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Monday, July 15, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

Report: Brewers, Giants have discussed Will Smith trade

Milwaukee Brewers logo

In need of bullpen help, the Milwaukee Brewers appear to be zeroing in on one of the better players on the market.

According to Robert Murray of The Athletic, the Brewers and San Francisco Giants have had discussions about left-handed reliever Will Smith in recent days. While no deal is said to be close, the two organizations are scouting each other’s players.

The Brewers relied heavily on their bullpen during their successful 2018 season. The problem they’ve run into is that the three players they leaned on haven’t been as good this season. In Corey Knebel’s case, he won’t pitch again in 2019 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Jeremy Jeffress has seen his ERA rise near four, while Josh Hader, while solid, has given up nine home runs in 45 innings.

The left-handed Smith has a 2.17 ERA in 2019, striking out 54 batters in 37.1 innings while walking just eight. Smith would be a rental, and he has experience with the Brewers, having pitched there from 2014 to 2016.

Smith is unlikely to be the only big name leaving the Giants before July 31. He’s also likely to demand a pretty high asking price.

Report: Asking prices on MLB trade market are ‘enormous’

With the MLB trade deadline looming, things are a little bit distorted in the market due to the limited number of teams who are clear sellers.

As of Monday morning, 22 of 30 teams are within five games or less of a playoff spot, meaning many teams will be looking to add and few are immediately set to sell. According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, trade prices are “enormous” with roughly two weeks to go before the July 31 deadline.

Olney uses the example of New York Mets pitcher Zack Wheeler, with the Mets seeking high-end prospects in exchange for him despite the fact that he would be a rental for the team acquiring him.

It is quite clearly a sellers’ market, with even teams sitting below .500 looking into adding players at the deadline. It could make for a chaotic few weeks, and a few teams desperately overpaying for players in the market.

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Giannis Antetokounmpo asks Bucks fans to stop calling him MVP

Giannis Antetokounmpo

Giannis Antetokounmpo is the reigning NBA MVP, but he’s already putting it firmly in the rearview mirror.

The city of Milwaukee celebrated Antetokounmpo’s MVP award on Sunday, with roughly 20,000 fans crowding around Fiserv Forum to hear the star forward speak. When he did, he made an unusual request of the Milwaukee crowd: he doesn’t want to hear himself called MVP until he wins it again next year.

Antetokounmpo has demonstrated a mentality that he wants to keep improving and looking forward, not back. Ultimately, the Bucks fell short of their ultimate goal of an NBA title, losing to the Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Finals. That’s the big goal for Giannis, and he wants to do it with Milwaukee as well.

Ryan Leaf joins ESPN as college football commentator

Ryan Leaf will be making his way to a television near you this coming college football season.

Leaf has joined ESPN to provide color commentary for college football games, primarily on ESPN2 and ESPNU next season, according to Ralph D. Russo of the Associated Press. Leaf’s role will include doing games all over the country as well as some studio work.

“Ryan has experienced the highs and lows in the game of football, putting him in a position to relate to a wide range of situations players can find themselves in,” said ESPN vice president of production Lee Fitting. “He will be able to rely on those experiences — including an unbelievable college career where he was an All-American and Heisman Trophy finalist — in his analysis, making him a tremendous asset for our team.”

Leaf led Washington State to the Rose Bowl before being selected No. 2 overall in the 1998 NFL Draft, behind only Peyton Manning. Leaf became one of the most infamous draft busts of all time with the San Diego Chargers, was out of the league after four years, and ultimately spent time in prison and battled drug addiction.

He has since turned his life around and began pursuing broadcasting opportunities, reaching out to and shadowing the likes of Brady Quinn, Joel Klatt, Kirk Herbstreit, and Greg McElroy. The latter led to an audition with ESPN in March, and Leaf said he was offered and accepted the job roughly a month ago.

“I had to pull off the side of the road. I was really emotional,” Leaf said.

Leaf has been open about his battles with addiction. To land at ESPN is quite the turnaround for him considering he was in prison five years ago.

Report: Bradley Beal may not commit long-term to Wizards

Bradley Beal

Bradley Beal has been the subject of trade rumors this summer, and while nothing is in the offing, it appears there may be some reason to question the guard’s future with the Washington Wizards.

Beal becomes eligible to sign a three-year, $111 million extension on July 26, three years since signing his max deal. The Wizards plan to offer it, but according to Candace Buckner of the Washington Post, the extension is not viewed as a sure thing around the league. In fact, there is a growing sense from some within the NBA that Beal may not remain a Wizard for life.

“He’s out of there,” one NBA source told Buckner.

The story adds that Beal may have questions about the team’s roster, as well as the front office situation. General manager Ernie Grunfeld was fired by the Wizards at the start of April, and the team has not formally filled the role of president since his dismissal.

There likely won’t be much further movement on this until Beal makes a decision on the contract offer, and he can’t do that until it’s on the table. It’s also worth noting that Beal could wait a year and put himself in line for a supermax deal if he can make an All-NBA team in 2019-20. That will also give him a chance to study the organization’s direction and determine whether he wants to stick around or perhaps seek opportunity elsewhere.

Mickey Callaway, Amed Rosario at odds over reason for benching

New York Mets shortstop Amed Rosario did not start Sunday, but the player and his manager can’t seem to agree on the reasoning.

Rosario failed to run out a dropped pop up in Saturday’s game and was not in the lineup for Sunday’s game. Some speculated his absence was a punishment. Mets manager Mickey Callaway told the media before the game that Rosario was simply scheduled to have the day off. The team’s radio and TV broadcasts referred to it as disciplinary on the air.

Even after the team’s 6-2 win over the Miami Marlins, the discrepancy continued. Callaway said the Mets had spoken to Rosario about his lack of hustle, but refused to call the benching disciplinary. Rosario, on the other hand, said he’d been told that it was a result of not running out the fly ball.

It’s another chapter in Callaway’s baffling handling of in-house issues. It doesn’t make a lot of sense to tell Rosario one thing and the public another, and Mets fans probably would understand the reasoning behind the benching if it were disciplinary.

The wrinkle may be Callaway’s handling of veteran infielder Robinson Cano. Cano failed to run out ground balls twice in three games in May, and instead of pulling him, Callaway publicly defended the second baseman. Perhaps Callaway wanted to make a point to the younger Rosario while not having to publicly answer for a perceived double standard in his handling of hustle plays, but that strategy was never going to work.

Mike Trout day-to-day with calf tightness after early exit

Mike Trout

Mike Trout briefly caused Los Angeles Angels fans to panic Sunday when he left the team’s game against the Seattle Mariners.

Trout left the game at the start of the third inning, with the Angels ultimately announcing that he was suffering from right calf tightness and is considered day-to-day.

In other words, the Angels and their fans can breathe easy. It’s not ideal, but Trout’s injury does not appear serious.

Trout is hitting .306 with 30 home runs in what is, in many ways, the best offensive season of his career to date. The Angels, who are still on the fringes of the AL wild card race, could hardly afford to lose him for very long.

Lonzo Ball calls Zion Williamson a ‘freak’

Lonzo Ball

Lonzo Ball seems pretty excited to play with Zion Williamson.

Ball was full of praise for his New Orleans Pelicans teammate on Saturday, describing him as a “freak” and raving about his mobility.

“Man, I’ve never seen somebody that size move like him,” Ball told ESPN’s Ohm Youngmisuk. “… He’s only 19, right? He’s definitely a freak. I’ve never seen nothing like it.

“Honestly, you just got to run the lane, set screens and roll. With his game and with him getting a full head of steam, it’s going to be very tough to stop him. So I think we play fast and get out on the break as soon as possible.”

Ball has already thought about how to best bring out Williamson’s talents, which is a good sign. It seems he has a much higher opinion of his new teammate than his father does, which is really all that will matter to the Pelicans.