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Wednesday, November 21, 2018

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10 MLB teams in need of a big offseason

Theo Epstein Cubs

The MLB offseason is already underway, as proven by the New York Yankees’ major acquisition of James Paxton from the Seattle Mariners. Still, the largest dominoes have yet to fall, and it may be another week or two — if not more — before that begins happening.

Thus, teams are, in a sense, still positioning themselves for the offseason. Payrolls are being plotted and free agents are being explored, while the trade market begins to come to life as well. But some teams, for a variety of reasons, need to be more active than others given the places where their franchises are.

Here are ten teams who are facing very important offseasons for the future of their franchise.

10. San Francisco Giants

The Giants find themselves in a precarious position a year after an eventful offseason saw them go all-in to contend in 2018. They ended up losing 89 games thanks to injury and underperformance from some of their bigger names. Now, new president Farhan Zaidi is tasked with charting a path forward. How he handles this offseason could tell us a lot. The Giants can spend if they want to, but it seems unlikely that another free agent will put them over the top. Such a signing could ultimately hinder them in the long run. Alternately, they could try to dismantle some of their valuable pieces, but that would prove controversial. It’s a big decision that will have long-lasting impacts.

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Kevin Durant: Spat with Draymond Green will not affect free agency

Kevin Durant

Kevin Durant says that his spat with Draymond Green will not affect his free agency.

Durant and Green got into a heated verbal altercation after the Golden State Warriors’ overtime loss to the Los Angeles Clippers last week. Durant was unhappy with Green over the way he handled the final possession of regulation. The two argued on the court, went on to lose the game in OT, and then the drama spilled into the locker room.

Green reportedly challenged Durant about his free agency plans and even told him the Warriors didn’t need him. There was heavy speculation that the argument would push Durant out the door, but he says that’s not the case.

Durant told Yahoo that he wants to be in a “great environment” and implies Golden State provides that.

“Nah, [it won’t factor],” Durant told Yahoo Sports’ Chris Haynes. “Because at the end of the day, I’m just a ballplayer that’s just trying to be in a great environment to play basketball and groom my skills every day. And I want to compete on a level that once the game starts, I’m just totally comfortable with my surroundings, with just going out there and being me.”

Durant signed a 1-and-1 deal with the Warriors during the offseason. He took less pay to give the Dubs financial flexibility, but the cost is he can become a free agent after the season by declining his option. Multiple teams would love to get their hands on Durant if he becomes available, and there is some thinking that now that he has won championships, he might be ready for a new challenge. There also was some thinking that the Warriors suspended Green as punishment to send a message to Durant that they support him.

Rays DFA CJ Cron after 30-home run season

Tampa Bay Rays logo

The Tampa Bay Rays are getting rid of the biggest power hitter from last season’s 90-win team.

The Rays announced that they are designating CJ Cron for assignment, even though the DH clubbed 30 home runs and posted an .816 OPS last season.

Cron was among the team’s leaders in many statistical categories, with his 30 homers topping the team.

This is the second year in a row the Rays have done something like this. They DFA’d Corey Dickerson before spring training earlier this year and ended up trading him to Pittsburgh.

Cron was set to make about $5 million in arbitration for 2019 and would have likely been the team’s second-highest paid player, behind Kevin Kiermaier. Some other AL teams may have interest in trading for Cron.

Veteran WR Brandon Marshall offers impressive quote about Saints

Brandon Marshall Bears

Brandon Marshall is now on his seventh team since 2009, and his current squad is leaving quite an impression.

Marshall was signed by the New Orleans Saints after Dez Bryant tore his Achilles’ tendon immediately after signing with the team. He hasn’t played yet for the Saints, but he’s doing what he can to learn the system. He’s also incredibly impressed by the organization, saying it’s a “machine.”

Marshall has 11 catches for 136 yards and a touchdown this season, all with the Seahawks. Michael Thomas has been the Saints’ biggest receiving threat this season, along with Alvin Kamara. Tre’Quan Smith as well as tight ends Ben Watson and Josh Hill contribute in the passing game. If he can get up to speed, the 34-year-old Marshall would give them another option.

UCLA offering free tickets to first responders

Rose Bowl Pasadena

UCLA is trying to give back to first responders by offering free tickets for upcoming sports events.

The Bruins announced in their release about Saturday’s football game against Stanford that first responders who present ID at the Rose Bowl box office will receive four tickets to the game against the Cardinal.

“In appreciation of their selfless service and efforts to keep our community safe, UCLA Athletics is proud to offer four complimentary tickets to Saturday’s game to all first responders. This offer can be redeemed at the Rose Bowl Stadium Box Office on Saturday by showing any valid first responder identification,” the release says.

LA Times UCLA reporter Ben Bolch says the Bruins are also offering the same deal for the Bruins’ men’s basketball game against Hawaii on Nov. 28.

First responders have helped to protect the communities around Los Angeles in recent weeks dealing with a mass shooting in Thousand Oaks and deadly fires throughout Southern California.

USC fans raising money to call for Clay Helton’s firing

Clay Helton USC

Many USC Trojans fans want Clay Helton fired, and they are getting serious about the situation.

A group of USC fans who belong to “The Peristyle,” a USC message board that’s part of the 247 Sports family, started a GoFundMe page on Tuesday with the goal of raising $23,000. After around four hours, 84 people had donated over $4,700 to the cause.

The goal is to raise enough money rent a plane with an aerial banner calling for Helton’s firing to fly over the USC campus before the team’s game against Notre Dame this weekend. They wanted $2,000 for that and then $20,000 to purchase a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times calling for Helton’s firing.

“We want to spread the message that Trojan Family is not happy with how the athletic department is being run and, most of all, that Clay Helton should not continue on as our football coach,” the fans say on the GoFundMe page.

USC has slipped to 5-6 under Helton. They lost to rival UCLA last weekend despite the Bruins entering with a 2-8 record. The Trojans would need a major upset over their other rival, Notre Dame, to avoid a 5-7 record, which would be the program’s worst since 2000.

Helton has been confident that he is not on the hot seat despite calls for his job. Helton went 21-6 the previous two seasons when he had Sam Darnold at quarterback.

Anonymous Wizards player blames John Wall for team’s issues

John Wall

The problems within the Washington Wizards’ organization are mounting, and one player thinks John Wall is to blame.

Stephen A. Smith read a text message during his radio show on Tuesday that he says was sent to him by a Wizards player. Smith did not say who sent the message, but you can read the text below:

“We love Scott Brooks. Love playing for him. He just can’t coach John [Wall]. John just walks all over him, and it frustrates everybody. The way he plays is impossible to play with. We have so many guns, not enough bullets.

“If John would just play off the ball and let others eat, we’d be fine. But that’s a difficult thing for him to do, and sometimes it’s difficult for us to watch,” the message said, according to Smith.

The part about Wall walking all over head coach Scott Brooks is not surprising given the new information. All kinds of stories leaked out on Monday about the Wizards. One said Wall had been fined for saying f— you to Brooks during a practice. Teammate Bradley Beal also reportedly lashed out at the team’s front office during a practice.

The 5-11 Wizards are reportedly open to trading Wall and Beal and blowing up the team. Players criticizing others through anonymous text messages to the media is just another sign of their issues; that sort of thing should be discussed face-to-face.

H/T Black Sports Online

Steph Curry expected to miss at least three more games

Stephen Curry

The Golden State Warriors are taking things slowly with Stephen Curry, but the former NBA MVP is getting closer to a return.

Curry has missed the Warriors’ last six games with a groin injury. He did practice on Tuesday, but Warriors head coach Steve Kerr said Curry would still be out through Saturday. That covers three games, meaning Curry will be missing at least nine games.

Curry was doing some shooting in practice and even felt well enough to goof off with some hacky sack-type moves.

The Warriors have gone 2-4 without Curry. All four losses came on the road. Draymond Green has simultaneously been in and out of the lineup due to a toe injury.

Jim Hickey steps down as Cubs pitching coach for personal reasons

Chicago Cubs logo

The Chicago Cubs announced on Tuesday that Jim Hickey has stepped down as the team’s pitching coach, citing personal reasons.

The Cubs shared the news in a statement and said they are already looking for a replacement.

The Cubs also parted ways with hitting coach Chili Davis after the season, so they will have a few new members of their coaching staff for 2019.

Theo Epstein was not happy with the team’s season, so it’s no surprise that they’ve begun making changes. Manager Joe Maddon is still signed through next season, but whether he will return beyond that likely depends on how next season goes.

Report: Nationals making it a priority to add quality starting pitcher

Washington Nationals

The biggest question surrounding the Washington Nationals this offseason is whether or not they will be able to sign Bryce Harper to a long-term contract, but the team is apparently focusing on other needs as the star outfielder shops around.

According to Jon Heyman of Fancred Sports, the Nationals are making it a priority to add one of the top starting pitchers on the free agent market. Some names they are considering include Dallas Keuchel, Patrick Corbin, Charlie Morton and Nathan Eovaldi.

The New York Yankees made a big move to bolster their starting rotation on Monday when they traded for former Seattle Mariners left-hander James Paxton, but they are reportedly still looking to add another front-line starter as well. There should be plenty of competition for starting pitchers when the dominoes start falling.

Given the numbers that are being thrown around, the Nationals may feel that they have little chance at bringing Harper back. They could also believe he will give them a chance to beat any other offers he receives, so they can kind of let the market work itself out. But if they sit around doing nothing while waiting for Harper to make his decision, they will only be worse off in the long run.