Latest

2021 MLB Season Picks

Image Credit: MLB.com

The 2021 MLB season is finally upon us! After a year in which we went through the height of a pandemic and endured a 60 game shortened season, baseball has returned for a more normal season in 2021.

The schedule is back to normal with every team playing a 162 game schedule, traveling across time zones, and with fans (limited) in the stands again. And after a very busy offseason in terms of player moves, we get to see lots of faces in new places. The newly reigning NL Cy Young award winner, Trevor Bauer, left Cincinnati after a season and a half to sign a short-term megadeal with the Los Angeles Dodgers, who were already draped in pitching depth and are fresh off a World Series championship. One of the most decorated postseason players in recent memory, George Springer, took his immense talents from Houston to Toronto on a six-year deal. Cleveland finally traded superstar shortstop Francisco Lindor to the New York Mets, a month after new owner Steve Cohen took full control of the team. Those are just a few of the major moves during the offseason but with the new season hours away from starting let’s look ahead and see what I think will happen in this exciting 2021 season

NL East:
1. New York Mets (95-67)
2. Atlanta Braves (89-73)
3. Washington Nationals (86-76)
4. Philadelphia Phillies (84-78)
5. Miami Marlins (70-92)

NL Central:
1. Milwaukee Brewers (90-72)
2. St. Louis Cardinals (88-74)
3. Cincinnati Reds (82-80)
4. Chicago Cubs (80-82)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (59-103)

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (105-57)
2. San Diego Padres (97-65)
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (80-82)
4. San Francisco Giants (76-86)
5. Colorado Rockies (64-98)

AL East:
1. New York Yankees (100-62)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (90-72)
3. Toronto Blue Jays (86-76)
4. Boston Red Sox (77-85)
5. Baltimore Orioles (62-100)

AL Central:
1. Chicago White Sox (96-66)
2. Cleveland Indians (88-74)
3. Minnesota Twins (85-77)
4. Kansas City Royals (75-87)
5. Detroit Tigers (63-99)

AL West:
1. Houston Astros (91-71)
2. Los Angeles Angels (85-77)
3. Oakland A’s (83-79)
4. Seattle Mariners (74-88)
5. Texas Rangers (66-96)

NL Wild Card Game:
San Diego Padres over
Atlanta Braves

AL Wild Card Game:
Tampa Bay Rays over
Cleveland Indians

NLDS:
Los Angeles Dodgers over
San Diego Padres in 5 games, 3-2
New York Mets over Milwaukee Brewers in 4 games, 3-1

ALDS:
New York Yankees over
Tampa Bay Rays in 4 games, 3-1
Chicago White Sox over Houston Astros in 5 games, 3-2

NLCS:
Los Angeles Dodgers over
New York Mets in 6 games, 4-2

ALCS:
Chicago White Sox over
New York Yankees in 7 games, 4-3

World Series:
Los Angeles Dodgers over
Chicago White Sox in 6 games, 4-2

NL MVP:
Manny Machado, San Diego Padres
AL MVP:
Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians

NL CY Young:
Jacob deGrom, New York Mets
AL CY Young:
Tyler Glasnow, Tampa Bay Rays

NL Rookie Of The Year:
Ian Anderson, SP, Atlanta Braves
AL Rookie Of The Year:
Andrew Vaughn, 1B/OF, Chicago White Sox

Bold Predictions:
The Nationals pitching, including the big 3, is why they miss out on the playoffs
Fernando Tatis Jr. doesn’t live up to the hype in year 1 of his new megadeal
The Padres get their first no-hitter in franchise history
The Indians place three pitchers in the top six of AL Cy Young voting
Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge combine for 65 homers

How I Would Finish Off The Mets’ Offseason

New Mets owner Steve Cohen is introduced to the media for the first time as owner in November 2020. (Image credit: SNY)

The Mets have been one of the few active teams throughout free agency so far this offseason. Under new owner Steve Cohen, President Sandy Alderson, GM Jared Porter, and AGM Zack Scott, the team has been acting quick and diligently in upgrading the club as much as possible heading into the 2021 season. With many of the biggest name free agents still on the market headed into the year 2021, the Mets have already had a somewhat eventful offseason. The signings of catcher James McCann (4/40) and reliever Trevor May (2/15.5) have already immensely upgraded the team. The Mets needed an upgrade behind the plate and got one in the underrated McCann, who was the second-best catcher on the market behind J.T. Realmuto, who would’ve commanded a far higher salary than the 4/40 that McCann signed for. You can never have enough bullpen arms and the Mets nabbed one of the best ones on the market early, in Trevor May, who dominated for Minnesota the last few years.

In normal offseasons in the past, this would be the conclusion of a “fruitful” offseason for the Mets. That’s not the case anymore with the richest owner in the sport taking the helm of the team. The Mets believe the signings of May and McCann are just ancillary moves to bigger and better things. The Mets aren’t done making moves if Steve Cohen’s vision of winning a championship in his first 3-5 years is to be made true. For years Mets fans have been clamoring for the team to be involved on the biggest free agents but their penny pinching former owners, the Wilpons, would rarely make that move unless it was re-signing a player already with the team (David Wright, Yoenis Céspedes) or acquiring a superstar who was on the backend of their career (Robinson Cano (through trade), Michael Cuddyer, Rick Porcello). With the Wilpons out, a billionaire owner coming in, and a good chunk of payroll space before reaching the CBT, the Mets are slated to do major damage this winter.

The biggest free agents coming into this offseason were catcher J.T. Realmuto, CF George Springer, SP Trevor Bauer, INF D.J. LeMahieu, and LF/DH Marcell Ozuna. Amongst heavily reported big names on the trade market, you have Indians SS Francisco Lindor, Reds’ SP’s Luis Castillo & Sonny Gray, Reds 3B Eugenio Suarez, Cubs’ SS Javier Baez, 3B Kris Bryant, and C Wilson Contreras, and Rockies’ 3B Nolan Arenado & SS Trevor Story.

With a middle of the pact farm system and $52.7M in payroll flexibility until reaching the CBT (according to Spotrac) the Mets are widely expected to sign one of those big free agents (most likely candidates are Springer and Bauer) and be involved in trade discussions for most of those players listed on the trade market, perhaps even coming away with one of them. The Mets purposely pounced on McCann to be their catcher over Realmuto due to the significant difference in contract demands and the fact that signing McCann would allow for more team payroll to be spread out to bigger and/or more needs. Now I will pretend to be Mets management and outline how I’d play the rest of this offseason…

Move #1: Sign CF George Springer to a 5 year, $115M deal ($23M AAV)
The Mets desperately need an upgrade defensively in center field and a big-time veteran bat, so why not grab both of those things in former World Series MVP George Springer? Springer is arguably the best leadoff hitter in baseball, possessing major power, solid speed, and solid contact skills. His power could easily translate to a middle of the order bat if the Mets wanted to go with Brandon Nimmo or Jeff McNeil in the leadoff spot. Springer would be a clear upgrade defensively in center, taking over for Nimmo who will slide into left field. Springer is already 31 years old, so his primary defensive position of centerfield scares me a bit, which is why under no circumstances would I go over 5 years for Springer. If someone wants to go over 5 years for Springer (I’m looking at you, Toronto), then they can have him. A starting outfield of Nimmo, Springer, and Conforto for the next 5 years sure sounds nice.

Move #2: Trade 3B/DH J.D. Davis ($2.3M ARB EST, ARB1), SS Ronny Mauricio (NYM #1 Prospect), and SP Josh Wolf (NYM #9 Prospect) to the Cincinnati Reds for SP Luis Castillo ($4.0M ARB EST, ARB1)
Some people will read this and think I’m nuts for thinking of trading Davis and the #1 prospect in the farm system. While a package headlined like that is a steep price to pay, that’s right around what it would cost to acquire Castillo from Cincinnati. Castillo has three years of team control left before he hits free agency, is projected to make $4M in 2021 as a first-time arbitration-eligible player, and has pitched like an ace for two straight years now. He’s 28 years old and would be a perfect #2 to deGrom’s #1 in the rotation. Castillo has high strikeout numbers, a decent career WHIP, and brings lots of energy to the field when he’s starting. Castillo is good enough right now to win a Cy Young award and that’s why the trade package would need to be strong to get him with at least half the league exploring it since it was reported that the Reds were listening to offers for Castillo. I included Mauricio because of how much Cincinnati would probably want him, combined with the fact that the Mets currently have two highly regarded young shortstops already on the major league roster and the impending probability that the Mets make a run at one of the star shortstops slated to hit free agency a year from now. Davis is included so they add some punch to their lineup right away and have a Eugenio Suarez replacement ready, if and when Cincinnati trades him. A deGrom-Castillo 1-2 for the next 3 years at minimum is a scary thought for the rest of the NL. This may be a steep price on the Mets’ end, but you gotta pay a premium for an ascending star pitcher with three affordable years of control left. The package also has to be worthwhile for Cincinnati to even consider it as well. You also get a cheaper insurance policy incase one or both of Syndergaard and Stroman bolt next year.

Move #3: Sign Japanese SP Tomoyuki Sugano to a 2-3 year, $26-39M deal ($13M AAV)
The Mets desperately need starting pitching help behind Jacob deGrom and that’s what’s happening here. Sugano is the biggest international free agent being made available this free agency, coming over from the NPB in Japan, which is regarded as the toughest baseball league in the world after MLB. Sugano is 31 years old, has dominated for the last half-decade, and hasn’t had an ERA above 2.14, outside of 2019 when he dealt with a back injury. He isn’t a huge strikeout guy but still produces strikeouts at a good clip. Multiple reports say that it’ll only be a 2-3 year deal for Sugano’s first MLB contract and should cost somewhere between $12-15M annually. Going off that, the Mets would be crazy not to be in on Sugano (they have been, according to multiple reports), and make the starting rotation as deep and tough as it can be compared to 2020. Sugano finished the 2020 season with a 14-2 record, 1.97 ERA, and a 0.88 WHIP, so he’d be coming over after a very strong final season in Japan.

Move #4: Sign LHRP Brad Hand to a 1 year, $9M deal
The Mets could surely use one more bullpen piece to create a scary force when the starting pitcher exits. The team is desperate for another left-handed reliever and Hand will give them that, plus immense closing experience. The Indians shockingly declined a $10M option on Hand’s contract, making him a free agent this offseason. Hand has 105 career saves under his belt, an ERA that’s never been higher than 3.30 since 2015, league average WHIP, and great strikeout numbers. Add that to Edwin Diaz, Seth Lugo, Dellin Betances, Trevor May, Jeurys Familia, and Brad Brach, and you got yourself a menacing bullpen.

Current Projected Mets 2021 Payroll: $157.28M (according to Spotrac)

Projected Mets 2021 Payroll With My Additions: $203.98M ($157.28+$46.7M)
Still leaves the team with $6.02M before hitting the CBT

2021 Roster:
C: James McCann
1B: Pete Alonso/Dominic Smith
2B: Jeff McNeil
3B: Andres Gimenez
SS: Amed Rosario
OF: Brandon Nimmo
OF: George Springer
OF: Michael Conforto
DH: Dominic Smith/Pete Alonso

BN: Mallex Smith (OF)
BN: Tomas Nido (C)
BN: Luis Guillorme (INF)
BN: Marwin Gonzalez or Danny Santana (UTIL)

SP: Jacob deGrom
SP: Luis Castillo
SP: Tomoyuki Sugano
SP: Marcus Stroman
SP: Noah Syndergaard (David Peterson during Noah’s rehab)

RP: Edwin Diaz
RP: Seth Lugo
RP: Trevor May
RP: Dellin Betances
RP: Brad Hand
RP: Jeurys Familia
RP: Brad Brach
RP: David Peterson (Miguel Castro while Peterson starts the first 2-3 months)

2020 MLB Awards Picks

The 2020 MLB Postseason picture (image credit: CBS Sports)

The 2020 MLB season has come and gone in the blink of an eye. That’s to be expected with this 60 game shortened season but I’m not sure anyone expected it to go by this fast. With this season we’ve seen quite a few unexpected teams and players surprise us and either make playoff berths or have breakout seasons. Major League Baseball also expanded the playoff system this season from 8 to 16 teams and creating a new best 2-out-of-3 wild card series before the division series’. The higher seeds in those wild card series will be the home team for all three potential games. The World Series will be held at the Texas Rangers’ new ballpark in Arlington. The American League field will play at Dodger Stadium and Petco Park starting in the ALDS, while the National League field will play at Minute Maid Park and Globe Life Park starting with the NLDS. There will also be no off days between games in each series besides the World Series.

For the first time I will be doing an “All MLB Team” like the NBA does their “First Team All NBA” and the NFL does their “First Team All Pro” teams. I will also be doing an “All Rookie Team” as well, despite MLB not doing either of those at all. And of course I will be making my postseason picks as well. Let’s get to it

NL Wild Card Series:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over #8 Milwaukee Brewers 2-0
#7 Cincinnati Reds over #2 Atlanta Braves 2-1
#6 Miami Marlins over #3 Chicago Cubs 2-1
#4 San Diego Padres over #5 St.Louis Cardinals 2-1

AL Wild Card Series:
#1 Tampa Bay Rays over #8 Toronto Blue Jays 2-1
#7 Chicago White Sox over #2 Oakland A’s 2-1
#6 Houston Astros over #3 Minnesota Twins 2-1
#4 Cleveland Indians over #5 New York Yankees 2-1

NLDS:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over #4 San Diego Padres 3-1
#7 Cincinnati Reds over #6 Miami Marlins 3-1

ALDS:
#1 Tampa Bay Rays over #4 Cleveland Indians 3-2
#7 Chicago White Sox over #6 Houston Astros 3-1

NLCS:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over #7 Cincinnati Reds 4-2

ALCS:
#1 Tampa Bay Rays over #7 Chicago White Sox 4-2

World Series:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over #1 Tampa Bay Rays 4-2

MVP Awards:
NL: Freddie Freeman, 1B, Atlanta Braves
AL: Jose Ramirez, 3B, Cleveland Indians

Cy Young Awards:
NL: Trevor Bauer, SP, Cincinnati Reds
AL: Shane Bieber, SP, Cleveland Indians

Rookie Of The Year Awards:
NL: Devin Williams, RP, Milwaukee Brewers
AL: Kyle Lewis, OF, Seattle Mariners

Comeback Player Of The Year Awards:
NL: Trevor Bauer, SP, Cincinnati Reds
AL: Byron Buxton, OF, Minnesota Twins

Manager Of The Year Awards:
NL: Jayce Tingler, San Diego
AL: Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay

ALL MLB Team:
C: J.T. Realmuto, Philadelphia Phillies
1B: Freddie Freeman, Atlanta Braves
2B: D.J. LeMahieu, New York Yankees
3B: Jose Ramirez, Cleveland Indians
SS: Tim Anderson, Chicago White Sox
OF: Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
OF: Mike Trout, Los Angeles Angels
OF: Juan Soto, Washington Nationals
SP: Shane Bieber, Cleveland Indians
RP: Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers

ALL Rookie Team:
C: Sean Murphy, Oakland A’s
1B: Jared Walsh, Los Angeles Angels
2B: Jake Cronenworth, San Diego Padres
3B: Alec Bohm, Philadelphia Phillies
SS: Willi Castro, Detroit Tigers
OF: Kyle Lewis, Seattle Mariners
OF: Luis Robert, Chicago White Sox
OF: Ryan Mountcastle, Baltimore Orioles
SP: Tony Gonsolin, Los Angeles Dodgers
RP: Devin Williams, Milwaukee Brewers

2020 MLB Season Picks

The 2020 MLB season is finally upon us! After a tumultuous 9 months, the world’s greatest game is returning, albeit in a shortened 60 games in 66 days sprint of a season. For reasons all too obvious the 2020 MLB season was delayed by 4 months, thus forcing this season that is barely over a third of a normal season. This creates lots of different options for postseason picks because all it can take is a team storming out of the gates hot that could set itself up in prime position for a playoff spot. Remember the Mets starting their season 11-1 a couple of years ago? Or what about the hot start the Mariners got out to last year? Have either of these teams been to the playoffs in the last few years? No, and in the Mariners’ case, not even at least in the last decade. Now in a 60 game sprint, getting off to those types of starts is almost paramount and gives a team or teams a huge leg up during this sprint of a season. Any teams that get off to, say a 5-10 start, may already start to panic this season but not normally during a 162 game full season. Here are some tidbits before we take a look at my picks: I believe 2020 very well may be the year of the underdog and we may well see multiple surprise teams making the playoffs ahead of their rebuilding schedules. So without further ado, here are the picks

AL East:
1. New York Yankees (39-21)
2. Tampa Bay Rays (36-24) *
3. Toronto Blue Jays (24-36)
4. Boston Red Sox (19-41)
5. Baltimore Orioles (14-46)

AL Central:
1. Chicago White Sox (34-26)
2. Minnesota Twins (33-27) *
3. Cleveland Indians (28-32) *

4. Kansas City Royals (17-43)
5. Detroit Tigers (13-47)

AL West:
1. Houston Astros (35-25)
2. Oakland A’s (31-29) *
3. Texas Rangers (27-33) *

4. Los Angeles Angels (24-36)
5. Seattle Mariners (20-40)

NL East:
1. Atlanta Braves (34-26)
2. New York Mets (32-28) *
3. Washington Nationals (30-30) *
4. Philadelphia Phillies (28-32) *

5. Miami Marlins (15-45)

NL Central:
1. Cincinnati Reds (35-25)
2. St.Louis Cardinals (31-29) *
3. Chicago Cubs (28-32)
4. Milwaukee Brewers (24-36)
5. Pittsburgh Pirates (16-44)

NL West:
1. Los Angeles Dodgers (39-21)
2. San Diego Padres (30-30) *
3. Arizona Diamondbacks (27-33)
4. Colorado Rockies (21-39)
5. San Francisco Giants (12-48)

AL Wild Card Series:
#1 New York Yankees over
#8 Texas Rangers 2-0
#2 Houston Astros over #7 Cleveland Indians 2-1
#6 Oakland A’s over #3 Chicago White Sox 2-1
#4 Tampa Bay Rays over #5 Minnesota Twins 2-1

NL Wild Card Series:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over
#8 Philadelphia Phillies 2-0
#2 Cincinnati Reds over #7 Washington Nationals 2-1
#3 Atlanta Braves over #6 San Diego Padres 2-0
#4 New York Mets over #5 St.Louis Cardinals 2-1

ALDS:
#4 Tampa Bay Rays over
#1 New York Yankees 3-2
#6 Oakland A’s over #2 Houston Astros 3-2

NLDS:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over
#4 New York Mets 3-2
#2 Cincinnati Reds over #3 Atlanta Braves 3-1

ALCS:
#4 Tampa Bay Rays over
#6 Oakland A’s 4-2

NLCS:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over
#2 Cincinnati Reds 3-2

World Series:
#1 Los Angeles Dodgers over
#4 Tampa Bay Rays 4-2

AL MVP: Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox
NL MVP: Cody Bellinger, OF, Los Angeles Dodgers

AL Cy Young: Mike Clevinger, SP, Cleveland Indians
NL Cy Young: Luis Castillo, SP, Cincinnati Reds

AL Rookie Of The Year: Luis Robert, CF, Chicago White Sox
NL Rookie Of The Year: Shogo Akiyama, OF, Cincinnati Reds

AL Manager Of The Year: Rick Rentería, Chicago White Sox
NL Manager Of The Year: Luis Rojas, New York Mets

How Can The Knicks Get Back To Relevancy If No Stars Will Sign In New York?

The New York Knicks whiffed big in 2020 free agency. How is that any different from prior offseasons? The Knicks have stunk it up for the better part of the last 20 years and have become a franchise so defunct and unstable, that big-time free agents don’t even consider New York a viable destination. LeBron and Bosh in 2010? That was a nice dream. LeBron again in 2014? There was even less hope then. LaMarcus Aldridge in 2015? He laughed at president Phil Jackson for suggesting he’d play center. Kevin Durant, Kawhi Leonard, Jimmy Butler, or Kyrie Irving in 2019? None even considered the Knicks, while two of them (Durant and Irving) signed with the Knicks’ cross-town rivals, the Brooklyn Nets. So why is it that marquee free agents won’t even look in the direction of the Knicks, let alone actually sign with them? It all starts from inside and at the top, with owner James Dolan always meddling.

Now it’s easy to put it all on Dolan, and a majority of it is. Although this doesn’t go without mentioning that, now ex-president Steve Mills and general manager Scott Perry have not done a very good job of running the team since they were paired together and Dolan took a little bit of a backseat to them when Perry was hired in 2017. All the Knicks have done in that time is fire two head coaches, fail to make the playoffs, whiff on key free agents, poorly develop the young talent, and remained amongst the three worst teams in basketball each season. Not only that but for some odd reason the front office decided it’d be a good idea to sign a bunch of power forwards in free agency after missing out on Durant and Irving, their preferred duo. Now granted, one of those power forwards was Julius Randle, an emerging young star in the league who played his first four seasons with the Lakers and then left for New Orleans, where his skill set really shined and exploded. Another one of those power forwards is Marcus Morris Sr., who originally had a deal with the Spurs but wound up changing his mind to come to New York. Morris had been a very pleasant surprise this season with his scoring, toughness, attitude, and locker room leadership. A nice little find there on a one year deal and they were able to flip him to the LA Clippers for a first-round pick and a useful forward in Moe Harkless. I liked the Julius Randle signing when I’d heard about it and at three years and $63 million, I thought it was great value. Only half a season in and that deal has not lived up to the billing at all. Randle is still a nice player but he doesn’t appear to fit in with the system. Could Randle turn it around? Of course, the guy is super talented as he showed you in Los Angeles and more so New Orleans. In yet another lost season, it would definitely behoove the Knicks to float Randle’s name out there in trade talks after this season.

There’s also failed trades with this regime that appears out the door. There was attempting to trade a than still injured Kristaps Porzingiz and potentially more for Anthony Davis when he was in New Orleans. That didn’t work out, so they dumped Porzingis to Dallas for two future 1sts, young point guard Dennis Smith Jr., and immense salary relief. Not only did New York miss out on the top tier free agents with the room created by trading Porzingis but what they got in return didn’t contribute anything, although two future first-round picks (2021 & 2023) will allow this trade to not be properly evaluated for close to a decade. With Mills having been recently fired and impending team president Leon Rose needing an experienced and well regarded general manager under him, Scott Perry is all but out the door as well. Will this new regime bring different results? It remains to be seen but above all Dolan has to keep his input out and just write the checks.

Now with a new regime coming in does that mean that free agents will automatically start eyeing New York as a viable destination? Not at all, not at least until they see how they develop talent and/or how involved Dolan is with the day to day operations of the organization. The great news for the new management team coming in is that the old regime has done a solid job building up draft capital for them to use, which includes two first-round picks in 2020, 2021, and 2023, and seven 1st round picks in total over the next 4 drafts. There’s also what looks like two solid foundational pieces in place with shooting guard RJ Barrett and center Mitchell Robinson. Both have had up and down rookie and sophomore seasons, respectively, but have shown plenty of flashes of immense potential in their game. The Knicks can hold onto all of their upcoming draft picks and try to build a homegrown powerhouse but being able to hit on quite a few draft picks like that is extremely tough and we don’t know what kind of track record the new GM will have when it comes to drafting talent. There’s also the fact that Dolan still lurks in the background and may want to win right away (who doesn’t) and push for at least some of that draft capital be moved for an established star(s), which looks to be the only way the Knicks are getting a superstar to join them for a while.

Should the Knicks trade away all that capital for established players? No, but this team needs an identity and a leader to push them into the future. At the start of writing this, I had a player like Karl-Anthony Towns as a prime target the Knicks should be after but as of this writing Towns has been joined by explosive point guard D’Angelo Russell in Minnesota thanks to a blockbuster trade on deadline day between the Wolves and Warriors. With KAT being joined by another young superstar and both being locked into long term contracts, the Knicks have no chance of landing either in the foreseeable future. The only superstars at the moment I can think of that will be involved in trade rumors this summer are Cleveland PF/C Kevin Love and Washington SG Bradley Beal, the former whom I wouldn’t pursue and the latter whom I would definitely consider if you think RJ Barrett can slide over to small forward and stick there. Many “experts” are in agreement that the upcoming 2020 NBA draft is weak after the first 2-3 picks, so I would definitely dangle our own top 5-10 pick if it doesn’t land 1 or 2 in a trade for an established star. Amongst the seven picks the Knicks own in the next 4 drafts is their own in each year, the LA Clippers’ 2020 and Dallas’ 2021 and 2023 (top 10 protected through 2025). You have to figure that the three picks incoming from other teams will be low picks (in the 20’s) judging by how those teams are presently constructed and operate. So the only picks you expect to be high, and not high for long hopefully, will be the Knicks’ own picks.

There shouldn’t be any hesitation to trade one or multiple of the incoming 1st rounders if it means bringing in well regarded established talent that can help win now. If a scenario arises where the Knicks can obtain a star (such as Beal) on draft night and they don’t own picks #1 or #2, I’d be heavily inclined to pull the trigger. If the Knicks are lucky enough to get the #1 or #2 pick in the draft, I’d be all over Georgia SG/SF Anthony Edwards and former Memphis C James Wiseman. I’m not currently enamored with any other draft prospects outside of Edwards and Wiseman, so I’d heavily consider trading the NY 1st (with more potentially) in the right deal. Getting a star in MSG will automatically help attract other stars into wanting to play at MSG as well. The 2021 NBA draft and free agency classes are both expected to be way deeper than 2020, so the Knicks would be better suited to keep their payroll clear of long term agreements and their picks (or at least their own) in 2021.

The way to build the Knicks, even more so with the extra draft capital, is through trades and player development. Without an established star patrolling the hardwood in orange & blue at Madison Square Garden, the organization and fan base need not look to free agency for improvement as no one wants to willingly play here. Draft lottery night can’t get here quick enough to see what the next development in the Knicks franchise will be.

2020 NFL Round 1 Mock Draft

The 2019 NFL regular season has culminated and we are ready for the playoffs to begin. We have the same division winners in the AFC (New England, Baltimore, Houston, Kansas City) but the two wildcard teams are new. We have the surprising upstart Buffalo Bills holding down the #5 seed at 10-6 and the Tennessee Titans securing the #6 seed at 9-7, just narrowly edging out the Pittsburgh Steelers for the final spot.

In the NFC, we have only one repeat division champion (New Orleans), while the same two wildcard teams from last year made it, albeit one is now a division winner (Philadelphia). The San Francisco 49ers shocked everyone when they went 13-3 to secure the NFC West title and the #1 seed in the NFC. The Seattle Seahawks also return to the postseason for the second season in a row as the #5 seed. The Green Bay Packers had a resurgent season under first-year head coach Matt LaFleur, finishing at 12-4, atop the NFC North, and earning a first-round bye. The Minnesota Vikings return to the postseason for the second time in three years, clinching the 6th and final seed in the NFC, thanks to a fully healthy season from running back Dalvin Cook and great play by QB Kirk Cousins from October onward. The biggest shock of all may be that last year’s NFC representative in the Super Bowl, the Los Angeles Rams, failed to even qualify for the playoffs this season, finishing at 9-7. From 13-3 and a Super Bowl berth to 9-7 and on the outside looking in, what a fall from grace in one season for the Rams. Luckily for them, they’re still set up to have a very nice future and they get to move into their new LA Stadium in Englewood in August.

Other teams that you could say underperformed on expectations would be the Cleveland Browns (6-10), Dallas Cowboys (8-8), Jacksonville Jaguars (6-10), Chicago Bears (8-8), and LA Chargers (5-11). A weird season for sure but another fun one nonetheless. The draft order is set 1-20 with the final 12 spots to be determined in the next few weeks. So with that, we can officially launch the year’s first mock draft. The new crop of NFL prospects entering the league leans heavily offense in the first round, which you don’t get to say too often for draft classes. Most notably it is expected to run heavy on wide receivers as many are calling this one of the greatest draft classes for the wide receiver position. So let’s get to it, shall we?
The draft order from 25-32 is based on current records going into Divisional Round weekend.

*All team needs were researched on thedraftnetwork.com*

1.Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow, QB, LSU – The Bengals will finally wave goodbye to the Andy Dalton era when they select their new quarterback of the future with the #1 overall pick in the 2020 draft. Dalton guided the Bengals to a few playoff appearances during his tenure but he never took that next big step to be elite and could never make it to the AFC Title game. The fact that the Bengals went 2-14 and benched Dalton during a stretch of the season tells you all you need to know about where they expected to finish and what their plans were. Burrow was the best QB in college football by a mile this season thanks to an incredible 77.6% completion rate, 55 touchdown passes, and only six interceptions. He has gone from a 5th-6th round prospect (coming into the season according to Todd McShay of ESPN) to what’s essentially an automatic lock of a #1 overall pick. Transferring from Ohio State to LSU sure worked out in Joe’s favor.

2. Washington Redskins: Chase Young, EDGE, Ohio State – Many experts and analysts are saying Young is a better pass rusher than both of the Bosa brothers. Pretty crazy to say considering how good the Bosa’s are but if you watched the tape on Young, you’d understand why he’s held in such high regard. The thing that sticks out to me about Young compared to the Bosa’s is I believe Young is noticeably faster with his first move and additional moves to get to the quarterback. Young is easily the best edge rusher in this class and that’s exactly what the Redskins need to add to their rebuilding team.

3. Detroit Lions: Andrew Thomas, OT, Georgia – The Lions lost quarterback Matthew Stafford 10 weeks into the season. They could definitely use an edge rusher like Young but no one else is as worthy of being selected this high at that position. Detroit boasts a nice receiving corps with Marvin Jones Jr., Kenny Golladay, and tight end T.J. Hockenson, so protecting Stafford is a must if they want any chance to stay in games and to get Stafford closer to a Super Bowl berth before his time is up. Crazy to think that Stafford was the #1 overall pick out of Georgia 11 years ago. 11! Before it’s too late the Lions need to upgrade the offensive line and better protect their franchise QB. Thomas is the consensus best offensive lineman in this draft and can play both tackle spots.

4. New York Giants: Jeff Okudah, CB, Ohio State The Giants would love to grab Chase Young as well but alas he’s gone. Perhaps the Giants shouldn’t have tried so hard to win those last couple contests against the Redskins and Dolphins. Regardless, the Giants could use help all over their defense and getting a stud corner like Okudah would be a big step in rebuilding that defense. Ohio State has done a great job recently of producing big-time NFL ready corners. The other option here would be to target the offensive line with Young off the board.

5. Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, QB, Alabama – This is a tough spot for the Dolphins as they can potentially get a franchise quarterback at #5, but has dealt with his fair share of injuries in his collegiate career and is currently recovering from a very bad hip injury. If not for the injury concerns, we would be talking about Tua at the top of the draft with Burrow and Young. Miami currently roles with Ryan Fitzpatrick at QB but need a future stud franchise QB and if not for the injuries, wouldn’t normally have a chance to grab Tua at 5. There’s also the possibility that Miami doesn’t like the medical outlook for Tua and decide to pass on him. I feel that Tua will be recovered enough from the hip injury in time for the draft and medical advancements have come far enough where an injury like this can be put in the rearview mirror. Miami grabs their future QB and Josh Rosen loses again.

6. Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert, QB, Oregon – It looks as if it’s time to move on from the Philip Rivers era for the Chargers. The Chargers fell from 12-4 in 2018 to 5-11 in 2019 and the worst team in their division. A 7 game swing that had to do with the whole team but a lot to do with the decline of Rivers, who’s been at the helm of the Chargers since week 1 of the 2006 season and hasn’t missed a game since. After this past season and reaching the age of 38, it may be time to change eras. The Giants did it this past season by letting last years #6 overall pick Daniel Jones take over for legend Eli Manning and he balled out and has Giants fans very eager to see what’s next from him in 2020. Pittsburgh may be thinking of doing the same with Ben Roethlisberger, who endured a season-ending injury in September and had to roll with their backup and third-string quarterbacks the rest of the way. Herbert may not have the upside and ceiling of Tua or Burrow, but he was in the conversation for the #1 overall pick last year before returning to school and improving a bit this season. LA could definitely give Herbert a year to study Rivers if they decided to like Rivers did for TWO seasons behind Drew Brees in 2004 and 2005.

7. Carolina Panthers: Derrick Brown, IDL, Auburn – The Panthers need help across their defensive line and they get the best true lineman in the draft. The Panthers could go QB here if they feel they want to move on from Cam Newton but I’d shy away from that and try to get the team right in order for one more run with Newton at the helm, although this team may be on the verge of a rebuild.

8. Arizona Cardinals: Jedrick Wills Jr., OT, Alabama – The number one thing any team should do after drafting a franchise quarterback is to beef up that offensive line as much and as quick as possible to get the most out of him during his rookie contract and to make sure he can stay upright and learn the game. The Cardinals took a major chance on Kyler Murray #1 overall in 2019 after spending the #10 pick in 2018 on UCLA QB Josh Rosen (currently in Miami, may be hurt again by his team drafting a QB as I have them doing). Now in order to make that decision work, they need to protect Kyler better and give him a chance to make plays and guide Arizona back up the NFC West standings, although that may take some more time with how great that division currently is. I struggled with putting the first receiver here but think protecting Murray is more essential.

9. Jacksonville Jaguars: Jerry Jeudy, WR, Alabama – Jeudy is the most polished wide receiver prospect since Amari Cooper to most analysts, even Julio Jones. Do you see the common denominator amongst those three? They all went to Alabama, which continues to churn out NFL ready talent at the wide receiver position. This is also without mentioning Calvin Ridley, who had an amazing sophomore season with the Atlanta Falcons, playing alongside Jones. The Jags could use help along with their back seven on defense but I don’t see a secondary prospect leaping up to this spot and I think Jacksonville would opt for the elite wide receiver prospect over linebacker Isiah Simmons from Clemson.

10. Cleveland Browns: Tristan Wirfs, OT, Iowa – The Browns need help all over but no more than on the offensive line. Cleveland endured a disastrous season after making headline moves during the offseason. An offense that includes #1 overall pick quarterback Baker Mayfield, running backs Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt, wide receivers Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, and tight end David Njoku, should not have sputtered all season, save for Njoku (who was hurt a majority of the year), Chubb (who more than carried his end of the load), and Hunt (who provided somewhat of a spark after his activation from the suspended listín the second half of the season). It all starts upfront with the offensive line that failed to protect Mayfield and didn’t allow the offense to click the way it should have. There’s no guards or centers worth taking this high but there’s Wirfs out of Iowa, who can play tackle and be a key future blocker for Mayfield.

11. New York Jets: CeeDee Lamb, WR, Oklahoma – The Jets need help mostly at receiver, offensive line, edge rusher, and corner. There’s no corner or offensive lineman worth taking this high, leaving edge rusher A.J. Epenesa from Iowa, linebacker Isiah Simmons out of Clemson, who at this point would be considered having fell in the draft and would be somewhat of an ancillary pick for the Jets, or the run of wideouts behind Jeudy that includes his teammate Henry Ruggs III, Lamb from Oklahoma, and Tee Higgins from Clemson. Entering year three of the Sam Darnold era, the Jets need to give him all the help they can now and with no offensive lineman to take here, they need to get Darnold a future #1 receiver to help run the offense. Lamb is 6’2, 190 lbs, but doesn’t possess burner speed. Either way, Lamb profiles to be a #1 option regardless and that’s what the Jets need to give Darnold, especially if Robby Anderson leaves in free agency, which I suspect he will.

12. Oakland Raiders: Tee Higgins, WR, Clemson – The Raiders’ biggest needs are linebacker and wideout. The way this mock draft has shaken out, they land in a great position to grab one of the top receivers left or grab the sliding top linebacker in the draft in Simmons. I would’ve normally gone Simmons here thanks to his slide but with the Raiders moving to Las Vegas next season and starting a new era, I feel the organization may want to make a “flashier” move heading into their new city and building, thus taking a skill position player like Higgins. This also fits the motto of the Raiders, most specifically former owner Al Davis. This move makes more sense as well if the Raiders commit to Derek Carr and want to give him help and any hope at succeeding.

13. Indianapolis Colts: A,J, Epenesa, EDGE, Iowa – The Colts could go a few different directions here but grab the second edge rusher of the draft to bolster their defense and fill a need. I believe the Colts are comfortable enough with Jacoby Brissett at quarterback, so they won’t reach for one here. They could definitely use receiver help but I believe they’ll fill that in free agency/later rounds of the draft. Getting the second-best edge rusher at #13 is a nice coup, even if it’s a decent drop off from Chase Young.

14. Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Javon Kinlaw, IDL, South Carolina – The Bucs could use help across their offensive line and maybe even quarterback if they decide to move on from Jameis Winston, which I don’t believe they will. That leaves the interior of their defensive line to address and running back. I like this year running back class but not enough to put someone up at #14. That gives me Javon Kinlaw for the pick, an interior lineman who’s shot up draft boards and would certainly help that Bucs defense that got its offense into quite a few shootouts in 2019.

15. Denver Broncos: Isiah Simmons, LB, Clemson – Denver has five primary needs (wide receiver, offensive tackle, cornerback, safety, and linebacker). This is a very tough choice between Simmons and LSU safety Grant Delpit. I went with Simmons considering the slide he’s had and the fact that most analysts have him as a top-five player. Getting a top-five player at #15 is a steal and Denver is a good organization that will get what they expect out of Simmons. It also helps that Denver is expected to have amongst the most cap room of any team in free agency and can fill their other needs through there.

16. Atlanta Falcons: Grant Delpit, S, LSU – The best safety in the draft and someone I think is a just slightly lesser version of Jamal Adams, falls to 16 and helps try to revamp this ATL defense.

17. Dallas Cowboys: C,J, Henderson, CB, Florida – The Cowboys add some much needed defensive help, although it isn’t a front seven guy. Henderson is the second-best corner in a draft relatively weak with corner help in my opinion. Henderson will be a welcome addition to a defense that could use help all over.

18. Miami Dolphins (From Pittsburgh: Austin Jackson, OT, USC – The Dolphins use their second first-round pick on a big offensive tackle to protect their new franchise quarterback. Jackson was a top half of the first-round prospect going into this season but slipped with an up and down season. This could be a steal for Miami.

19. Las Vegas Raiders (From Chicago): Paulson Adebo, CB, Stanford – The Raiders hit their biggest need at 13 with the Higgins pick but now need to get right in their secondary and Adebo gives them much needed secondary help.

20. Jacksonville Jaguars (From Los Angeles (N)): Kristian Fulton, CB, LSU – The Jags use their second first-round pick, like Vegas, to grab a corner to go with their earlier wideout selection. This is a need after trading Jalen Ramsey to Los Angeles.

21. Philadelphia Eagles: Henry Ruggs III, WR, Alabama – The Eagles badly need an injection of young talent at the wide receiver position for Carson Wentz. The group Philly put out in 2019 couldn’t stay on the field and Carson Wentz was heavily using his tight ends by the end of the season. Get Wentz some help with a burner like Ruggs III.

22. Buffalo Bills: Terrell Lewis, EDGE, Alabama – The Bills could use a younger long term wide receiver for Josh Allen but I think they can get someone in round 2. Buffalo needs to work on that pass rush after a surprising season that saw them finish 10-6 and make it to the postseason.

23. New England Patriots: Yetur Gross-Matos, EDGE, Penn State – The Patriots boasted the best defense in 2019 but that didn’t help them avoid a first-round playoff exit vs Tennessee. Although Gross-Matos is a defensive player, they could use more depth and long term pieces. I believe Bellichick will help the offense through free agency vets.

24. New Orleans Saints: Trevon Diggs, CB, Alabama – The Saints could use someone to roam the middle of the field, a legit #2 to Mike Thomas, an interior offensive lineman, or another corner to pair with Marshon Lattimore. I decided to go with Diggs after the way Kirk Cousins was somewhat able to throw on the New Orleans secondary in the playoff game. NOLA does a good job finding offensive linemen late.

25. Tennessee Titans: K’Lavon Chaisson, EDGE, LSU – The Titans are still amongst the final 8 teams playing, which is a testament to how great a job Mike Vrable has done and the amazing season that Derrick Henry had. Tennessee needs help on both of its lines and needs to rush the quarterback better and they get a guy in Chaisson who’s great value at 25.

26. Minnesota Vikings: Tyler Biadasz, G/C, Wisconsin – The Vikings grab an offensive lineman out of the offensive linemen factory known as Wisconsin. They could go for a corner here but I think the value with Biadasz at this spot works better.

27. Miami Dolphins (From Houston): J.K. Dobbins, RB, Ohio State – Dobbins is neck-and-neck with DeAndre Swift of Georgia for the title of best running back in this class. It’s a toss-up really but I lean Dobbins and he’d fit in perfectly with the young nucleus Miami is trying to build on offense.

28. Seattle Seahawks: Laviska Shenault Jr., WR, Colorado – Shenault Jr. joins the impressive wide receiver class of 2020 thanks to good route running, contested catch ability, and his 6’2, 220 lb frame. He isn’t a burner but he’ll fit in perfectly alongside Tyler Lockett and D.K. Metcalf. Another new weapon for Russ Wilson.

29. Kansas City Chiefs: Kenneth Murray, LB, Oklahoma – Murray fits KC perfectly, he can stuff the run and cover running backs and tight ends with his speed and size. At 29, Murray is a steal for the Chiefs here and he’s exactly what they need.

30. Green Bay Packers: Justin Jefferson, WR, LSU – The Packers could use more depth at receiver and the next best receiver is Jefferson out of LSU. This kid can fly and make tough catches. He can be dominant as well, based off his 4 touchdown catches in the first half against Oklahoma in their CFP semifinal game. Aaron Rodgers will love this pick.

31. San Francisco 49ers: Xavier McKinney, S, Alabama – The second-best safety in this class falls to the Niners at 31. McKinney fits the team perfectly and will help improve this young improving defense.

32. Baltimore Ravens: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama – Yes, this is the THIRD wide receiver from Alabama being drafted in the first round. Goes to show how great Alabama is at prepping its wideouts for the NFL. Lamar Jackson needs weapons at wide receiver badly and this positional pick will be very popular for Baltimore as the draft gets near.

Questions or comments? Leave a comment or tweet me at @ScoreboardSteve

2019 NFL Season Picks

The 2019 NFL season is upon us with the Chicago Bears playing host to the Green Bay Packers on opening night. This matchup pits the team that won the NFC North last season (Chicago) against their longtime biggest division rivals from Green Bay, who’re looking to reclaim the division with a new coaching staff in place that Aaron Rodgers is eager to get to work with. It should be a great game with the top flight Bears defense going at it with Aaron Rodgers and the high octane offense of the Packers. It’s truly a great way to start the 2019 season without featuring the reigning champs (New England).

We witnessed an incredible 2018 season that saw youngster Pat Mahomes take the league by storm and capture his first NFL MVP award and guide the Chiefs all the way to an overtime loss in the AFC Title game. We also saw rookie quarterbacks take over the league as Baker Mayfield (Cleveland), Sam Darnold (New York Jets), Josh Allen (Buffalo), and Lamar Jackson (Baltimore) all had impressive rookie seasons that has fans eager to see how they all respond in their sophomore seasons. The Rams and Chargers brought playoff football back to Los Angeles in a big way, with the Rams reaching the Super Bowl thanks to an incredibly high powered offense. That high powered offense didn’t show up in the Super Bowl though, as they were crippled by the Patriots defense in a 13-3 defensive slug fest.

That brings us to the 2019 season and seeing who progresses and regresses, which I will try to predict. So here goes… * indicated wild card team

AFC East:

1. New England Patriots (12-4)

2. New York Jets (10-6)*

3. Buffalo Bills (6-10)

4. Miami Dolphins (4-12)

AFC North:

1. Cleveland Browns (10-6)

2. Pittsburgh Steelers (9-7)

3. Baltimore Ravens (8-8)

4. Cincinnati Bengals (3-13)

AFC South:

1. Houston Texans (9-7)

2. Jacksonville Jaguars (9-7)

3. Tennessee Titans (6-10)

4. Indianapolis Colts (5-11)

AFC West:

1. Kansas City Chiefs (11-5)

2. Los Angeles Chargers (10-6)*

3. Denver Broncos (6-10)

4. Oakland Raiders (5-11)

NFC East:

1. Philadelphia Eagles (10-6)

2. Dallas Cowboys (8-8)

3. New York Giants (5-11)

4. Washington Redskins (4-12)

NFC North:

1. Green Bay Packers (12-4)

2. Chicago Bears (9-7)

3. Minnesota Vikings (8-8)

4. Detroit Lions (4-12)

NFC South:

1. New Orleans Saints (12-4)

2. Atlanta Falcons (9-7)*

3. Carolina Panthers (8-8)

4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers (5-11)

NFC West:

1. Los Angeles Rams (13-3)

2. San Francisco 49ers (9-7)*

3. Seattle Seahawks (9-7)

4. Arizona Cardinals (2-14)

Wild Card Weekend:

#3 Cleveland Browns over #6 New York Jets

#5 Los Angeles Chargers over #4 Houston Texans

#3 New Orleans Saints over #6 San Francisco 49ers

#4 Philadelphia Eagles over #5 Atlanta Falcons

Divisional Weekend:

#1 New England Patriots over #5 Los Angeles Chargers

#2 Kansas City Chiefs over #3 Cleveland Browns

#1 Los Angeles Rams over #4 Philadelphia Eagles

#2 Green Bay Packers over #3 New Orleans Saints

AFC Championship Game:

#1 New England Patriots over #2 Kansas City Chiefs

NFC Championship Game:

#2 Green Bay Packers over #1 Los Angeles Rams

Super Bowl:

#2 Green Bay Packers over #1 New England Patriots

NFL MVP: Tom Brady, QB, New England

Offensive Player Of The Year: Saquon Barkley, RB, New York Giants

Defensive Player Of The Year: Myles Garrett, EDGE, Cleveland Browns

Offensive Rookie Of The Year: A.J. Brown, WR, Tennessee Titans

Defensive Rookie Of The Year: Darnell Savage Jr., S, Green Bay Packers

Comeback Player Of The Year: Le’Veon Bell, RB, New York Jets

Coach Of The Year: Matt LaFleur, Green Bay Packers

2019 MLB Season Picks

2019 MLB Opening DayThe 2019 MLB season is a mere two weeks away and it can’t get here any faster. After a slow-moving offseason that saw both megastar free agents, Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, sign in late Februrary and early March, respectively. As of this writing there are still major free agents that remained unsigned, players by the name of Dallas Keuchle and Craig Kimbrel. The fact that one of the games best closers and a starter with a Cy Young on his resume and no scary injury history are still free agents in March is ridiculous and troublesome. It makes writing this article more difficult but sometimes you just gotta play the cards that your dealt and here we are.

We saw many major moves occur during this offseason, some predictably, some out of left field. Here’s a list of the biggest moves this offseason and a recap:
Robinson Cano and Edwin Diaz traded to the Mets for two top prospects & veterans
Wilson Ramos, Jed Lowrie, and Jeurys Familia all signed with the Mets
The Yankees acquired James Paxton (trade), Adam Ottavino, DJ LaMahieu, and Troy Tulowitzki
The Twins brought in Nelson Cruz, Marwin Gonzalez, and Jonathan Schoop
The Astros roped in Michael Brantley
The Mariners got Edwin Encarnacion, Yusei Kikuchi, two top three prospects of the Mets’, the Yankees’ top prospect, Mallex Smith, and Domingo Santana
The Braves brought back Brian McCann and also signed Josh Donaldson for 1 year
The Nats got Patrick Corbin, Yan Gomes, Anibal Sanchez, and Brian Dozier
The Phillies reeled in Bryce Harper, JT Realmuto, Andrew McCutchen, David Robertson, and Jean Segura
The Brewers got Mike Moustakas back and got Yasmani Grandal
The Cardinals made power moves and got Paul Goldschmidt and Andrew Miller
The Reds acquired Sonny Gray, Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp, and Alex Wood
The Dodgers added A.J. Pollock, Joe Kelly, Russell Martin (he’s back), and a couple of nice prospects from Cincinnati
The Padres were the winning suitor for Manny Machado, go figure

As you can see it was a busy offseason but a long one as well and now it’s time for baseball to be played. As of now it looks like the AL East will once again be a two team race between Boston and New York. The AL Central is getting better but Cleveland should still run it for now. The AL West is better, sans Seattle, but it looks like it’ll be Houston and Oakland in the top two spots. The NL East looks like it’s going to be a bloodbath as Philadelphia, Washington, New York, and Atlanta really loaded up this offseason and it should be a four team race all season. The NL Central is vastly improved and any team could pull away with the division crown. The NL West is also better, although Los Angeles once again will be heavily favored.

I think it’s safe to say that there is and will be a better showing of competitiveness and teams will be more closely grouped together in the NL. The AL, albeit improving, looks like it’ll be the same four powerhouses from last season (BOS, NYY, HOU, CLE) with the surprise 1-3 teams mixed in there along the lines. Before long Toronto, Tampa, Chicago, Minnesota, and LA will make their jump, perhaps even this year if someone has a surprise year like last years Oakland A’s team. I will also disclose my picks for all the awards like MVP, Cy Young, Rookie Of The Year, Comeback Player, Manager etc. Lets get to the picks.

*Wild card teams in italics behind division winners

AL East:
1.New York Yankees (103-59)
2.Boston Red Sox (99-63)
3.Tampa Bay Rays (89-73)
4.Toronto Blue Jays (77-85)
5.Baltimore Orioles (60-102)

AL Central:
1.Cleveland Indians (91-71)
2.Minnesota Twins (82-80)
3.Chicago White Sox (75-87)
4.Kansas City Royals (71-91)
5.Detroit Tigers (67-95)

AL West:
1.Houston Astros (98-64)
2.Oakland A’s (87-75)
3.Los Angeles Angels (80-82)
4.Texas Rangers (77-85)
5.Seattle Mariners (69-93)

NL East:
1.Washington Nationals (91-71)
2.New York Mets (89-73)
3.Atlanta Braves (88-74)
4.Philadelphia Phillies (85-77)
5. Miami Marlins (61-101)

NL Central:
1.St.Louis Cardinals (92-70)
2.Milwaukee Brewers (89-73)
3.Chicago Cubs (86-76)
4.Pittsburgh Pirates (81-81)
5.Cincinnati Reds (75-87)

NL West:
1.Los Angeles Dodgers (94-68)
2.Colorado Rockies (88-74)
3.San Diego Padres (79-83)
4.San Francisco Giants (74-88)
5.Arizona Diamondbacks (69-93)

AL MVP: Mike Trout, OF, Los Angeles Angels

The rest of the top three: Aaron Judge, Yankees & Alex Bregman, Astros

NL MVP: Paul Goldschmidt, 1B, St.Louis Cardinals

The rest of the top three: Nolan Arenado, Rockies & Michael Conforto, Mets

AL CY Young: Gerrit Cole, Houston Astros

The rest of the top three: Chris Sale, Red Sox & Shane Bieber, Indians

NL CY Young: Walker Buehler, Los Angeles Dodgers

The rest of the top three: Max Scherzer, Nationals & Jack Flaherty, Cardinals

AL Rookie Of The Year: Eloy Jimenez, OF, Chicago White Sox

The rest of the top three: Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Blue Jays & Justus Sheffield, Mariners

NL Rookie Of The Year: Fernando Tatis Jr., SS, San Diego Padres

The rest of the top three: Victor Robles, Nationals & Chris Paddack, Padres

AL Manager Of The Year: Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

The rest of the top three: Aaron Boone, Yankees & AJ Hinch, Astros

NL Manager Of The Year: Dave Martinez, Nationals

The rest of the top three: Dave Roberts, Dodgers & Mike Shildt, Cardinals

ALDS:

(1) New York over (4) Boston in 5 games, 3-2

(2) Houston over (3) Cleveland in 4 games, 3-1

NLDS:

(4) New York over (1) Los Angeles in 5 games, 3-2

(2) St.Louis over (3) Washington in 5 games, 3-2

ALCS:

(1) New York Yankees over (2) Houston Astros in 6 games, 4-2

NLCS:

(2) St.Louis Cardinals over (4) New York Mets in 7 games, 4-3

World Series:

(1) New York Yankees over (2) St.Louis Cardinals in 7 games, 4-3. Pete Alonso, Fernando Tatis Jr., Eloy Jimenez

What Should The Mets Do Next After Adding Cano, Diaz, & Familia

Brodie Van Wagenen new Mets GMThe Mets officially acquired second baseman Robinson Cano and closer Edwin Diaz from the Seattle Mariners on Monday, December 3rd. A press conference was held the next day at Citi Field to introduce the newest Mets. During the press conference new Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenan stated clearly that this move was made with the mindset that more is yet to come and this is only the beginning of a bigger and broader offseason plan. What exactly that means remains to be seen but it sure has fans in a frenzy and excited for what else BVW has in store. Turns out that Brodie wasn’t kidding around as he swooped in around 2:30 am EST on Thursday, December 13th to bring back reliever Jeurys Familia, who spent the past six and a half seasons with the Mets and catapulted himself into third place on the Mets’ all time saves list. It also appears that the Noah Syndergaard trade rumors can be put to bed as BVW said that Noah is a huge part of our team and future success. Some may look at that as Brodie not getting an offer to his liking but the thought of trading Noah was pretty egregious to begin with, unless of course another team came running with a package featuring multiple major league ready prospects, which no one has, yet. Unless a team like San Diego (who is very interested in Syndergaard) comes calling with a package that begins with Fernando Tatis Jr., the Mets will be hanging onto Syndergaard.

Now what exactly should BVW do next? He’s acquired a dangerous middle of the order bat in Cano, a dominant reliever in Diaz, and brought back one of the most dominant bullpen weapons the Mets have ever had in Familia. The team could still use some thump in the lineup, rotation depth, bullpen reinforcements, and a more firm answer at the catching position. There are many avenues to go as the free agent market is flush with bullpen arms and has quite a few impact bats. The trade market may have even more options especially on the starting pitching front. There’s definitely enough options out there for everyone but we’re focused on the Mets here. With Canó and Díaz in the fold here’s what else I’d do to *realistically* help turn this team around.

#1: Sign Marwin Gonzalez – The glue guy of the Astros’ lineups the last few years hits free agency and he has something to offer every team. Gonzalez is super versatile as he can play any infield position and both corner outfield spots. After a breakout 2017 during Houston’s World Series run, Gonzalez had a down 2018 season as he batted (.247/.324/.409/.733) with 16 HR’s, 68 RBI’s, and 61 runs scored. He nursed some injuries throughout the year and I believe he’s more closer to the hitter he was in 2017 (.303/.377/.530/.907) with 23 HR’s, 90 RBI’s, 67 runs, and a 146 OPS+. He’s not terrible defensively anywhere really. Gonzalez will be 30 on opening day 2019, shouldn’t command major dollars or length in his new deal, and is a perfect fit for the Mets. The Mets can always use versatility, especially with the amount of injuries they happen to get each season. Marwin is also a switch hitter and has provided quite a few clutch moments in Houston. I’d pencil Marwin in as a steady regular to see lots of time at left field, third base, and first base. Barring injury, I don’t see him taking many reps from Cano (second base) and Amed Rosario (shortstop). Gonzalez may not be a huge name but he’s a glue guy from a championship team and all teams could use someone like him.

Something around what I would offer him: 3-4 years, $36-54 million ($12-13.5 million a year)

#2: Sign Andrew Miller – Miller is coming off a 2018 season that was riddled with injuries and saw him stumble when he was able to take the field. When healthy and on his game, Miller is a buzzsaw on the mound with impressive strikeout rates, multi inning eater, and a great track record. Once a top starting pitching prospect that was included in the infamous Tigers-Marlins blockbuster of 2007 that saw Miguel Cabrera and Dontrelle Willis go to Detroit, Miller never quite panned out as a starter but when Boston turned him into a reliever, he saw lots of success and quickly became one of the most dominant relievers in the game. It’s that bullpen dominance that made the Yankees sign him to a four-year, $36 million deal prior to the 2015 season. Continued dominance in pinstripes led to the Yanks trading Miller during a lost 2016 campaign to the Cleveland Indians. The Indians wound up trading their two top prospects at the time, outfielder Clint Frazier and starting pitcher Justus Sheffield. That may sound like an overpay and may well be, but Miller proved his worth and was one of the main reasons Cleveland made it to the 2016 World Series, albeit in a losing effort. Miller has averaged 14+ K/9 since 2013, minus 2017 where he only dipped down to 13.6 and his injury riddled 2018 where he was still striking batters out at a 11.9 K/9 clip. If the Mets can add Miller to a bullpen that already features Edwin Diaz, Jeurys Familia, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman, they’d have arguably the most dominant bullpen. On top of all this, the Mets really need to add a lefty reliever. Miller is the best lefty on the market and brings a proven track record to the table. Why not go with the formula that Kansas City cooked up when they ousted the Mets in five games in the 2015 World Series?

Something around what I would offer him: 2 years, $16-18 million ($8-9 million a year)

#3: Sign Gio Gonzalez – Gio may not be the same pitcher he was when he first came up with Oakland and in his first few years with the Nats, but he’s still a quality lefty veteran who can stabilize the back-end of a rotation. In a rocky 2018 season that he split with Washington and Milwaukee, Gio pitched to a 4.21 ERA, but a majority of that was when he was still with the Nationals. After being traded to Milwaukee in August and making five starts down the stretch, Gonzalez compiled a 2.13 ERA for his new team. He even made two starts in the NLCS against the Dodgers, although neither start lasted more than 2.0 innings thanks to MLB teams playing the bullpen roulette game when the playoffs hit. Gio wasn’t terrible in either start. Gio has a top three and a top six finish in the NL Cy Young vote in his career and doesn’t surrender many homers. He’s 33, very durable (averages 34 starts a season), won’t cost much money, and won’t garner long-term deals. The Mets can’t run Jason Vargas out their every fifth day, they need someone else more trustworthy to hold down the #5 spot and I believe Gio would be perfect for that role. He won’t have to do as much heavy lifting like he was when he was one of the top guys in the Nats rotation for years. If the Mets can run out a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Gio Gonzalez, they’ll be in very good shape. An added bonus is the Mets won’t have to worry about Gio owning them anymore like he did as a Nats pitcher.

Something around what I would offer him:  1 Year, $5-6 million

#4: Trade for J.T. Realmuto – This is the deal that actually sounds most likely/plausible to happen because of the Mets’ need for a catcher, the Marlins selling off anything good they have, and the continued rumors everyday of how hard BVW is trying to acquire Realmuto from Miami. The love for JT is real and appropriate as he has quickly become arguably the best all around catcher in the game. Realmuto is only 27 years old and has two cheap controllable years left on his contract. Considering the position he plays, his age, his contract, and the fact that it would be an inter-division trade, it will and is going to cost the Mets a lot to acquire him. Over the last week or so there’s been a lot of reports coming out that the Mets were involved in multiple three team trade scenarios that would see Realmuto come to the Mets and possibly Noah Syndergaard to the supposed third team involved, who would then flip prospects to Miami. I think that’s all smoke and mirrors, considering the Mets would need to get back something nice in addition to Realmuto for having to sacrifice Syndergaard (three years of control remaining) and not many teams even meeting the asking price for “Thor” in regular two team trade scenarios. I do believe that the Mets do have the ammunition left to execute a trade by themselves. The Mets do not have a respectable major league catcher on the roster (sorry Kevin Plawecki, Travis d’Arnaud, and Tomas Nido). Not only do Mets catchers fail to produce at the plate but they are amongst the worst when it comes to throwing out runners and pitch framing on defense. The catchers position has been a black hole for the Mets ever since 2008, which was the first season after Paul Lo Duca left, who gave the Mets one great season and one pretty solid season. Since Lo Duca left, the Mets have gotten terrible production from their catchers. And a catcher is supposed to be one of the key cogs and a strong voice for any team and the Mets haven’t employed anyone like that in 10 years. It’s finally time to get an answer at catcher and make the lives easier for the fantastic pitching staff they’ve built. I am certainly against giving Yasmani Grandal a three to four-year contract worth $13-16 million a season, especially after the disastrous postseason he just had when he literally couldn’t even buy a hit. That’s a hard pass for me for a 30-year-old catcher who’s best days are behind him and who isn’t incredibly better than what the Mets have at catcher at the present moment. Realmuto is the answer.

Something around what I would trade for him: Realmuto to the Mets for 2B/3B Jeff McNeil, SS Andres Gimenez, and LHP Anthony Kay (this is not a concrete offer and substitutes can be made and/or added/subtracted)

What do you say, Mets fans? Would you accept this for the rest of the offseason? Sound off on Twitter or in the comments!Marwin-Gonzalez.jpg

The 2019 Mets: An Early Look At What Needs Changing

NEW YORK, NEW YORK: The 2018 New York Mets season has been an atrocity of epic proportions and there’s no way around that. After an incredible 11-1 start to the season, the Mets are 33-60 since to put them at 44-61 overall. They’re currently sitting 14 games back in the NL East and 14 games back of the second wild card spot. After injury after injury and continued turmoil behind the scenes that starts with ownership, this season was dead before August even hit. The team traded closer Jeurys Familia to Oakland and second baseman Asdrubal Cabrera to Philadelphia. The sell off should’ve been greater if they’d found deals they liked for Devin Mesoraco, José Bautista, and Jerry Blevins for starters. Nonetheless, those guys are pending free agents anyway, along with the two they traded away.

The Mets notably hung onto their prized pitching pieces from the rotation (Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Zack Wheeler) and their two main bullpen pieces (Seth Lugo & Robert Gsellman). Supposedly the Mets plan to contend in 2019 so they wanted to hang onto this pitching that finally seems to be clicking together. A rotation headed by deGrom, a healthy Syndergaard, and the new and improved Wheeler is a pretty good starting attack. Their numbers may not show it (especially Gsellman) but I really like Lugo and “Gman” in the pen and think they could become lockdown weapons very soon. Here’s my problem with keeping this pitching: What’s the point of having it if they team continues to not score for them? The offense MUST be addressed but the Mets made many questionable offseason moves last winter that will for sure hamper their ability to maneuver in the upcoming free agent market.

Whether Mets fans like it or not, Todd Frazier will be back at third base next season. Amed Rosario was once the top prospect in baseball so he will get a very long leash at shortstop. The outfield is set with Brandon Nimmo, Michael Conforto, Jay Bruce, Juan Lagares, and by mid season, Cèspedes back in the fold. That’s five guys to rotate in the three outfield spots, plus I’m sure Bruce and/or Ces’ will get some time at first base as well. First base appears to be settled as well as the Mets have Dom Smith just waiting for an everyday opportunity, Wilmer Flores swinging a decent bat as always, and Peter Alonso waiting in the wings at AAA just waiting for his first call up. That leaves catcher and second base as the only positions where the Mets aren’t locked in to someone. I’d assume that Kevin Plawecki will be brought back and that Travis d’Arnaud will return after a reworked deal after missing this season due to Tommy John surgery. I’m sure those guys will be given last chances to mark a claim on the position. That leaves second base to upgrade unless Jeff McNeil shows in this upcoming two month audition that he can stick here and keep hitting like he did at AA/AAA this year. If McNeil succeeds, that’s great, but if he doesn’t, the Mets still have to fill that hole and the free agent options aren’t all that great.

The Mets can get by with a rotation lead by deGrom/Syndergaard/Wheeler and complementary pieces rounding out the rotation, as long as they do sign depth and make smarter signings and not waiting til March to give the likes of Jason Vargas a multi year deal like Sandy Alderson did this year. The offense needs some sort of speed and pop added to it and the bullpen needs a major makeover behind Lugo and Gsellman. Thankfully the Mets will have a lot of options on the bullpen market this winter as that class is deep. The main question is will they spend? The easy answer would be no but the added heat on ownership this season and the inevitable hiring of a new outside the organization GM and a pledge to contend next season has me thinking it’s too hard to believe that no money will be spent to upgrade the team. The team could use more offense in my opinion but with all the attractive superstars on the market that will be commanding seven figure deals, I don’t see the Mets jumping in that pool, especially with the Cèspedes contract blowing up. Their best bet to be able to indulge somewhat will be with bullpen pieces since they need a few. Something tells me the team rolls out an offense that looks eerily similar to the one we saw open this 2018 season.

As much as the Mets could use a Bryce Harper and Manny Machado in the lineup, they’re not shelling out $300+ million contracts to anyone. They probably wouldn’t even shell out the $90-125 million it’d take to reel in Arizona CF A.J Pollock, who would fit this team perfectly. Machado would make the biggest difference but unfortunately when they don’t even attempt to make a run at him, they’ll say they’re comfortable with Rosario and Frazier manning short and third, respectively. As if the Yankees didn’t switch their top prospect (Gleyber Torres) to second base once he was called up to keep veteran Didi Gregorious at shortstop. The Mets could 100% get away with that and I believe Rosario’s tools would translate even better at second, even though I’m a fan of his game at shortstop. They’ll likely sign a veteran who can play multiple positions, like Marwin Gonzalez, who plays every position for Houston outside of pitcher and catcher. He’ll also only be 30, won’t command major money, and is having a down year this year after having a killer 2017 season during the Astros’ World Series run. I also wouldn’t shocked to see the Mets revisit the idea of Eduardo Nunez, granted he opts out of year 2 of his deal with Boston.

With current thinking and current team structure, I’m looking heavy at bullpen arms because a dominant bullpen is what every team wants these days and it seems to be the way towards building a winner as well. According to Spotrac, the Mets have $92.5 million committed to payroll for the 2019 season, but that doesn’t factor in arbitration raises for guys like deGrom, Syndergaard, Wheeler, Conforto, Plawecki, and Matz for starters. Let’s assume after all the arbitration raises and rendering of contracts, the team adds about $30 million, so that puts payroll at $122.5 million before any outside additions are made. The payroll opened the 2018 season at $150 million even though the team was intending to lower payroll from 2017. The slow moving dry market last year allowed the Mets to get a couple of additional players for cheaper than they expected which in turn obviously moved the payroll up. I’m going to go ahead and assume that the 2019 payroll will land somewhere between $140-150 million again, so that’s leaves about $20-30 million in spending money for outside free agents.

I can’t lie, Jeurys Familia gave me lots of anxiety when he came in to close games although he was one of the best closers we’ve had and he had killer 2015 and 2016 seasons in which he amassed a total of 94 saves and a cumulative 2.2 ERA. Unfortunately though, when it came to huge moments and lots of pressure, Familia would tend to fold up and disappear. Nothing more evident than the three blown saves in the 2015 World Series against the Royals and allowing a game winning three run homer to a pinch hitter in the top of the 9th in the 2016 NL Wild Card game against the Giants. All of that being said, I wouldn’t mind Familia returning but not as the closer. I just don’t see Familia returning to the same team he spent his entire career with up until the trade to Oakland two weeks ago and not be the everyday closer again. Plus I’m sure there’s another team out there that will be willing to guarantee Familia the closers job.

The other sticking point is that this regime and since the Madoff scandal, the owners as well, have been reluctant and refuse to hand big money contracts out to closers, which is understandable. So that line of thinking probably doesn’t help Familia’s chances of being brought back to Queens.

I’d make a run at Adam Ottavino from Colorado who sports a 1.40 ERA, 0.89 WHIP, and a 13.5 K/9 ratio. He’ll be 33 by the start of the 2019 season, so he won’t command many years or dollars at all. I also can’t totally see him re-upping with Colorado thanks to how much they spent on their bullpen additions last winter and how they gotta work on a new deal with 2B D.J LeMahieu and perhaps extending 3B Nolan Arenado’s contract longer. I can see Ottavino possibly being had for something similar to what the Mets signed Anthony Swarzak for last winter (2 years, $14 million). Although I could see Ottavino topping that slightly.

Next I’d go after an older lefty who’s recently dealt with injury problems that we could get for cheaper than expected but not that cheap since they’re still household names and many teams will still line up for. The two guys I have in mind are new Yankees reliever Zach Britton and currently DL’d Indians reliever Andrew Miller. Miller will be 34 and is coming off an injury riddled season but should be returning within the next two weeks for the stretch run in Cleveland. When healthy, Miller is an absolute buzzsaw on the mound and one of the best relievers in the game who can close and/or go multiple innings, which is why Cleveland paid such a hefty price in 2016 when they traded for him and gave up outfield prospect Clint Frazier and pitching prospect Justus Sheffield, both of whom are the Yankees’ top prospects and amongst two of the best prospects in all of baseball. Miller is currently dealing with a knee injury and not something related to his arm, fortunately. If he can come back healthy down the stretch run and be dominant again, teams will be lining up regardless of his age and he’ll definitely see at least 3 year offers.

The case with Britton is he just returned from Tommy John surgery a month ago and is still shaking off the rust and getting back into the flow of things. He’s been a little shaky since his return but that’s expected and he has had some real nice outings as well. He’s younger than Miller at 31 years old and may command 3-4 years, where if it goes to 4, I’m out. I’d max out at 3 years on either of these guys but no 4 year deals for relievers. If you can add two of these three guys to the bullpen to go along with Lugo and Gsellman, you have the makings of what should be a dominant bullpen. And hopefully one or two of the many young bullpen arms the team has acquired the last 2 years can evolve into something special as well, that’d be a nice added treat.

Do I think these moves catapult the Mets back to the postseason? No, but I believe it gets them slightly closer but ultimately it’s on the offense to pull a 180° and be healthy/fantastic in 2019 or the new GM has to pull off some magic and make some difficult decisions on who truly deserves to stay and contribute and replace them with adequate players. This team could absolutely use a Machado or Harper but the Mets just won’t open their wallets that wide and will watch other big market clubs have no problem paying those two superstars. Meanwhile I think most fans would be okay with that, if the Wilpons would just do what they gotta do and cut bait with Jason Vargas and Jay Bruce and rid those contracts off the books because those were TERRIBLE moves by Sandy Alderson and they need to vanish as soon as possible. Unfortunately I don’t see that happening whatsoever and both guys will play out their contracts in Queens.

Hopefully the new GM is creative and can make something of this roster come Opening Day 2019.