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Saturday, July 20, 2019

Stories by Grey Papke:

10 best moves of the NBA offseason

Kawhi Leonard

The NBA offseason is very much in full swing, and there are still moves left to be made. However, plenty of big ones have been made already, including some that will change the face of the NBA.

That doesn’t automatically mean they’re all good moves. Some teams have spent a lot of money and may not be all that much better for it. Others, however, will reap the benefits of being bold or smart with the opportunities presented to them. Here are ten moves that rank among the best of the offseason so far.

10. Pelicans receive massive haul from Lakers in Davis trade

The Pelicans were in a bad spot. They were lucky enough to draft a franchise player in Anthony Davis, but after seven seasons of mostly mediocrity, he demanded a trade. New Orleans declined to trade him in-season, ruining both the Pelicans and Lakers’ respective seasons. Then after the season, New Orleans hired David Griffin to run the team, and he did the prudent thing: he worked with the Lakers on a trade rather than hold a grudge against them, but he drove up the price on them. All the way up. Griffin received Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball, Josh Hart (two former No. 2 overall picks), three first-round picks and a pick swap, and turned it into much more. Griffin made the most of a bad situation, and it’s hard to imagine him having gotten more of a return.


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Report: Indians to be ‘aggressive listeners’ on Trevor Bauer

Trevor Bauer

The surging Cleveland Indians have won six games in a row to pull within 5.5 games of the Minnesota Twins in the AL Central, but financial realities mean that the team may have to deal a key piece in the midst of it all.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the Indians will be “aggressive listeners” on pitcher Trevor Bauer ahead of the July 31 trade deadline. Bauer will likely make in the neighborhood of $20 million next season before heading to free agency, and with widespread interest in starting pitching, they may take the opportunity to move him now in return for MLB-ready talent in the knowledge that they won’t be able to afford him for much longer.

Rosenthal lists the New York Yankees as a potentially interested party, and their top evaluator, Tim Naehring, was in attendance for Bauer’s most recent start.

This is also the reason that the Indians aggressively explored Bauer trades during the offseason. In theory, they could wait to trade him after 2019, but if there’s interest now and someone makes a good offer, they won’t be able to resist the temptation to take it.

The 28-year-old right-hander has a 3.61 ERA in a league-leading 132 innings so far this season.

Report: Russell Westbrook and Heat have mutual interest in trade

Russell Westbrook may be on the move this summer, and he may have a team in mind that wants him, too.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN, the Miami Heat have expressed interest in Westbrook, and a move to Miami “appeals” to the Oklahoma City point guard.

It’s become quite clear that the Thunder are willing to trade Westbrook in the right deal after Paul George forced his way out of the organization to play for the Los Angeles Clippers.

While Westbrook theoretically has no say in where he goes, it’s clear that the Thunder are also willing to listen to his opinions. The Heat, who have just added Jimmy Butler, would likely have to part with significant assets to make the salaries work. The challenge for them might be draft pick compensation considering they have very few picks remaining after trading them away.

Westbrook is a franchise player who could pair with Butler to make the team an instant contender in the Eastern Conference.

Jonathan Lucroy suffered concussion, fractured nose in collision

Jake Marisnick Jonathan Lucroy collision

Los Angeles Angels catcher Jonathan Lucroy is on the mend after a brutal collision at home plate Sunday in Houston.

The Angels announced Monday that Lucroy has been diagnosed with a concussion and a fractured nose as a result of his collision with Jake Marisnick, and will see an ENT once the swelling subsides for further treatment.

In other words, Lucroy will be out a while. That is, unfortunately, not a huge surprise given the violence of Sunday’s collision. The next question is whether Major League Baseball will take action against Marisnick, as some have urged them to do, for barreling over Lucroy when he seemed to have a route to slide.

Report: Yankees, Twins have asked Blue Jays about Stroman-Giles package

Marcus Stroman

The Toronto Blue Jays have two of the more coveted pieces on the trade market this summer, and some teams reportedly want to know if they can grab both of them at once.

According to Scott Mitchell of TSN, the New York Yankees and Minnesota Twins have asked the Blue Jays about a package deal for both starting pitcher Marcus Stroman and closer Ken Giles. The belief, however, is that Toronto would be able to get more pieces in return by trading each of them separately.

The Twins need pitching of all kinds, so this makes perfect sense for them, and they’d already asked about Giles. The Yankees’ entry is interesting. A starter makes sense for them, but their bullpen is deep and would only get deeper by adding Giles.

Justin Verlander gets into it with Yadier Molina over Marisnick play

Jake Marisnick Jonathan Lucroy collision

Yadier Molina is not happy with Jake Marisnick’s collision with Jonathan Lucroy, and he’s willing to take on anyone who isn’t going to condemn it.

Molina posted a profanity-laced caption on Instagram Sunday night calling for Major League Baseball to take action against Marisnick for plowing over and injuring the Angels’ catcher. Marisnick’s teammate, pitcher Justin Verlander, defended the outfielder, replying to Molina’s post with a simple “#fakenews.”

Molina’s response was simple: “fake u a–.”

In other words, people are going to see this one differently. Marisnick has been apologetic and defended his actions, but Angels manager Brad Ausmus is in line with Molina in calling for MLB to take a look at the play. Marisnick had to make a last-second decision on what to do as he approached the plate, and he clearly made the wrong one, angering a lot of people in the process.

Report: Kawhi Leonard tried to recruit Kyrie Irving during free agency

Kyrie Irving

Kawhi Leonard certainly tried everything he could to being the league’s top free agents with him to his ultimate destination.

ESPN’s Zach Lowe reported Monday that, in addition to his successful efforts to recruit Paul George and an unsuccessful bid to recruit Kevin Durant, Leonard tried to talk guard Kyrie Irving into playing on the same team with him.

We already knew that Leonard called Durant and tried to convince him to join him on the Los Angeles Clippers. By that point, however, Durant had settled on going to the Brooklyn Nets with Irving and ultimately turned down Leonard’s overtures. While the timing is unclear, it’s fair to think that Leonard probably got a similar response from Irving, considering the two newest Nets were apparently plotting their move to Brooklyn long before it officially happened.

Nobody could accuse Leonard of lacking ambition. He was undeterred after swinging and missing twice, and ultimately connected when he got a hold of George. He only needed to win over one superstar to join him in Los Angeles, and it appears that the third time was the charm.

Bryce Harper awkwardly features heavily in All-Star promo displays

Bryce Harper

Bryce Harper is everywhere in Cleveland this week — just not in person.

Amusingly, Harper’s face adorns numerous banners and other promotional material for the All-Star festivities in Cleveland, but the problem is, thanks to a down year, Harper himself is nowhere near the Midsummer Classic this season.

You can understand why the people in marketing thought this would be a safe idea. Since entering the league in 2012, Harper only missed the 2014 All-Star game, and that was because he spent almost the entire first half of the season injured. He’s reliably been voted in as a starter by fans no matter how good or bad his numbers have been.

This year, however, Harper is hitting a modest .253 in his first year with the Philadelphia Phillies following a free agent move that alienated a lot of his old fans. Combine that with the presence of electric young stars like Cody Bellinger, Christian Yelich, and Ronald Acuna Jr., and Harper didn’t even come close to winning the fan balloting in 2019. Thus, the league will have to live with the fact that he’s not at the All-Star game, even if his face is all over the place.