggled there last year, and even Dalvin Cook can’t get started behind them if they’re going to struggle to create run lanes. Garrett Bradbury is a great addition but I don’t feel it’s enough.

Other than that, you can’t argue against just how good the Vikings are on both sides of the ball, with dynamic playmakers like Harrison Smith and Xavier Rhodes on D, and Stefon Diggs coupled with Adam Thielen on O.

Overall, this is an even tougher division than usual for the Vikings to navigate, especially if you factor in the Bears’ ability to chows up even some of the best offensive lines.

I can see them starting the season in a 1-3 hole after tilts with Atlanta at home, the Packers away, Oakland, and then on the road to the Bears, but after that, I can see them picking up multiple wins against the likes of the Giants, the Redskins, the Lions, and at home to Denver.

It’s the period after the Bye Week (Week 12) that will define whether the season is a success or not. They have two tough games on the road against Seattle in week 13 and then the Chargers in Week 15. Those are winnable games but I think it’s going to be a necessity they pick up a win in Seattle. Between those, I expect them to roll straight through a home tilt with Detroit. After the Chargers they see out the regular season with games at home against the Packers and the Bears. Both winnable games with that fierce home crowd and the blood-curdling Gjallarhorn to back the stars on the team.

I see this as a season finishing anywhere between a 9-7 and an 11-5, depending on whether they can get that offensive line working, and whether they can establish a running game. But ultimately, I have faith in Captain Kirk and his weapons on offence, coupled with a superb defence to carry them through to the playoffs.

They’re an exciting team when they’re on their game, and I hope to see them there.

Likelihood of making the playoffs: Average

The post Minnesota Vikings season preview: Cousins can lead playoff push appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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Kyle Korver will sign a one-year deal on the veteran’s minimum with the Milwaukee Bucks, as reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski.

Korver, Wojnarowski added, had a tough decision between the Bucks and the Philadelphia 76ers. His decision to join Milwaukee and Giannis Antetokounmpo is a coup for the Eastern Conference’s 2018/19 number one seed. Korver, of course, rejoins Mike Budenholzer, who revitalised the Bucks last season as Antetokounmpo won MVP. The Lakers, Sixers and Bucks had previously been linked with Korver, and he had quickly become the most valuable role player left in free agency.

Having lost two great shooters in Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic, the Bucks were on the market to add perimeter scorers this offseason. Wes Matthews was an important addition in the absence of Brogdon and Mirotic. Bringing in Korver helps to replace some of that floor spacing they lost. He has been above 40% from three for much of his career, and will get a bucket of open looks as Giannis and Eric Bledsoe drive to the basket. Running off screens from both of the Lopez brothers, Korver will be a nightmare for opposing defences.

In three separate seasons, Korver has led the league in three-point percentage. Milwaukee will hope for more of the same this season, and it will be interesting to see how opposing defences match him up if he’s put on the floor with Middleton and Giannis. Put a sub-par defender on Korver and he will make you pay.

Along with the re-signing of George Hill, Middleton and Brook Lopez, and the arrivals of Robin Lopez and Matthews, this completes a very good offseason for the Bucks. It’s disappointing to lose Brogdon and Mirotic, of course, but they were up against it financially and managed to get a return for Brogdon in the sign-and-trade with Indiana.

While the extra shooting is great for Milwaukee, and the scoring off the bench will be nice when Giannis and Middleton sit, stopping Philadelphia getting Korver is pretty significant, too. Denying that additional three-point threat from joining Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid could prove to be massive come playoff time.

The post Signing Korver, and stopping the Sixers getting him, is huge for Bucks appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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Veteran Kyle Korver was traded to the Memphis Grizzlies in the trade that saw the Utah Jazz acquire Mike Conley. At the start of July, he was moved again, being sent to the Phoenix Suns along with Jevon Carter. Phoenix soon waived Korver, making him one of the most desired pieces on the free agent market.

As reported by ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski nearly two weeks ago, the Philadelphia 76ers, Los Angeles Lakers and Milwaukee Bucks have all shown interest in Korver.

Even as August approaches, though, he remains available. Teams are still filling out the fringes of their rosters, but one of the best perimeter shooters in the league is still looking for a new team. It won’t be long before Korver signs, and it will be a significant moment for whichever contending team he lands on.

Korver shoots just shy of 43% for his career from three-point range. Whether from catch-and-shoot opportunities or running off screens, he’s as reliable as they come from beyond on the arc. Up there with Klay Thompson and JJ Redick when it comes to moving off the ball, Korver has a quick release and can be deadly from downtown. He was a perfect fit alongside LeBron James in Cleveland and would be an ideal complementary piece in Los Angeles, giving another floor spacing option alongside Quinn Cook, Danny Green and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope.

For Philadelphia and Milwaukee, it’s much the same. The Bucks have lost shooters from deep with Malcolm Brogdon and Nikola Mirotic departing. The Sixers’ floor spacing is a constant issue – Simmons, like LeBron and Giannis Antetokounmpo, needs shooters around him. They don’t come much better than Korver.

The Lakers, Sixers and Bucks are three of the favourites for the 2020 NBA title. Korver might not be a star name, but he’s the exact profile of player they need on their bench and the 38-year-old, former 55th overall pick could be a real difference maker.

The post Kyle Korver will a difference maker for Lakers, Sixers or Bucks appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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The Philadelphia Phillies have acquired left-handed starting pitcher Drew Smyly, as reported by Jim Salisbury.

Smyly, who was selected in the second round of the draft by the Detroit Tigers in 2010, missed the entirety of the 2017 and 2018 seasons because of Tommy John surgery. He was traded by the Chicago Cubs to the Texas Rangers during the 2018/19 offseason for a player to be named later and was released by the Rangers on 25th June per Baseball Reference.

It’s fair to say Smyly had a rough time with the Rangers, posting an 8.42 ERA in nine starts and four bullpen appearances. An ugly six walks per nine didn’t help matters.

While the up and down Phillies have had their fair share of rotation problems, Smyly is an obvious risk after his performances in the first part of this season. This is a project for the Phillies, and one that may not last too long unless he can figure stuff out quickly.

Vince Velasquez may well be heading to the bullpen, handing his rotation spot to Smyly. Jake Arrieta and Nick Pivetta have both had testing seasons too, however, and the Phillies face an uphill task to construct a competitive rotation before the 31st July trade deadline. The Phillies are currently half-a-game back on the second National League Wildcard spot in what could be a thrilling race in the second half of the season. Getting Smyly back to somewhere near his form from the first half of this decade would be huge for Gabe Kapler‘s club.

As it stands, Philadelphia are rolling the dice in four out of five of their games. The resurgence of Aaron Nola has been invaluable, but he’s in dire need of some help from his fellow starting pitchers. Smyly, you have to expect, will just be the start for Philadelphia, who could be in the trade market for starters like Mike Minor, Madison Bumgarner and Marcus Stroman.

The post Drew Smyly is a worthwhile gamble for Phillies’ struggling rotation appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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Where to begin? With the league going into overdrive with so much happening during free agency and so many ridiculous trades happening you might have missed a thing or two, so many teams will be shaping up differently next year, one of these teams will be the Portland Trail Blazers.

Let’s start with the man of the hour Damian Lillard.

Lillard finished last year on a high despite being swept by Golden State, after some would say single handedly, he broke up the band in Oklahoma City, leading his team to the Conference Finals in a seven game thriller in Denver. Never the less Lillard finished last year with an average of 25 points per game and a FG% of 44% – not too bad for your franchise player – so based on all those things that’s why Neil Olshey decided to grant him a supermax contract at 194 million dollars over 4 years, now that’s why you call him Dame Dolla.

But enough about the franchise player let’s get down to the fine details. After being swept in the Western Conference finals by Golden State, the big guys up in Portland figured they would try out a new plan so they entered the draft with a pick at No. 25; no-one was expecting anything great but in fact they got a pretty good pick regardless.

They selected Nassir Little from North Carolina, who a lot off guys have claimed they worry about his consistency in games but then again others have compared him to Andre Iguodala in the sense that he can lock down the opposition’s best player in key moments throughout the game.

Onto the main trade it seems in the city off Portland…

One off the league’s best big men Hassan Whiteside, who averaged a double-double last year in scoring and rebounding – that’s exactly what you want from your five man. Whiteside got traded as part of a deal for Meyers Leonard and Moe Harkless leaving the Blazers.

Whiteside is in the final year off his max contract so he’s going to want to put on a show if he wants to get paid.

Some other trade news out of Portland,

Evan Turner has been traded to the Hawks for Kent Bazemore, even though Bazemore is a veteran he adds depth to the squad and still hit three-pointers on a regular basis.

Seth Curry left the Blazers after a great year and signs with the Dallas Mavericks for a $32 million, four-year deal.

Rodney Hood signed a new contract with the Trail Blazers for $16 million over two years. Hood earned his new deal after a crucial role in this year’s playoffs.

Al-Farouq Aminu left and signed a three-year $29 million deal with the Orlando Magic.

Mario Hezonja joined on a two-year deal.

And last but certainly not least, Enes Kanter departed and signed with the Boston Celtics on a two-year pact. It has been rumoured that Kanter wanted to stay but Portland said he had to make his decision within six minutes. Kanter said he didn’t feel that was enough time so he could not accept, although Lillard came to his franchises aid and said that Kanter had 45 minutes to decide and granted it isn’t a great amount of time, this business moves fast.

So there you have it some big names out the door but some great fresh faces making their way in. Do you think the Blazers can improve on last year? Will they compete with the Clippers and Lakers atop the West?

It seems with the big 3 off Lillard, CJ McCollum and Whiteside (with Jusuf Nurkic probable to return this season) that the Portland Trail Blazers are going to be silent contenders for the West.

Do you think they are good enough? Let me know in the comments!

The post Evaluating the Portland Trail Blazers’ offseason moves appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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A career that has no shortage of critical moments and pivotal decisions, not much is as important to an NFL player as entering his contract year. For most, it’s a key time to prove to any interested franchise, including their own, they are worth paying big bucks for. For others, it’s last chance saloon to prove to their current employers they are just good enough to be retained.

The talk is normally always quarterbacks being awarded huge contracts, justifiably so. The high earning QBs are the faces of their respective teams for years to come. Their elite play and ability to change games is there for all to see. But what about the less prestigious names around the league – do they deserve a suitably large cheque all the same? Simply put, they have to prove it. Now more than ever as they enter their contract year.

Vic Beasley, DE/OLB, Atlanta Falcons

A highly impressive rookie year back in 2015 meant Atlanta did not regret using the 9th overall pick to land Beasley. He started every game and notched two fumbles and four sacks. Most notably, a strip stack of Cam Newton in the last minutes of a 20-13 win in Week 16. This play arguably stopped the Panthers achieving a perfect 16-0 season.

Beasley then seriously went off in his sophomore year in the NFL. Exploding for a league-leading 15.5 sacks along with 6 fumbles, one which he returned for a TD; he was ranked by his peers as the 40th best player in the league for this season.

Since then, Beasley’s career has rather plateaued. A hamstring injury disrupted his 2017 campaign and so his numbers dropped accordingly. This can also be attributed to the fact he was shifted to outside linebacker to plug a gap in the Atlanta D. Just last season he made five sacks and returned a fumble for a massive 74 yards. The explosiveness is certainly there, even if the consistency is not.

But will the Dirty Birds be willing to keep this former first round selection around for the next few years?

Bobby Wagner, LB, Seattle Seahawks

Possibly the best in the league at his position. Certainly that’s the what folks over at EA think. They enshrined Wagner into the exclusive ’99 Club’, which contains only four members, for the upcoming Madden 20 game.

Having signed Russell Wilson to a mega contract, foundations have been laid for Seattle’s long-term cap space capability. Frank Clark was traded to the Chiefs, this came about when it was apparent the Seahawks could not meet Clark’s demands. Earl Thomas was allowed to walk in free agency also. With these big names no longer on the team, it’s surely time to make Wagner to highest paid linebacker in the league.

This is certainly what he will insist on. The money will be there to make it happen. Seattle will have to better what the Jets paid CJ Mosley, a trend-setting $85 million deal over five years. Wagner, who is now a five-time All Pro, should become the face of the Seahawks defence. Much like Wilson was made the face of the offense with his lavish new contract.

Michael Thomas, WR, New Orleans Saints

It was a mighty year for Thomas in the season just passed. Including a league high 125 catches, which he took for 1,405 yards and nine touchdowns. With this in mind, it would not be at all surprising for Thomas to ask for Odell Beckham levels of money. He was paid by the Browns in a big spot, where he stands to earn $18 million a year over the next half-decade.

As with any transcendent player, it should be a case of when not if Thomas gets his extravagant payday. However, it’s important to consider the Saints’ track record when it comes to dishing out substantial contracts. Look no further than Brandin Cooks and Jimmy Graham. A pair of big time players that never received a deal from New Orleans. Instead the Saints traded them away and picked up first round draft picks in the process.

So the question here is will Michael Thomas follow in the footsteps of Cooks and Graham. Or, will the Saints deem his services far too valuable to trade him away.

Jameis Winston & Marcus Mariota, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers & Tennessee Titans

The reason why Winston and Mariota make this list comes down to a rather large and looming question. Are they Franchise Quarterbacks?

The fact there is no clear answer to this question should ring alarm bells. Both face their own gremlins, but changes for the 2019 season could spell the end of these.

Winston needs to cut out the mistakes that have plagued him for his whole NFL career. It was incredibly sloppy at times in 2018, highlighted by his 4-interception outing in Week 8 versus the Bengals. Getting benched for Ryan Fitzpatrick in this game was an all-time low. Now looking ahead to 2019, Winston will have the coveted Bruce Arians as his head coach.

Will the wise mind of Arians be enough to alter the fortunes of Tampa’s signal caller? Or, will it bring about the end of this stuttering stint for the guy Bucs made #1 overall in the 2015 Draft.

The biggest challenge facing Mariota is his own health. In his first four years in the league, he is yet to start a full 16 game slate. In Mariota’s own words, his biggest goal for 2019 is “to get healthy”. The top brass of the Titans believe they have a winning roster and will leave nothing to chance. This is why they traded for Ryan Tannehill, who is a very capable backup QB.

No doubt this will play on Mariota’s mind. Whilst he is still QB1 for Tennessee, he must prove he can win ball games whilst maintaining his health. Tough spot, but he is certainly up for the test.

Melvin Gordon, RB, Los Angeles Chargers

The contract situation for the Chargers’ primary back hit the headlines recently. With Gordon threatening to hold out of training camp, trade suitors were lined up, accompanied with the speculation that the Bolts will not succumb to the demands being made. It’s fairly easy to see why they will not cough up the dough that has been handed to Le’Veon Bell and the like.

Such heavy investments into a position which regularly gets beaten up is risky. Sure, elite players deserve hefty contracts, but the NFL is a business and pumping big money into ventures like this causes potential perilous situations. Look no further than the team in the same city as the Chargers. Surely the Rams are now ruing their Todd Gurley expenditure.

Gordon’s threats are equally as risky. When he was out of the team last season, the Chargers went 4-0, thanks to a backfield combination of Austin Ekeler and Justin Jackson. If he were to depart LA, perhaps he would not be missed, despite his obvious talents. Either he will get traded away, or Gordon and his representatives will come to their senses and lower the expectations. This narrative will rumble on well into preseason you feel.

The post These top six NFL stars are entering their contract year appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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The San Francisco Giants have, quietly for some time now, been one of the best teams in Major League Baseball. While more talk has been what they’re going to get for their star pitching assets – starter Madison Bumgarner and relievers Will Smith and Tony Watson, they are one of only two teams in the big leagues to have won 8 of their last 10 games.

The Giants’ latest victim was the Colorado Rockies, who they swept in a four-game series. It was a series that showed how much their pitching has developed throughout the season – they swept a team who was in the second Wild Card place just three weeks ago, without the use of MadBum in Coors – the most hitters’ friendly ballpark in MLB by far.

But more impressive has been the teams they’ve beaten during their stretch – they’ve won four consecutive series against winning teams – Cardinals, Padres, Brewers and Rockies, all of which had records over .500 before their respective series against the North Californian franchise.

The Giants now find themselves 2.5 games behind the Phillies for the National League Wild Card and are arguably the hottest of the teams in the chase (let alone the fact that Philadelphia is among the teams with a worst record in the last two months in the NL).

The ace of the rotation’s 1-year, $12M team option was accepted in November. Most people considered this a good situation for the Giants only for one reason – they’re going to get something in return for him. A Bumgarner move would signal the End of an Era for Giants baseball and a start of a rebuild. The signs of that got stronger after closer Will Smith (24 saves, second in NL) and relief pitcher Tony Watson started off well.

But is a rebuild necessary when you have a good chance to win and leave a nice core to improve on? In the Giants payroll situation it’s a little too difficult, but capitalizing on a good season is the right thing to do.

I think that people underestimate the surrounding squad that those three assets have. Usually, when a player or players are so strongly engaged in trade talks, as was Manny Machado last year, they are a good player on a bad team. But that’s not the case with the 2019 Giants.

The Giants have rather been a talented team who has been constantly underperforming since their last playoff appearance – 2016 WC win over the Mets and a Divisional Series exit against the Commissioner’s Trophy-winning Chicago Cubs.

Take Jeff Samardzija for instance. After he made one the worst seasons in his career last season, posting a 1-5 record with 6.35 ERA in just 10 starts in an injury-ridden campaign, he has quietly made one of the most overlooked individual seasons in the MLB this year. He has a 3.93 ERA, just below Bumgarner’s 3.86, 7-7 record, which is two wins better that the North Carolina-born 2007 first round pick.

The Giants clearly have a good enough rotation to compete. Their bullpen in even more impressive as their relief pitching has an ERA of 3.91, the 7th best in all of baseball.

It will be a difficult with the near $170 million current payroll to re-sign all three of them, with Bumgarner possibly leaning towards the $20-25 million a year mark (although I think that if SF was to try and keep him, he would be good for a lot less than if any other team negotiates with him). But if they do, they don’t need a rebuild but one or two good FA signings.

One would argue that the Giants are already in rebuild with all those young players in their roster – Mike Yastrzemski, Austin Slater, Alex Dickerson; Dereck Rodriguez is in his second season. There’s actually a threat in continuing to sell that they can become one of those rebuilding teams that go through a number of processes to finally compete (Detroit for example).

So here’s an example of a suitable win-now deadline trade: SS Elvis Andrus (TEX) for 2B Joe Panik, 3B Luis Toribio (#8 prospect) and RHP Melvin Adon (#13 prospect). The longtime Ranger has been overlooked this year, batting .296 and would give them a good bat for a cheap price.

There’s enough talent in 2020 free agency to make a rental deal this year and sign one or two FAs next year to solidify their short-term future at least. There’s no guarantee that a number of unknown prospect which you’ll be waiting until ‘22 or ’23 comes around will make you a contender. And if they don’t you’ll have to start selling again, go through another rebuild.

On the other hand, however, one Scooter Gennett or one Marcell Ozuna, or perhaps Nick Markakis can make a real difference in your season and won’t be too expensive. Josh Donaldson and Didi Gregorius are also going to be on the market, ready to improve San Francisco’s infield. Also, a Starlin Castro or a Jonathan Schoop would be a really valuable rental that would make the Giants real contenders. And all they would have to give up for them would be non-MLB prospects.

The Giants aren’t the Blue Jays or the Tigers – they are too good to go into the full rebuild they are lining up for. And yes, the Astros won a ring after a full rebuild but they had three straight No.1 picks – the closest the Giants came to a first overall pick was a loss away in 2017 but a last-day win gave Detroit that spot. Which gives us the reason to mention another piece of the Giants’ bright future – No. 2 pick Joey Bart out of Georgia tech, the best catcher in the draft, of the best in the minors currently.

At the end of the day all that matters in winning – either now or after years of explained misery. While in an era where young players matter so much it’s rather unpopular to give up prospects after years of not winning, but the 2019 Giants already have young power that’s producing while also having experience on the mound. They’re closer to winning then most “rebuild-mentality” teams and that would require a different path that wouldn’t come alongside losing even more talent.

The post San Francisco Giants are the hottest team in baseball, they should be in win-now mode appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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Toronto Blue Jays general manager Ross Atkins inherited a championship contender from Alex Anthopoulos for the 2016 season. However, three years later the Blue Jays are in the midst of a total teardown in hope of rebuilding a new title contending franchise.

In the last two years Blue Jays fans have seen Steve Pearce, J.A. Happ, Seunghwan Oh, Roberto Osuna, Aaron Loup, John Axford, Curtis Granderson, Josh Donaldson, Russell Martin, Kendrys Morales and Kevin Pillar all depart via trade.

Understandably they currently sit 25.5 games out of first place and will undoubtedly continue use their veterans to supplement a young core of future talent. Furthermore, by moving players such as Eric Sogard and Marcus Stroman, opportunities for future impact players like Bo Bichette, Sean Reid-Foley and T.J Zeuch may become more available.

Marcus Stroman

This trade deadline’s most talked of talent, Stroman owns an impressive 141 ERA+ and comes with an extra year of team control. The starter has the second lowest qualifying ERA (3.25) in the AL East which is a by-product of increased use of his improved sinker. A team scout has heralded it as “one of the nastiest worm burners in the game”.

Interest will likely only come from genuine contenders due to the certain high valuation the Jays will hold out for. The Milwaukee Brewers who rank 26th in pitching WAR should be considered an obvious fit however, they will likely first pursue a bat to supplement the workload of Mike Moustakas and Christian Yelich.

Clear favourites would have to be the New York Yankees whose general manager Brian Cashman has signalled his desire to add another starter. Stroman, familiar with the AL East has stoked rumours by responding to reporters with this quote: “I’m built for (Yankee Stadium). Anybody can say whatever, but I’m built for the bright lights and the moment. I’m not scared of it. I’ll never be. I love it.”

Furthermore, the Atlanta Braves have been tipped by insiders to have the best chance at landing the right hander. They may need another starter to complement Mike Soroka and Dallas Keuchel in a very competitive division. They have ample trade chips with Kyle WrightIan AndersonLuiz GoharaTouki Toussaint and Kolby Allard all potentially available.

Outside chance: the Cardinals who rank 25th in pitching WAR, should also be considered a viable destination.

Justin Smoak

The Blue Jays’ first baseman has featured in a number of trade deadline previews however, teams may have certain reservations regarding the one time All Star. Although Smoak owns a .372 OBP and .868 OPS versus right-handed pitching, he has really struggled in recent weeks and has also hit an uncompetitive .185 from the right side.

Therefore, given his impeding free agency, Blue Jays’ fans shouldn’t expected their first baseman to command a significant return. Colorado may be interested in a platoon with right-handed Mark Reynolds and Boston may have at bats available. The AL East rivals have struggled to find production at first base with both Mitch Moreland and Steve Pearce having been missed from the lineup since June.

Outside chance: Cleveland and Tampa both rank in below average in production at the DH position which could provide at bat opportunities to Smoak.

Eric Sogard

The Blue Jays’ super utility man is certainly one of the finds of the season having signed a minor league deal in the offseason due to his abysmal 2018 campaign. He has hit .296 with a career high 10 HRs and a .853 OPS.

Sogard also can play multiple positions across the infield and outfield. His .365 OBP will also be attractive to a number of contenders. The Brewers who have struggled at second base this year, recently demoting Orlando Arcia, are unlikely to leave rookie Keston Hiura as the sole second base option. Furthermore, with Lorenzo Cain’s disappointing season, Sogard could be used as a useful leadoff hitter.

Another landing spot could be Cleveland where Jason Kipnis, and until recently Jose Ramirez have produced at below average levels. With Sogard’s ability to man outfield positions, Cleveland may want to rely less on Leonys Martin and Jake Bauers who have combined for a -0.7 WAR.

Outside chance: St. Louis Cardinals own the lowest OBP of all contenders thanks in part to below expectation seasons from Matt Carpenter, Harrison Bader and Kolten Wong.

Ken Giles & Daniel Hudson

The Jays likely have two arms in their bullpen that they will be able to move. Daniel Hudson has had his best season since 2010 posting a 5-1 2.85 ERA with 41 Ks in 41 innings.

In his last 30 appearances he owns an impeccable 2.14 ERA. Giles is even more attractive if he can demonstrate good health during this next week. His 1.45 ERA, converting 13 or 14 save opportunities with a 1.000 WHIP could be seen as a good fit for teams such as the Cubs, Braves and Cardinals. The Cubs have seen Craig Kimbrel and Pedro Strop struggle while the Braves and Cardinals have lost Arodys Vizcaino and Jordan Hicks to season ending surgeries.

Hudson could also be an option for the aforementioned teams however, Minnesota, Red Sox and Phillies may also look to add bullpen depth. As both players are in the final year of contract, all contenders should be able to afford either player.

The post Four players the Toronto Blue Jays must trade before the deadline appeared first on Franchise Sports.

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