Hot Stove Thoughts – Winter Meetings Begin

I’m an Orioles fan so I am going to write about the moves that pertain to my team first.

Orioles Trade Jim Johnson

I really like this move for the Orioles and Athletics. Jim Johnson is a good relief pitcher, and he makes his unorthodox closing methods work (A career K/9 below 6 is below the MLB average). He isn’t going to be worth the excessive money that he is going to get from the arbitration process. They put a large value on saves even though they are extremely team and manager based. The Athletics will be very happy to have Johnson, but they are going to be paying a lot of money.

On the Orioles’ side, I think they got a potential player that could be usable in their infield. Jemile Weeks had a breakout year in 2011, but has regressed each successive year after that, including a demotion to AAA for a majority of the 2013 season. He has a good eye at the plate, but his approach is poor. This change of scenery and coaching staff might be exactly what he needs. He should compete for the second baseman job with a variety of other folks. He can easily steal 30 bags if he can get his hitting stroke back.

Yankees sign Jacoby Ellsbury and Brian McCann

The Jacoby Ellsbury signing to me is very interesting. I think the fact that Ellsbury was a Red Sox is a big factor here. It hurts their opponents more than it helps them. Ellsbury’s contract might be worth it for 2-3 more years, but not 7. The only issue is he has no power. Ellsbury’s value comes from his speed and defense. He might be able to play good defense as he ages, but it will definitely get worse. The only way this contract is a good contract for the Yankees after 3 years is if Ellsbury starts to hit balls out of the yard. He will need to increase his 31% career fly ball and his 8.4% home run to fly ball rate as well. The short porch in right field at Yankee stadium will naturally help this, but I still don’t think Ellsbury is in line for anything above 15 homers a season for the rest of his career.

Brian McCann at his press conference after signing with the Yankees (Photo Cred: AP)

Brian McCann at his press conference after signing with the Yankees (Photo Cred: AP)

Brian McCann was a great signing for the Yankees. They have not had a great catcher since Jorge Posada’s hitting skills started to decline in the 2009, and he could no longer catch every day. McCann finally fills that void. The switch-hitting catcher has a career .833 OPS with a .350 OBP. Those are really nice statistics to get from the catcher spot. McCann is also a serviceable catcher behind the plate that shouldn’t hurt the Yankees rotation, but won’t help like a Yadier Molina does. As an O’s fan, I fully expect McCann to hit 30 home runs in a season more than once for the Yankees.

Red Sox lose Ellsbury

The Red Sox did the right thing with Ellsbury. They have the farm system to fill in the gap. They may not be as good next year because of this, but in 2017, the Red Sox will benefit from not making this signing. It does suck for Sox fans that he went the Evil Empire though.

Robinson Cano goes to the Mariners

My opinion is that Robinson Cano for the Yankees and Ellsbury for the Mariners makes much more sense, but obviously, it didn’t happen that way. It isn’t very common for a 6 win player that has some prime years left hits the free agent market. The Yankees lose a top player at a scarce position. They won’t be able to replace him this year, or the next few. This is good for me as an O’s fan. I am pumped about this, but I think this also starts a turn around for the Mariners.

Ivan Rodriguez at his press conference after signing with the Detroit Tigers. (Photo Cred: AP)

Ivan Rodriguez at his press conference after signing with the Detroit Tigers. (Photo Cred: AP)

This signing reminds me a lot of the Tigers’ signing of Ivan “Pudge” Rodriguez prior to the 2004 season (And yes, I actually remember this. I specifically remember it because I was pissed the Orioles only signed Miguel Tejada and failed to get Vladimir Guerrero or Pudge). The Tigers were coming off the 9th worst season in the history of the MLB. Yet, they were able to sign Pudge, and it started a turn around. In 2006, the Tigers made it to the World Series with Pudge behind the plate.

Watch out for the Mariners

Cano gives the Mariners the credibility they need to get players to come up to the Northwest part of the United States. They also have a good crop of pitching prospects. I expect at least 2 of them, Taijuan Walker, James Paxton, Danny Hultzen, and/or Brandon Maurer, to become top of the line starters to be paired with King Felix. Cano will provide the Mariners with a lot of talent as well. I do not think he will have a severe decline like an Albert Pujols (though, I think he is in for a bounce back). All of Cano’s movements are so smooth and his swing is gorgeous, and it looks like he isn’t even trying. It might be one of the prettiest swings in baseball. Cano’s power output will decline simply because of the park. Yankees Stadium gives up 23% more home runs to left handed hitters than the average stadium, while Safeco Field gives up 2% less. His skills won’t deteriorate. I am a little skeptical of him as a first round pick in fantasy baseball now, but he will provide great baseball value to the Mariners for many years.

Watch out MLB, the Mariners are for real and will be taking the league by storm in 2016. Lets just say I am hoping on the bandwagon. Then again, I am on the 2017 Astros and Marlins bandwagon already…

West Coast – Angels, Diamondbacks, and White Sox

Tyler Skaggs pitching agains the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 (Photo Cred: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)

Tyler Skaggs pitching agains the Cincinnati Reds in 2013 (Photo Cred: David Kadlubowski/azcentral sports)

This trade involving Mark Trumbo, Tyler Skaggs, Adam Eaton, Hector Santiago, and others is fascinating to me. I DO NOT understand what the Diamondbacks were thinking with this deal. I can understand that they were 26th in the entire MLB with only 130 home runs. However, the NL Pennant winner happens to be 27th on that list with 125 home runs, the St. Louis Cardinals. The Diamondbacks end up with a player that will hit 30 home runs, but Trumbo will only be on base 30% of the time and will have a .250 batting average or worse. He isn’t a top defender either.

The pieces the Diamondbacks lost were Tyler Skaggs and Adam Eaton. Skaggs is a top left handed pitching prospect that had a rough year last year, but is projected to be a top of the line starter once he gets a handle on the big leagues. I expect him to be with the Angels all of the 2014 season. I have no idea how he will perform, but he will look awfully nice next to Jered Weaver at the top of the Angels rotation over the next couple of seasons. Nice to see him return home. Adam Eaton is a outfielder that could have provided the same value to the Diamondbacks in a different way. He is a speedy outfielder that can get on base for Paul Goldschmidt and score. Eaton would have done that for Arizona, but he will now do it for the White Sox.

The fact that White Sox were able to get a player of that caliber with the lack of talent on that roster is fascinating. Well done Rick Hahn. With the signing of Jose Abreu and the Avisail Garcia trade last year, Hahn is doing a great job of rebuilding this team. They are a lot further away from contention than the Marlins and Astros, but Hahn is doing the best with the poor talent pool he was handed.

Lastly, the Angels finally make a deal that is awesome. I think the the Pujols and Hamilton deals were good, but they may have overpaid a little bit. This trade makes a whole lot of sense for the ballclub. They lose Trumbo, who was the only player with significant value besides the untouchable one, Mr. Mike Trout (How much would it take to pry Trout away from the Angels?). However, they get a frontline starter to take Weaver’s place over the next few years in Skaggs. Hector Santiago is also a nice left handed pitcher to be getting in a deal like this. The Angels are starting to reload, but it won’t be enough. They just don’t have the tradable assets to have a total tear down. I think the Mariners contend well before the Angels do, unless the Angels have a Red Sox-esque turn around, but I think that is unlikely.

Look out for some thoughts on Shin-Soo Choo once he signs. I’ll also talk about any more trades or big signings that have happened.

Greg Danchik

Beyond the Arc – 2nd Edition

Welcome back. Let’s start with a two short clips showing the lighter side of the NBA:

Trey Burke gets pranked for one of his first games of his career after coming back from injury to start the season

LeBron mugs a fan after hitting a half-court shot to win $75,000

It’s always nice to see subtle reminders about how the NBA is about more than just basketball. For a couple seconds LeBron James wasn’t the center of attention. He made it special for everyone by his genuine reaction as a human being, not a basketball player. Now back to basketball. The NBA is in full swing and teams are starting to grind through all things good, bad, and ugly as the season unfolds. Let’s get right into it as we break down the recent trends… starting with the worst of the worst.

THE UGLY

The Injuries

You never wish to see this but I’m afraid the Memphis Grizzlies and Chicago Bulls are hurting just a little right now. Injuries to Marc Gasol (knee) and Derrick Rose (other knee) have caused the their respective teams to slow down a bit. Memphis is 1-2 since Gasol’s departure and the Bulls are equally as affected, losers of 3 of the last 4. The most impactful injury was Rose’s because it forces him out for the rest of the season (Gasol is out for 4-6 weeks). Without question, Joakim Noah, Carlos Boozer, and Luol Deng have to step up the rest of the way. Fortunately because of the current state of the Eastern Conference, the Bulls can slide into the playoffs in a lower seed but regardless of their seed, don’t ever count this team out. The Grizzlies, on the other hand, were dealt a huge blow as well. They can’t afford to lose many games in the super competitive Western Conference. Seeing as they’re the 12th seed right now they have some work to due in front of them but there is no sound for alarm as long as they can get Gasol back before February.

(Note from GregAnthony Davis out 4-6 weeks… Huge loss for the Pelicans and your fantasy teams)

The Eastern Conference

I don’t know what to make of the Eastern Conference anymore. You tell me which one of these three facts is more disturbing…

There are currently only TWO teams with winning records out of a possible fifteen. I’ll let you guess which two those are…

The Toronto Raptors are 6-10 and leading the Atlantic Division by half a game to the Boston “We don’t feel like getting a top 5 pick in a loaded draft” Celtics. In other words, there could be a team with a losing record enter the playoffs as a 3 or 4 seed.

The New York Knicks ($88,249,065) and the New Jersey Nets ($102,211,009) – the two teams with the largest team salaries in the league this year – are either tied for the worst record or claim the second worst record in the Eastern Conference (along with the Milwaukee Bucks). Is it ironic that these two teams also have to pay the two highest luxury tax penalties for exceeding the salary cap? The Knicks pay $16,501,065 and the Nets pay #30,463,009…yikes.

THE BAD

The surprising amount of teams who can’t take that next step

I’m looking at three teams in particular here…

Cleveland Cavaliers

You have Kyrie Irving, Anderson Varejao, Tristan Thompson, Jarrett Jack, and Andrew Bynum. I’m waiting for them to at least out together a nice string of games but when you notice that they give up 100.8 points per game, its understandable they struggle. You can’t expect Irving to bail them out with 30 to 40 points every night. It’s the little things with this team that hurts them. They allow teams to shoot 38% from behind the 3-point line, which means that they’re closer to the basket instead of being spread out on defense. Well that surely must mean they rebound the ball a lot then, right? Wrong. They’re ranked 21st in total rebounds. You can’t stress enough how important defense is to a team’s success.

Minnesota Timberwolves

Remember the Minnesota team that started the season 5-3? Well now they’re sitting at 9-10 after going 4-7 over the past 11 games. After a tough loss to OKC Sunday night, they’ll need to focus their attention as they host the Spurs and Heat in their next two games. Two quality wins at this point in the season can do wonders for a team’s momentum. If the Wolves want to make the playoffs they can’t get lazy and lose a bunch of games early because their conference is too competitive. I still love the combo play of Kevin Love, Kevin Martin, and Ricky Rubio. Speaking of Rubio, I’m very close to dedicating a section in Beyond the Arc specifically for the amazing passes throughout the league. Rubio is one of the leading contributors…more on this to follow…but here’s a little appetizer…

Detroit Pistons

They haven’t had a winning record since they were 2-1. Now they’re 7-10 and this team has even more talent than both teams above. Andre Drummond is molding into a freak center that will dominate the league for years to come. Yet for some reason the JenningsSmithMonroeDrummond combo hasn’t panned out yet. They are extremely athletic which is why I like this team in the playoffs. Luckily at 7-10, the team is technically in the playoffs because of the lack of strength from the Eastern Conference. You’ll see an example of their athleticism further down in a clip.

THE GOOD

The Fab Five

These five teams are sitting pretty at the top of their respective conferences. Each team has things they do well and some things to improve on…(in no particular order)

Portland Trailblazers

They just beat the Indiana Pacers in a thrilling game Monday night. They’re the hottest team in the NBA right now, winners of 13 of the last 14. They’re 15-3 with two loses to the Phoenix Suns. They have benefitted from playing a friendly schedule, seeing that they have yet to play the Spurs, Thunder, Clippers, or Heat. Stay tuned.

Oklahoma City Thunder

Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook continue to lead the way as the Thunder have won 7 in a row. A date with Portland on Dec 4th should be a nice test. Serge Ibaka needs to continue to play well and carry the load defensively while chipping in on the offensive end when given the chance. They success hinges on the production they get out of anyone not named Durant or Westbrook.

San Antonio Spurs

Tim Duncan contributed a 23-point – 21-rebound effort along with the game winning shot on Monday night. Proving the trust and faith the Spurs still have with him after all these years. The biggest facet of this team is what got them to the Finals last year…rest. They’re the most disciplined team in the league with only 305 personal fouls. For perspective, the league average is 362 and the high is the Los Angeles Clippers with 422.

Miami Heat

LeBron and company definitely shook off any rust they may have had from the offseason. The Heat are winners of 10 straight, currently the longest active win streak in the league. The biggest threat for them is the fact that they are ranked dead last in total rebounds (608). The league average is 741 and the leader is the Houston Rockets with 875. I’m anticipating this problem rearing its head throughout the season, but with LeBron hungry for rings sometimes the stats just don’t matter. Let the record state that as of the start of December, James has a PER of 30.3, the best in the league to date.

Indiana Pacers

A tough loss for the Pacers Monday night when they fell to the Trailblazers. Paul George is playing brilliantly right now coming off a 43-point outing. He continues to showcase himself to the league and prove to everyone why the Pacers are performing as well as they are. They’re also holding opponents to just 87.6 points per game, which is a league best.

Dojo Power Rankings – Top 10

* Not reflecting games played on Dec 3rd and after

** ( x ) – previous ranking in Top 10

  1. 16-2 Indiana Pacers (1) – Even though they faltered against the Trailblazers. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt although they may not be #1 for long. Their next four opponents are the Jazz, Spurs, Thunder, and Heat. Talk about an important stretch…
  2. 15-3 San Antonio Spurs (2) – Although tied for the #1 seed with Portland in the West, their two recent big games against the Thunder and Houston both resulted in losses.
  3. 14-3 Miami Heat (3) – The one game I’m looking forward to…the rematch of last years Eastern Conference Finals. December 10th in Indiana.
  4. 15-3 Portland Trailblazers (9) – They passed their biggest test of the year when they defeated Indiana. Up next is another test as they host the Thunder. It must be pointed out that Wesley Matthews is the only guard in the top 15 of players according to field goal percentage. His shooting accuracy thus far has been ridiculous for a guard.
  5. 12-3 Oklahoma City Thunder (4) – All things quiet on the Thunder front as Durant and Westbrook continue to light up the box score (and my fantasy team I might add).
  6. 13-6 Houston Rockets (7) – Jeremy Lin’s injury doesn’t hurt their depth as much as you think. The Rockets have two competent backup guards in Aaron Brooks and Patrick Beverley.
  7. 12-6 Los Angeles Clippers (6) – They’re ranked 3rd in the league in terms of SOS or the average winning percentage of opponents played (.551). Basically they’re doing just fine against tougher competition compared to the SOS of Indiana (.446) and Miami (.438).
  8. 10-6 Denver Nuggets (NR) – Since JaVale McGee injured himself during the 5th game of the year. The Nuggets are winners of 9 of the last 11 games, which is a pleasant surprise.
  9. 10-8 Dallas Mavericks (NR) – Surprised? Dallas has played 11 of its 18 games against teams with records above .500. They’re defense is still suspect and the offense seems like an on and off switch, after starting out 6-1.
  10. 10-8 Golden State Warriors (8) – The most entertaining team to watch in terms of their offense has only won 2 of their past 7 games. Those two wins were over the Kings and Pelicans and won by a total of 3 points. Are they worthy of the top 10? Hmm…that makes me think…

Teams Looking In

—9-10 Atlanta Hawks: After falling out of the top 10 this time, they certainly aren’t far off this list.

—9-8 Phoenix Suns: They’ve gone 4-6 over the past 10 games, washing away what looked like a nice 5-2 start to the season.

Teams Falling Out

—10-8 Golden State Warriors: Their recent struggles and close finishes against sub-par teams damage some of the faith I have in this team. Come playoff time I expect a packed yellow arena with overzealous fans but they just aren’t playing up to that level yet.

The Replay Booth

(Plays occurred between Nov 13 and Dec 3)

Best Display of Individual Skill

*Kyrie sure is sneaky*

Passes that make you think/say “How did he do that?”

THE ULTIMATE ASSIST

The award for the best pass of the season thus far…

Lance Stephenson

*It’s difficult to explain how hard it is to throw a behind-the-back pass. Let alone throw one while in mid air*

Stay tuned for more frequent articles in the coming weeks and as always, continue to enjoy.

-E-mail: senseimeola@gmail.com

-Twitter: @brosephmeola

Why I Love Sports

This is a question I sometimes ask myself. Why do I love sports? I wonder that a lot. I question my love for sports when the Ravens blow leads, when my fantasy running back fails to put up 10 points to seal a victory for me, and when I have a losing day on DraftStreet.

This past Saturday was one of those days that reminds everyone why they love sports. Since Saturday, I have been taking a look back to see all of the other moments that give us that reminder.

It is the down right dirty plays that make our jaws drop in amazement. Some of them come from how much movement a human can put on a baseball over a 60 foot 6 inch span.

Some of them are the display of absolute athleticism

Some are the ones we can’t explain


It is the hilarious moments. It doesn’t matter whether they are on the field, on live TV, or in a commercial, they are still downright hilarious.



It is the close calls. While every close call has a winner and a loser, some come from the loser failing to convert with their final chance.


Others come from winners defying the odds…






This is in no way shape or form every awesome moment that happens in sports. These are the types of things that bring people to the television. These moments are why there are billions of dollars in the sports industry. These moments are why I started this site. While this site will probably never get famous, writing about these moments is the best part of my day every day that I get to do it. These moments are why I love sports.

Greg Danchik

Thanksgiving Spar

First, we would like to say Happy Thanksgiving to everyone at home, and we hope you have safe travels and a fun time wherever you end up. Now for sparring…

Greg to Joe

At the beginning of this year, did it even cross your mind that Jadeveon Clowney could be playing on the same defensive line as JJ Watt? Can you imagine how good Clowney could be without the constant double teams? Wade Phillips would probably be able to even get Clowney 1 v. 1 with a running back in the back field. That would be funny…

How could we possibly have predicted that the Houston Texans and Atlanta Falcons would be the top competition to the Jaguars for the top draft pick? The Falcons literally have nothing besides Matty Ice, Julio Jones and Roddy White. I don’t think their defense is good. They don’t have a running back they can count on. It’s rough for them. And the same goes for the Texans. Without Brian Cushing at middle linebacker, they are lost. Watt can’t do it all on his own. Arian Foster is beat up, and their offensive line isn’t the same as it was in Foster’s glory days. Matt Schaub, their starter since 2008, might be the worst quarterback on the roster too. That’s the sad thing.

Finally, I was able to see the Ravens dominate a game. Unfortunately, it was against Geno Smith playing in M&T Bank stadium, so it is nothing to be overly impressed with.

Patriots’ game… Crazy… thoughts?

Joe to Greg

I don’t think that thought ever crossed my mind until now. I think that’s scary because the Texans look like a lock for at least the 7th pick. We can speculate about what specific draft pick they get all day but I don’t see them dropping lower than the 5th pick barring some crazy, irrelevant end of the season winning streak. Imagine a healthy Cushing and Clowney… I think that will free up JJ Watt and gives him a chance to become the menace he was during the 2012 season.

I have the pleasure of living with a Falcons fan and one of the points brought up while watching the games on Sunday was how each conference has one team that totally busted. The NFC has the Falcons (2-9) while the AFC has the Texans (2-9). Injuries have plagued both teams so it’s understandable that they’re struggling in certain aspects of the game but it’s still a huge surprise nonetheless. Foster seems like a totally different runner and Matt Schaub…well lets just leave it at that. Unfortunately for the Texans season it’s like you said, just a sad thing.

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady after the Sunday night thriller (Photo Cred: Steven Senne)

Peyton Manning and Tom Brady after the Sunday night thriller (Photo Cred: Steven Senne)

The Brady-Manning bowl wasn’t much of a duel between two great quarterbacks. Not because of the surprising lack of production from Peyton Manning (19/36 for 150 yards, 2 TDs, and 1 INT with a 28.1 QBR and 70.4 RTG), but for two main reasons, the fumbles and the weather. There aren’t many times you see 11 fumbles in one game, but those fumbles kill drives, kill momentum, and like we saw with the last fumble, kill a team’s chances of winning the game. The wind on the other hand was the reason why Bill Belichick decided to give Peyton Manning the ball first in overtime and have the winds become a “12th defender” if you will. Manning’s numbers took a huge dent because of the stellar performance of Knowshon Moreno who had 37 carries for 224 yards and a score. No quarterback should throw against the Patriots…literally just run every play and you will win. I’m disappointed with the how the game ended because I wanted either Manning or Brady to have an impact on the outcome of the game, especially in overtime. How many times will we ever see Tom Brady and Peyton Manning against each other in overtime? It was great for both teams regardless because they played in a playoff type atmosphere with playoff type conditions, which can only help them prepare for a potential rematch later on. Don’t forget the Superbowl is played in New York in February. Should be interesting…any thoughts on the NFL? Can we please talk about some of the MLB trades? Pretty please?

Greg to Joe

With football, the Super Bowl is in the New York and that is exactly why I have been saying all year the Broncos won’t win it. It is not because Peyton Manning is not mentally able to compete in the cold. It is because he cannot physically compete in the cold. His ball loses juice, and it will never pierce the wind in New York Super Bowl Sunday. Obviously, I am of the belief that there is no way that the New York will have good weather for this game. If its a beautiful day, Manning would have a shot, assuming he gets there of course.

Your reply reminded me to post my thoughts on the Rangers-Tigers trade. I like it for both sides, but I think the Tigers got the better end. The money saved is crucial, and Prince Fielder‘s hitting skills might be deteriorating. I am a little concerned he just isn’t the same hitter. The Peralta signing and Bourjos trade for the Cardinals were EXACTLY what the Cardinals needed. They got a shortstop and a defensive center field with unbelievable speed. They managed to fill these needs without giving up anything! David Freese was going to go anyway, so they could get Kolten Wong in the line up. I can’t wait to watch this team play next year. And just a reminder, people will say the Cardinals overpaid for Peralta, but they are underpaying basically everyone else on that roster. With the loss of Carlos Beltran, they probably bought themselves more wins and are saving 2 million dollars this season. I would be worried about the forth year. He is pretty big for a shortstop. He may not last there. The Red Sox and Orioles haven’t made any huge moves, but the Yankees did. They bring in Brian McCann. They desperately needed a catcher, and McCann should have a career high in home runs next year with the extremely short porch in right. Any thoughts on the baseball deals?

Your a bigger basketball guy than I, what do you think of Derrick Rose going down?

Joe to Greg

Similar to you, I don’t think the Broncos can win with poor conditions, that is if they manage to reach the ultimate game. Regardless I think the weather will be a factor in the game, but we’ll have ample amounts of time to talk about that once we know who is actually in the game.

My impressions on the Rangers-Tigers trade are fairly indifferent. I have this feeling that Fielder has past his peak in terms of hitting. Over a 3 season span (2011-2012-2013), Fielder’s home runs (38-30-25) and RBI production has dropped (120-108-106). What’s even more surprising, out of a possible 810 regular season games over the past 5 seasons, Fielder has only missed ONE game, back in 2010 when he was with Milwaukee. I’ve had him on my fantasy baseball team the past 2 seasons as well so I’m familiar with most of his stats. I noticed a slight drop in overall production this year but he can still prove to be effective for the Rangers. Sometimes a change of scenery makes a big difference. Knowing that Jacoby Ellsbury is leaving this offseason, I’ve got a pretty bold prediction.  I’ve heard rumors that the Red Sox might be interested in acquiring Carlos Beltran, but I’m trying to contain my excitement because I’m pretty sure the whole AL East is interested in him. They acquired another righty in the bullpen, Burke Badenhop, from the Brewers for a minor league hurler. My eyes are focused on Beltran but time will tell.

I’m planning on coming out with a piece for Beyond the Arc soon regarding some of these injuries and recent action, but two quick thoughts about the D-Rose injury…

The Eastern Conference Finals matchup is essentially locked in stone. The Miami Heat versus the Indiana Pacers seems inevitable and it’s because D-Rose went down. The Bulls are an incredibly talented team but they just can’t go against Miami or Indiana without a player of D-Rose’s caliber. I’m picking the Pacers, yes the Pacers, to get the #1 seed in the East. After they lost in Miami in Game 7 last season, the Pacers know how close they were to a finals appearance. I think they’re extremely motivated to get home court advantage. Home court advantage for them is having 4 of 7 games in Indiana against Miami.

The Bulls WILL make a trade… this comes from another NBA-minded friend of mine, but he’s calling for Evan Turner of the Philadelphia Sixers to get traded to the Bulls for some sort of draft pick exchange. I don’t know how far-fetched that idea is but 1) Turner played his college ball at Ohio State and he grew up in Chicago and 2) Turner is still on his rookie deal meaning he is cheaper to obtain than if this situation occurred two years in the future. Going on this assumption, look for the Bulls to deal a combination of Kirk Hinrich, another small bench guy, and a first round pick to get Turner. Either way I’d be extremely surprised if the Bulls didn’t attempt to bolster their roster in some way shape or form.

What are you predictions for the Turkey Day games?

Greg to Joe

I am in totally agreement with Ellsbury. The Sox are a smart organization, and I think they know he won’t be able to provide the same value later in his career. I liken him to Michael Bourn. He is basically Michael Bourn except he hits like 3 more homers a year and has a career average about .020 points higher. Bourn got 4 years for $48 million. Ellsbury is also a Boras client so all things considered, he is going to be asking for a lot of money. An amount that a lot of organizations won’t be willing to pay. I think the Red Sox let him walk, and I think he ends up in Seattle (my bold prediction). It makes a whole lot of sense. The Mariners are trying to become relevant again, so they will probably over pay for someone. There park is also huge, which will play to Ellsbury’s strengths. Ellsbury will not hit double-digit homers again, but in Seattle’s rather large ballpark, he could lead the league in doubles.

I can’t agree with your bold prediction because… I WANT BELTRAN MORE! He makes a lot more sense in Baltimore. The Red Sox already have a full-time DH, and Beltran can’t play the field full time again. Papi isn’t going to play first base unless they are in an NL park. Baltimore doesn’t have a full-time DH, and Beltran would just make a great lineup even better. Now if they could only find some pitching..

I don’t think they Bulls trade is so far fetched, but I think they will be fine this year. Thibodeau is one of the best coaches in the NBA and will find a way to rally the team. Deng and Noah will be able to do a lot for them, and Jimmy Butler is underrated in my opinion. Even if the Bulls make a trade for Evan Turner, they won’t win the title. So I don’t see a point. I do see a situation where they ship Deng away for picks and try to get a ping pong ball. That’s unlikely thought. I think the most likely situation is they stand pat and do nothing.

I agree on the Pacers. They are so good on defense it is unreal. Paul George is a top player in the NBA and is a serious threat to take the MVP from LeBron. It won’t happen, but he’ll make it close.

Thanksgiving day games are close to my heart. The Ravens play in a game that, much like last week, is a must win if they want to make the playoffs. If they take down the Steelers, they will be GREAT position to take down the division. The Ravens get to play at home in the cold (temperatures expected between 30 & 40 degrees), and that is perfect for Flacco. His arm strength gives him an advantage in the cold. The Steelers have Big Ben, but I think the Ravens defense is better. It is so close. It will come down to who hits the long TD pass and that will decide the game. I don’t see a lot of long sustained drives coming this week.

(Photo Cred: James D. Smith/ AP)

(Photo Cred: James D. Smith/ AP)

ATS Picks for Thanksgiving games

Greg

Lions -7 – The Packers are not the same without Aaron Rodgers. Megatron will have a big first half, and the second half will be ALL Reggie Bush running wild.

Raiders +9.5 – 9.5 is a lot of points. The Cowboys are pretty bad in pass defense (31st in yards per game). Matt McGloin has SHOCKED everyone. He sucked at Penn State, but he is hot now and I think he keeps it up. I think the Cowboys could get upset at home if they aren’t careful.

Ravens -3 – I have to believe they make it back to the playoffs so I believe they win at home against an old Steelers team,

Joe

Packers +7 – I’m only picking this under the assumption Matt Flynn is going to look like the Matt Flynn that used to play for the Packers. The Lions were 9 point favorites at home against the Buccaneers last weekend and lost. I think the Lions win, but it’ll be closer than people think…or Megatron will just go off, which is fine because he’s on my fantasy team. I just wanted a lot of points scored.

Cowboys -7.5 – I don’t know why I’m doing this. This is the Cowboys after all but the line dropped a little. If this is at 9.5 I’d probably take the Raiders +9.5 but I don’t have enough confidence in them. I like Romo….(fast forward to Thursday night….why the hell did I pick the Cowboys? Lets just say I regret this pick already)

Ravens -3 – Keep winning those games, Flacco. December 22nd is coming up and I can’t wait (Patriots @ Ravens – Sunday Night Football)

Greg Danchik and Joe Meola

Rangers and Tigers Trade

The Trade – The Rangers take on 7 years and $138 million of Prince Fielder and give up 4 years and $62 million of Ian Kinsler. The Rangers also get $30 million from the Tigers.

This trade is a great trade for each side for a variety of reasons.

Rangers

The Rangers get the power bat that they have been missing since Josh Hamilton went cold towards the end of the 2012 season. Now, Prince Fielder was not the same player he had been in his Milwaukee days last year. Prince had his lowest ISO (Isolated Power) and OPS of his career this past season, and he had his lowest wOBA since his rookie season. By almost every statistical measure, Prince Fielder had his worst hitting season as a full time professional. Yet, he was better than the Rangers previous DH, Lance Berkman (6 homers in 294 plate appearances). If the Rangers have Fielder DH and not worry about playing “defense” (Prince cost the Tigers 13 runs this past season… at FIRST BASE), he should be able to stay focused and in enough shape to give the Rangers another 30 homer bat in the middle of that line up.  (It is being reported that Prince will play first base. Let it be known I think that is a mistake)

The other bonus to the Rangers trade is Jurickson Profar finally has a full-time spot in the Rangers line up. The 2011 and 2012 top prospect has struggled in his inconsistent MLB playing time in his past two seasons. He has 7 homers and a .274 average in 341 plate appearances. The homers would be good if Profar had the steals to go with them. However, he only has 2… TWO steals in all those plate appearances. Profar has 2 steals in 6 attempts! That’s not going to be valuable for the Rangers if he doesn’t convert more of his stolen base attempts. He should improve in his first full season as a Major Leaguer, but if he doesn’t, this trade could prove to hurt the Rangers in the long run.

The other part of this trade is the money involved.  If the trade doesn’t work out and Fielder’s hitting skills continue to deteriorate, the Rangers are paying a lot of money for a mediocre DH. Even with the large influx of money the Rangers will be getting in their new local TV deal, this is could hold them back from being one of the top teams in the MLB in the next couple of seasons.

Clearly, the Rangers side of the trade has some real upside, but has some risks.

Tigers

While I think the Rangers did improve, I think this trade is so phenomenal for the Tigers. This trade, along with the Cardinals smart deals, makes the Tigers the favorites to face the Cardinals in the World Series. The Tigers still need to fix the bullpen, but they can do that with the money they saved in this trade.

Before this trade, the Tigers were seriously considering moving Max Scherzer. That made a lot of sense. Scherzer is a Scott Boras client, and if he acts as most Boras clients do, he won’t sign an extension until free agency, which will drive up the price. The Tigers wouldn’t have been able to afford him with Fielder on the books through 2020. I think the Tigers do have the money to do that now and that will keep one of the best starting rotations in tack for the foreseeable future.

The Tigers, also, get to move Miguel Cabrera back to first base. There are a lot of bonuses to this. For one, Cabrera cost the Tigers more runs at third base last year than all of the years he played first base for them combined. He will be much more valuable as an actual baseball player (not fantasy asset) at first base. That ends up opening a spot at third base. And guess what?! The Tigers’ best prospect is a third baseman! Nick Castellanos is his name, and he joins Xander Boegarts as a favorite to win the 2014 AL Rookie of the Year award. He does project to be a top notch hitter at the big leagues with around 25-30 homers in his peak years. His .303 batting average and .804 OPS in his time in the minors are a pretty good indication of how good of a hitter he is, considering he has been younger than the average player at each level. Now Castellanos isn’t a Gold Glove defender (40 errors in 210 games at third base in the minors), he should be very serviceable with the slick-fielding Jose Iglesias next to him.

Finally, the Tigers get a new leadoff hitter. I am still bitter about their postseason defeat to the Red Sox when the Tigers out played them the first 5 games of the series, but I digress. One of the struggles the Tigers had, besides the bullpen mentioned earlier, was their leadoff spot. Austin Jackson was at the top of the order the first three games and proceeded to go 1 for 13. Torii Hunter moves into the top spot and moved Miguel Cabrera to the second spot, which made every advanced stat nerd (me included) jump with joy. Hunter did okay by getting on base 4 out of 13 times at the plate, but that’s not a good enough OBP from a leadoff man on a team looking to win a World Series Championship.

Enter Ian Kinsler. A second baseman with a .350 career OBP and can give you 15-20 steals each year. A perfect fit at the top of that line up behind Miguel Cabrera. Look for Kinsler to break the 100 run mark for the 5th time in his career, assuming he manages to stay off the DL. Another added bonus to Ian Kinsler, he can hit ’em out of the park. It won’t be at the same rate as he did in Texas, but he should still be an top notch second base option as the Tigers look to break through and win the World Series for the first time since since 1984.

(30 year anniversary?)

Greg Danchik