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Thursday, April 2, 2020

Stories by Mark McGreal:

Three teams we would love to see trade for AJ Green

AJ Green

The Cincinnati Bengals are one the worst teams in the league this year. They and the Miami Dolphins are the only winless teams this season. But unlike the Dolphins, who have made moves to build for the future, the Bengals have remained quiet on the trade front even though they have a big piece they could sell.

The Bengals have reportedly told teams they will not trade A.J. Green. Green hasn’t played a down in the NFL this year; he’s currently recovering from ankle surgery but may play in Week 10. With his contract ending after this season, and the team’s apparently directionless future, the Bengals should look to sell him for what they can get.

Here are three teams we would love to see Green traded to.

Baltimore Ravens

The Baltimore Ravens lead the AFC North again this year, thanks in large part to Lamar Jackson. Jackson has passed for over 1,600 yards and rushed for 576 yards this season. While these seem like strong numbers, Week 7 against Seattle was a tough game for Jackson. He threw the ball just 20 times for 143 yards playing without top receiver Hollywood Brown. What Jackson lacks is an elite receiver to throw to. If the Ravens want to keep pace with teams like the New England Patriots or the San Francisco 49ers this year, getting a guy like A.J. Green would help immensely. Of course, whether they could actually talk a division opponent into trading a player like Green is an entirely different story.

Green Bay Packers

Wide receiver Davante Adams went down with a foot injury in Week 4. He hasn’t played since, though he could be back in Week 9. While the Packers have been fine without Adams, could you imagine how dynamite their offense would be if they got both Adams and Green within the next few weeks? The receiver position is one the Packers have lacked in depth for and Green would be an incredible addition.

Philadelphia Eagles

At 4-4, the Philadelphia Eagles are in second place in the NFC East. Carson Wentz has been inconsistent this year, and so have the team’s wide receivers. Alshon Jeffrey has put up big numbers in some games (like 10 catches for 76 yards a touchdown in Week 7 against the Minnesota Vikings), but he has flopped in a couple match ups (two catches for just 38 yards against the Dallas Cowboys in Week 8). Nelson Agholor has been dealing with serious drops. A more consistent receiver like A.J. Green could help Wentz perform better and possibly propel Philadelphia into the playoffs.

Padres should hire Brad Ausmus as their next manager

Brad Ausmus

On Monday, the Los Angeles Angels fired manager Brad Ausmus after just one season on the job. The Angels finished the season at 72-90, a full eight games worse than their record in 2018. Former Cubs manager Joe Maddon has reportedly shown interest in the position.

Ausmus will certainly be looking for a new job this offseason, and there is one team looking for a manager with whom Ausmus has a history: the San Diego Padres.

Ausmus came up as a catcher with the Padres in 1993 and played with the Friars through 1996. He also worked for the team as a field executive from 2011-2013. He’s familiar with the organization and would be welcomed back by the fanbase with open arms.

Ausmus’ knowledge as a catcher would help in the development of Francisco Mejia as the future starting catcher for the Padres. Mejia’s biggest critique is that he is not very good defensively. Ausmus, who won three Gold Glove awards at the position, would be a great mentor for the 23-year-old.

Some fans may argue that the Padres should try to hire a more proven manager like Maddon to lead the team, but the Padres, a notoriously frugal team, probably won’t spend the kind of big money someone like Maddon would command (Joe earned $6 million last year). The Padres could get Ausmus for a smaller price and use the excess money to fill other holes in the organization.

Ausmus has previous managerial experience and has proven he can win. He led the Tigers to a playoff spot in 2014 and had two winning seasons in four years in Detroit from 2014-2017. The Padres would be foolish not to sign him before another team does.

Former Angels manager Mike Scioscia and Cubs bench coach Mark Loretta have also been listed as potential candidates for the job.

Dodgers need to address bullpen issues at trade deadline

Los Angeles Dodgers

The Los Angeles Dodgers hold the best record in baseball entering Sunday and appear highly likely to make the playoffs for the seventh straight season. Just making it to the postseason isn’t good enough the Dodgers anymore, especially after back-to-back World Series losses. Los Angeles needs a World Series win this year, and they should be willing to do anything to achieve it.

So what do the Dodgers need to add before the trade deadline to secure a championship? Two words: relief pitching.

The Dodgers’ bullpen is their weakness this year, even if Kenley Jansen doesn’t want to hear it. They’ve blown 19 save opportunities this season, tied for the third-most in Major League Baseball. The 4.02 bullpen ERA isn’t bad by most teams standards, but the Dodgers’ starters own an ERA of 2.96. The bullpen has been tremendously bad relative to the rest of the team.

There are several different options available for the Dodgers. Pirates closer Felipe Vazquez is supposedly the Dodgers’ top choice. Vazquez has recorded 21 saves in 40 games this season, while posting a 1.87 ERA. The Pirates have an outside chance at the wild card, but they are likely sellers in a very competitive National League Central. Padres closer Kirby Yates is another potential target for the Dodgers. Yates, who made his first All-Star team this year, owns a 1.02 ERA and a Major League-leading 31 saves. He would slide nicely into the set-up man role, a job he occupied last year when Brad Hand was the Padres’ closer. However, San Diego has made clear their intention to contend, so they might not want to part with him.

Several weeks ago, I would’ve added Giants closer Will Smith as a potential target. However, the Giants are playing incredible baseball as of late, and trading their closer to the rival Dodgers would be morale-killing for the team and its fans.

The Dodgers have also been linked to Mets reliever Edwin Diaz. Diaz has been bad this year. His ERA is 4.81, his WHIP is 1.45, and he’s blown four saves this season. The Dodgers may believe in him long-term, but he is having a sub-par year and trading for him would be a risk.

Ultimately, the Dodgers need to willingly trade top prospects in order to win a championship this year. They are playing better than in past years, but they finally need a World Series to show for it. They need an improved bullpen in order to have their best chance at a championship.

Penguins get better end of Olli Maatta trade

Olli Maatta

The Pittsburgh Penguins are shaking things up after a disappointing end to the 2019 season. The team from the Steel City traded defenseman Olli Maatta to the Chicago Blackhawks on Saturday for right wing Dominik Kahun and a fifth-round pick in the upcoming draft. While some Pittsburgh fans may be upset with the team for trading the talented defenseman, who contributed to the Penguins’ championship runs in 2016 and 2017, they won’t hold on to their disappointment long. The Penguins improved tremendously and won this trade.

First off, there was no room for Maatta in Pittsburgh. He was one of eight defenseman on the team under contract for next year, so his playing time would have been limited. The 24-year-old was also a healthy scratch in the last three games of the season for the Penguins, which ended in a first-round playoff sweep.

The scratches were deserved as Maatta suffered through a poor 2018-2019 campaign. He scored just 14 points all year and missed two months due to injury. Not exactly the strong seasonal performance that inspires faith in a coach.

In exchange for the underperforming defenseman, the Penguins received 23-year-old Dominik Kahun, who scored 37 points during the season, his first year in the NHL. Combined with the talents of Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin, Kahun is poised for another big year in his sophomore season.

Besides the on-ice positives, the deal benefits the Penguins financially as well. Maatta is owed just over $4 million next year while Kahun’s salary sits at a slim $925,000. The Penguins opened up some salary cap room, which may come in handy during free agency.

The Penguins traded up in every way. They received a younger, more consistent player at a position that is not already overcrowded while also somehow shedding salary cap. Matta may have been an important part of two championships, but the past is the past, and the Penguins are ready to get back to their winning ways.

Trevor Story avoids concussion after being hit in head

Colorado Rockies shortstop Trevor Story left Friday’s game against the San Diego Padres in the eighth inning after a batted ball hit him in the head.

Padres outfielder Hunter Renfroe smacked a grounder to the left side on the first pitch of the eighth, and Story ran over to his right to field the ball. Unfortunately for the 26-year-old, the ball took a bad hop, bounced off the heel of his glove and hit him right above his left eye. Story promptly fell to the ground.

Rockies manager Bud Black decided to remove Story from the game as a precautionary measure. The Rockies were winning big at the time, 11-4, though they eventually lost the contest 16-12 in 12 innings.

After the game, Black told reporters Story did not have a concussion, but the impact of the ball caused the shortstop’s head to swell up almost immediately.

Story went 3-for-5 with two runs scored and a stolen base before his premature departure.

Miguel Cabrera diagnosed with chronic knee injury

Miguel Cabrera Robert Hernandez

Miguel Cabrera has been diagnosed with a chronic knee condition.

The Detroit Tigers first baseman left the Tigers’ 8-2 win over the Atlanta Braves in the sixth inning last Friday with right knee soreness. He had an MRI Saturday and was put back in the lineup Tuesday, smacking a grand slam in a 9-6 win over the Tampa Bay Rays.

According to The Detroit News’ Chris McCosky, Cabrera consulted with four world-renowned surgeons who did not recommend surgery for the injury. The cause of the injury is “attrition”, according to Tigers team trainer Doug Teter.

Cabrera’s return to the lineup comes with a catch. Tigers manager Ron Gardenhire says Cabrera will be relegated to the designated hitter position for the rest of the season. Cabrera had played 25 games at first base this year and has primarily played the field throughout his career in Detroit.

Cabrera dealt with his fair share of injury trouble last year, playing just 38 games before having season-ending surgery to repair ruptured tendons in his biceps.

The 36-year-old is slashing .284/.356/.356 for the Tigers this season.