Pirates Acquire Chris Archer in Trade with Rays

chris-archer-pittsburgh-piratesThe Pittsburgh Pirates have acquired starting pitcher Chris Archer from the Tampa Bay Rays in exchange for prospects Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows.

Tampa Bay warmed to the idea of dealing Archer in the days leading up to the 2018 trade deadline. The Rays were asking a lot for the 29-year-old, but Pittsburgh was willing to meet the price.

The Pirates were likely motivated by the fact that Archer is one of the few elite pitchers available. He’s also under contact for three more seasons for $27.5 million, which is a bargain for a player of his stature.

The only problem is that Archer hasn’t had his strongest year in 2018. He started the season off poorly with a 6.61 ERA in April, but has since dropped this to 4.31. In 17 starts, he’s struck out 102 batters over 96 innings.

Archer has dealt with an abdominal muscle injury, missing five weeks as a result. However, he’s been pretty durable throughout his career and has made at least 32 starts from 2014-17.

Is Archer the Answer for Pittsburgh?

This deal certainly makes sense for the Pirates when considering that they’ve yet to fill the void left by their off-season trade of Gerrit Cole. Archer gives them a quality No. 1 or No. 2 starter who can potentially regain his form over the last two months of the season.

Another benefit for Pittsburgh is that they get an affordable starting pitcher. Archer will make $7.6 million next year, which is fairly low for a top-rotation starter. He also has options for $9 million in 2020 and $11 million in 2021, meaning the Pirates can continue getting this bargain for three seasons.

What did Pittsburgh have to Sacrifice?

While Archer can definitely help Pittsburgh win now, he doesn’t come at a cheap cost. Both Tyler Glasnow and Austin Meadows were top pitching prospects in the minor leagues. They’ve since graduated to the Majors and could become high-quality players in the future.

Meadows, 23, is potentially the top prospect to be traded at the 2018 deadline. He spent some games with Pittsburgh earlier in the year, hitting .292/.327/.468 in 165 at-bats.

He has yet to develop a powerful swing, however, he does have a strong ability to hit both left-handed and right-handed pitchers. Plus, Tampa Bay can plug Meadows into their lineup right away.

Glasnow, 25, isn’t as far as Meadows in his development. But he has a nice mix of pitches and only needs to work on its command to be a good starter. If he gets the command down, then expect to see Glasnow in the Rays’ rotation by next season.

Rays and Pirates 2018 Odds

The Pittsburgh Pirates are currently chasing an NL Wild Card spot and have a chance at the postseason. Their GTBets odds of winning the World Series aren’t terrible at +6000. Pittsburgh’s hope is that adding a quality starter like Archer can propel them into the Wild Card round and beyond.

Tampa Bay is in rebuilding mode, as evidenced by their +80,000 odds of winning the World Series. Getting two good prospects like Meadows and Glasnow is a perfect return for their rebuilding efforts.

Blue Jays Trade Closer Roberto Osuna to Astros

roberto-osuna-astros-tradeThe Toronto Blue Jays have been looking for an opportunity to offload closer Roberto Osuna to another team. And they’ve now found a trade partner, shipping the suspended pitcher to the Houston Astros.

Toronto shipped former closer Kevin Giles and prospects David Paulino and Hector Perez to Houston in exchange for Osuna.

The latter is currently serving a 75-game suspension for violating the MLB’s domestic violence rules. Osuna will be eligible to play again on August 4.

Will Osuna be Worth the Effort?

Osuna is currently on a $5.3 million contract through 2020. This could be a bargain when considering that he has the talent to shut down the opposition.

The 23-year-old had a 2.93 ERA and 2.06 FIP in 15.1 innings with Toronto before being suspended. He’s been pitching in the minors in preparation for his return, which saw him throw six scoreless innings.

Despite Osuna’s youth and skills, his domestic violence incident became a big black mark on his career. The Blue Jays felt that they needed to part ways with the troubled closer and give him a fresh start.

Blue Jays Add Talented Bullpen Prospects

Toronto got a good haul out of the Osuna deal. And while the prospects they received are either struggling or young, they could blossom into good MLB players.

kevin-giles-pitcherGiles has had a tough season so far with a 4.99 ERA in 30.2 innings. He even punched himself in the face after a bad outing against the New York Yankees. But Giles still has plenty of potential when looking at his 9.1 K/0 and 2.10 FIP stats.

Perez, 22, is the best-ranked prospect of the deal, sitting No. 10 on Houston’s top 30 before the trade. The right-hander has a fastball in the mid-90s and nice secondary pitches, including a splitter, slider, and curveball.

The problem with Perez so far has been his control. He’s posted a 4.8 BB/9 in 89.1 innings across two minor league levels. But Perez balances this out with a 3.73 ERA and 10/2 K/9.

It remains to be seen whether or not Perez can become a high-level starter. He’s currently at the Double-A level and could see the Majors sooner than later if he’s viewed as more of a reliever.

Paulino, 24, was once a top-100 prospect, reaching 51st on Baseball America’s list prior to 2017. He’s lost some of his luster since then, but still ranked at No. 23 on Houston’s top 30 list.

The big reason for Paulino’s fall is that he was suspended 80 games for a PED violation. The 6’7″ hurler has already played in the big leagues, posting a 6.25 ERA in 36 innings from 2016-17.

Paulino has four solid pitches, giving him starter’s value. But like Perez, he too struggles with command.

He’s posted a 4.67 ERA in the minors, which is average for a prospect. However, his 11.0 K/9 shows that he can definitely keep hitters off balance.

Odds for Blue Jays and Astros

The Houston Astros currently have the second-best odds of winning the World Series according to GTBets. They feature +450 odds right now, which ranks just behind the Boston Red Sox (+375).

Toronto is on a totally different program, though, since they have just +100,000 odds right now. It’s understandable why the Blue Jays requested low-buy prospects in return for Osuna. This is a team that’s currently just trying to get back to a respectable level.

Who will be Baltimore Ravens’ Starting QB in 2018?

joe-flaccoThe Baltimore Ravens are only a week away from kicking off the 2018 NFL preseason against the Chicago Bears. And questions still remain about how the team’s quarterback situation will play out.

Not surprisingly, longtime veteran Joe Flacco is currently slated as the starting quarterback. But he’ll also be pushed by free agent signing Robert Griffin III and first-round pick Lamar Jackson.

That said, let’s discuss how the Raven’s QB situation will work out in 2018, and if we can expect to see either Griffin III or Jackson in a starting role at any point.

Jackson Drafted as Baltimore’s Quarterback of the Future

Baltimore was obviously high on Jackson, because they traded up in the draft to select him. Flacco was unhappy about the move, because he likely sees himself as the starting QB for years to come. But his recent play hasn’t provided much to get excited about.

Head coach John Harbaugh has already stated that Jackson will be taking regular season snaps. Offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg noted that the Louisville product is “way ahead of the curve.”

lamar-jackson-ravensJackson had an outstanding career for the Louisville Cardinals, throwing for 9,043 yards and 69 touchdowns during his three seasons there. The 21-year-old also won the Heisman Trophy in 2016.

Considering Jackson’s pedigree, it’s no wonder why there are high hopes for his future as a Raven. The main question, though, is whether this future will take off sooner than later.

Flacco has been pretty average over the past couple of seasons, which is likely why Baltimore felt they needed a QB of the future. But if Flacco can experience a career resurgence, then maybe Jackson will be holding the clipboard longer than expected.

Griffin Looking for Career Redemption

Griffin IIII is another interesting story at quarterback for Baltimore. Drafted No. 2 overall out of Baylor in 2012, Griffin took the league by storm during his rookie season in Washington. He led the Redskins to the playoffs and nearly won his first postseason game too.

robert-griffin-ravensBut he also suffered a knee injury during that game and continued to play on his own insistence. The injury would plague him into the next season and reduce some of his world-class speed.

Griffin has never been the same since from a physical or mental perspective. But he still has the talent to reclaim what he lost early on.

Whether that will come to fruition or not remains to be seen. RGIII hasn’t played an the NFL snap since 2016, when he opened the season as the Cleveland Browns’ starting quarterback.

The fact that Baltimore was willing to take a chance on him shows that some still believe in Griffin’s talents. But as it looks right now, he’s the darkhorse candidate to eventually emerge as Baltimore’s starter.

He’ll open the preseason No. 2 on the depth chart. But he’ll really have to show something to supplant Flacco as a starter and remain ahead of the younger and more promising Jackson.

What to Expect from Baltimore as a Team in 2018

The Baltimore Ravens had a heartbreaking end to last year’s season. They took the lead in a must-win game with just 30 seconds left to play. But their rival, the Cincinnati Bengals, would come storming back down the field and score to win the contest.

This eliminated Baltimore from the playoff picture, which is always disappointing for a 9-7 team. One has to wonder if they’d earned a playoff spot made a deep run, would Baltimore would still be concerned with a QB for the future?

As it looks right now, the Ravens field another competitive team with a strong defense and solid offensive options. Pittsburgh is once again expected to finish first in the AFC North.

But Baltimore looks to be a threat in the division. And even if they can’t wrestle the North crown away from the Steelers, they at least have a shot at a Wild Card berth.

If none of this comes to pass, though, don’t be surprised to see Jackson taking some snaps during the regular season and getting more playing time in the late fall.

Baltimore Ravens 2018 Odds of Winning the AFC North

Here are the Ravens’ odds of winning their division, courtesy of GTBets:

  • Pittsburgh -280
  • Baltimore +450
  • Cincinnati +1000
  • Cleveland +1000

The Ravens’ odds of winning the AFC Championship sit at +1800, while their odds of winning the Superbowl are currently +3500.

Jon Gruden Says He’ll Give Up Money if Raiders Don’t Succeed

Jon Gruden was hired to take over as head coach of the Oakland Raiders in January. And it’s easy to see why he was finally coerced out of the broadcast booth, considering that he received a $100 million contract for 10 years.

It’s unclear how much of the money is guaranteed. But like most NFL coaching contracts, Gruden will likely receive most of his deal regardless of how long his stint lasts.

Interestingly enough, though, Gruden recently stated that he’ll give the money back if the Raiders fail during his tenure. Let’s discuss this bold guarantee along with Oakland’s chances of succeeding under Gruden.

Gruden Hoping that Second Time is a Charm

The 54-year-old head coach will begin his second stint with the Raiders. His first tenure with a team lasted from 1998-2001, where he managed a 38-26 record over the four seasons. Gruden appears pretty confident that he can succeed where he failed the previous time.

jon-gruden-raiders-give-back-money“If I can’t get it done, I’m not going to take their money,” he said during an interview with USA Today.

The interview was brief, and the details of his guarantee aren’t exactly clear. For example, what will he consider “not getting it done?” Does he have to last the whole duration of the contract?

Whatever the case may be, it’s clear that John 3:16 wants to make sure everybody knows how serious he is about making Oakland a success. And if it takes putting tens of millions of dollars on the line, he’s willing to do so.

Raiders Likely on the Hook for a Big Salary Anyways

Again, one of the crucial details that’s missing from this story is how much guaranteed money Gruden is due. When asked about the matter, the long-time coach and broadcaster merely stated that he doesn’t even know if he’ll be alive to coach through the entire contract.

“Who guarantees I’m going to live 10 years?” said Gruden. “So I don’t think about that. You start thinking about a 10-year contract – people don’t know how it’s structured, and it doesn’t matter.”

jon-gruden-raiders-give-back-money-2NFL coaching is a grueling profession that can cut years off one’s life. But odds are that Gruden will live out the next 10 years. Whether or not this entire decade will be spent coaching the Raiders remains to be seen.

Furthermore, it’s difficult to see him giving up a ridiculous amount of guaranteed salary if he doesn’t succeed. Of course, Gruden can squash all of the speculation and wondering by simply winning right away.

This team is only two years removed from a 12-4 record and AFC West title. They had a strong shot to beat the Huston Texans in a 2016 AFC Wild Card matchup. But franchise quarterback Derek Carr got hurt at the end of the season and couldn’t play.

Last year was a disaster for the team as they finished 6-10 and came nowhere close to repeating their success from 2016. The 2017 campaign is what got the previous coach, Jack Del Rio, relieved of his duties.

Gruden will likely be given a few seasons to turn things around. And he’ll have a strong chance to do so when considering that Carr is back in the saddle and another year better.

2018 Raiders Odds to Win AFC West

Can Gruden expect a quick turnaround in 2018? It won’t be easy when considering that the Raiders play in one of the league’s toughest divisions. Here are the current AFC West odds, courtesy of GTBets:

  • LA Chargers +140
  • Kansas City +280
  • Oakland +350
  • Denver +400

The Raiders only have the third-best odds in what looks to be a very tight division race. Therefore, it makes sense that they have fairly long odds of winning both the AFC Championship (+1400) and Super Bowl (+2800).

Kevin Love Signs 4-Year, $120-Million Extension with Cavs

kevin-love-concussion-game-7-concussionWhen LeBron James left the Cleveland Cavaliers for the Los Angeles Lakers this offseason, it seemed like the Cavs might go into tank mode. Such a plan would’ve likely included trading forward Kevin Love.

That said, it’s surprising that Cleveland has decided to re-sign Love to a 4-year, $120-million deal. As reported by Brian Windhorst, the contract will begin in the 2019-20 season, when Love’s current deal expires. It also guarantees that he stays a Cavalier (barring a trade) through the 2022-23 season.

Love brought the Cleveland fans into the moment, signing his deal during a ceremony in front of the Quicken Loans Arena.

The 29-year-old will play out the final year of his $24.1 million contract this season before beginning his new deal. Windhorst noted that the first season of the contract pays more than the rest.

Love’s New Deal Is a Win for Both Sides

Kevin Love could’ve possibly earned more money by waiting until he was a free agent. The max would’ve been 5 years and $221 million next summer.

He could’ve also signed a 4-year, $129.7-million max contract with Cleveland this summer. That said, it appears that Love gave his team a little hometown discount.

But on the other hand, he guarantees himself a big payday. As we’ve seen with the sad way Isaiah Thomas’ situation played out, this can be an important thing.

Love turns 30 in September and has missed 45 games the last two years due to a variety of hand and back injuries. He’s also suffered a concussion in two of the last three pro seasons. Inking this deal guarantees Love another $120 million from 2019-2023.

Certain teams that were eyeing Love may be disappointed that he’s essentially off the board for next summer’s anticipated free agency period. He likely could’ve fetched around the same amount of money if he had a big campaign in 2018-19.

Cavs Retain a Reliable Centerpiece

kevin-love-cavsKevin Love may not be LeBron James, but he’s at least a reliable player with All-Star potential. He’ll step into the 2019 campaign as the team’s number one option. He often played third fiddle to James and Kyrie Irving before the latter left for the Boston Celtics in 2017.

Prior to joining the Cavaliers in the 2014 offseason, Love put up big numbers for the Minnesota Timberwolves.

He averaged 26.1 points, 12.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists during his last season with Minnesota. It’s unclear if he’ll reach the same monster numbers as the top option for Cleveland. But his career history shows that he can produce when called upon.

Another good thing about Love is that he’s the prototypical modern big man. He’s 6’10”, 250 pounds and can play outside or inside.

Love is especially lauded for his three-point shooting, including 41.5% last season. He also has a strong back to the basket game and can get good shots in post-up opportunities.

The only reason why Love isn’t as highly regarded these days is because he deferred so much to James and Irving. Injuries also haven’t helped the equation since Love has been battling more ailments while playing extra minutes at center. But given that he’s the team’s top scoring option right now, he’ll likely play his natural power forward position a lot more.

What can Love and the Cavs Do Next Season?

kevin-love-vs-raptorsNobody is taking the Cleveland Cavaliers to make their fourth straight trip to the NBA Finals. After all, they lost Irving to a requested trade in 2017 and James to free agency this summer. But the question is whether a core led by Love can at least compete for a playoff spots.

As currently constructed, the team includes some quality holdovers, including Tristan Thompson, Kyle Korver, Rodney Hood, Larry Nance Jr., J.R. Smith, and Cedi Osman. They also drafted Alabama point guard Collin Sexton, who’s expected to have an immediate role on offense.

This is largely the same roster that couldn’t help James win a single game against the Golden State Warriors in the 2018 NBA Finals. But it’s also difficult to tell how good they can be without the NBA’s best player. It’s possible that this group rallies together and can push for a playoff spot in the watered-down East.

Cavs could Still Trade Love

One of the biggest questions worth asking is whether Cleveland is locking down Love, or just locking down an attractive pricetag that could be later traded.

Love’s new deal ensures that he can’t be traded for the next six months. However, that doesn’t exclude him from being moved before next February’s trade deadline.

kevin-love-staying-cleveland-1Cleveland has extra incentive to lose games, because their first-round pick goes to Atlanta if they finish above the draft lottery’s top 10 in 2019 or 2020. Therefore, it makes sense to consider a Love trade to make the team less competitive.

It could be a similar situation to what the Los Angeles Clippers did with Blake Griffin last season. They signed him to a huge 5-year, $173-million deal in the offseason after point guard Chris Paul left.

Many thought this signaled that the Clippers were interested in building around Griffin. However, they shipped him off to Detroit in January.

Another potential reason for the current deal is that Love becomes a more attractive trade asset when he’s locked down for over four years, as opposed to just half a year. Few teams will be interested in dealing for Love at the deadline as a half-season rental.

Of course, we also can’t rule out owner Dan Gilbert wanting to prove his team can stay competitive in the post-LeBron years. This is, after all, the same guy who promised that Cleveland would win a title before James after he bolted for the Miami Heat in 2010. Given that Gilbert appears to be every bit as competitive as LeBron, he won’t be as quick to tank as everybody thinks.

Whatever the case may be, it’ll be interesting to watch a team led by Love and the rest of James’supporting cast. Assuming the roster is kept together, it’s not unfathomable to think that they could make it to the postseason again.

Isaiah Thomas Signs 1-Year Deal with Denver Nuggets

It’s safe to say that Isaiah Thomas didn’t exactly have a dream 2018 season. He missed a few months to start the year with a hip injury that occurred in the 2016-17 campaign. Then, when he suited up for the Cleveland Cavaliers, he shot 36.1% in 15 games.

Thomas played a little better after being traded to the LA Lakers before the 2018 deadline. But the 5’9″ point guard didn’t fit into their future plans.

Thomas has found a new team, though, after signing a one-year deal with the Denver Nuggets. Let’s discuss the details of this contract along with how he fits into Denver’s scheme.

Thomas Signs for the Veteran’s Minimum

Just last year, Thomas was expecting to get a max deal in free agency. He famously said that the Boston Celtics had better “bring the Brinks truck,” because they weren’t going to re-sign him for cheap.

Unfortunately, he ran into all of the aforementioned problems discussed in the introduction. This has diminished his value to the point where he was forced to accept a $2 million deal from the Nuggets in lieu of more substantial offers.

Michael Malone and Thomas Have a Connection

isaiah-thomas-signs-nuggetsPlaying for Denver will feel somewhat familiar to Thomas. That’s because he already played for Nuggets head Coach Michael Malone in Sacramento (2013). Isaiah was the leading scorer for the team at 20.3 PPG.

Thomas reunited with his former coach in Las Vegas and also met Denver President of Basketball Operations Tim Connelly. He’s continued texting both Malone and Connelly in an effort to discuss his role with the team.

Thomas tore the labrum in his hip in April 2017. He was still rehabilitating when he pushed himself to return to the Cavaliers last season. The Cavs stint only lasted 15 games before he was shipped off to the Lakers.

Now, Thomas gets a fresh start and can begin the season healthy. He should also have an important role on the Nuggets, one that includes carrying some of the offensive load.

Not Much Risk for Denver in Signing Thomas

isaiah-thomas-nuggets-1Signing Isaiah Thomas appears to mostly be an upside move for the Nuggets. They were hoping to have a realistic shot at landing LeBron in the offseason. But he appeared to only have eyes for the Lakers.

Thomas may not be the do-everything player that James is, but he can definitely score the ball. The 2017 NBA First-Teamer averaged 28.9 points two years ago for the Celtics, and he boasts a career average of 18.9 PPG.

Assuming he’s healthy, then Thomas should definitely help Denver win some games. And even if things don’t work out, they can quickly cut ties with him after just one season.