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Union chief Tony Clark chides MLB teams’ ‘race to the bottom’

MLB Players Association executive director Tony Clark on Tuesday issued a statement, reiterating that there will be no union boycott of spring training but taking a swipe at teams for the lack of free-agent signings with pitchers and catchers slated to report next Tuesday.

Clark described a game that is enjoying record-high revenues and franchise values, yet in which “a significant number of teams are engaged in a race to the bottom.”

“Pitchers and catchers will report to camps in Florida and Arizona in one week. A record number of talented free agents remain unemployed in an industry where revenues and franchise values are at record highs.

The dueling statements come after top baseball agent Brodie Van Wagenen’s inflammatory comments about increasing player frustration at the slow free-agent market in which he hinted at a boycott this spring.

On the heels of Van Wagenen’s remarks, Clark over the weekend released a statement saying that players would not boycott camps. League officials said a boycott would violate MLB’s collective bargaining agreement.

Another earlier report said one unidentified free agent was prepared to hold out until midseason because of what he perceived as a lowball offer for his services.

ESPN noted that circumstances entering camps “are unusual enough that the MLBPA and its membership have discussed the possibility of a separate free agent camp for unaffiliated players this spring.”

Commissioner Rob Manfred last week cited several factors that have contributed to this winter’s slow market.

Still, many quality players who are too expensive for their teams’ salary caps or have rising/declining value will hit the market.

These players not under contract for next season and are free so sign with anybody without tender restrictions come March 14. Here is our ranking and analyses of the best unrestricted free agents.

This list will be updated as players come off the open marking via tagging, re-signing or agreeing to contracts with new teams.

Brees isn’t leaving New Orleans, as he’s still playing at a high level, and his team is back in Super Bowl contention. The only question: For how long he will sign?

Plenty of talented veterans will be available in the current 2018 NFL free agency pool. But those players will soon get some big-time company on the open market from notable names cut by their teams to help save money under the salary cap.

For some teams, cutting a former Pro Bowler or two make sense; other such moves do not.packers_002

Taylor joins a Browns team that lacked a veteran and turned to Kizer for 15 starts as a rookie last season.

Kizer was the Browns’ second-round pick in the 2017 draft and won the starting job in a training camp competition with Brock Osweiler and Cody Kessler. Coach Hue Jackson spoke glowingly of Kizer when he named him the starter and stood by his talent throughout the season.

But Kizer struggled with accuracy and interceptions. His 6.1 percent interception rate through the first five games was far and away the highest in the league and led to his being pulled from two games and benched for another. He finished the season with a league-high 22 interceptions.

Kizer’s completion percentage of 53.6 percent was well short of the 60 percent target he had said he needed. But he finished the season finale with 314 yards passing and 61 yards rushing against the Pittsburgh Steelers as he made a frantic attempt to get the Browns their first win.

Buffalo and Miami had little leverage in making these deals, given that the Bills had no realistic intentions of paying Taylor the $6 million roster bonus he was due on March 16. Buffalo might have publicly suggested it was willing to pay Taylor to keep its options open, but outside of Nick Foles with the Rams in 2016, there’s virtually no track record of a team paying this sort of optional roster bonus for a player it didn’t plan to keep in a meaningful role.

The NFL Network first reported the agreement and its terms.

Ellis was slated to become an unrestricted free agent next week before the Raiders decided to keep the stout run-stopping defensive tackle.

The 6-foot-2, 335-pound Ellis is more gap-filling run-stopper than interior pass-rushing menace, as his career-high 48 tackles attest, though he did also get his first half-sack, when he teamed with Mario Edwards Jr. to take down Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota in the season opener.

Ellis, a fourth-round pick of the Raiders out of Louisiana Tech who does not turn 28 until Dec. 27, is known as “Jelly” and can also play nose tackle in a 3-4 scheme. He played all 16 games for the third time in his four-year career and started a career best-tying 14 times.

He had a season-high six tackles at Washington in Week 3.buccaneers_088

Could Jake Arrieta, Mike Moustakas join these post-Opening Day signees?

Spring training games started today, yet another milestone in an exceptionally odd offseason. We’ve seen more activity in the Hot Stove season — can we actually call it that anymore? — lately, with free agents like J.D. Martinez, Yu Darvish and Eric Hosmer finally signing contracts with new teams, while a couple of trades came to fruition.

Translation: “This is a team of professional baseball players and I can’t really say anything bad about them.”

Explained: Until sabermetricians quickly develop an equation on how to actually quantify talent, there’s no real way to determine how much talent is on a team.

It’s a sexy thing to say that’ll get fans hyped, but talent doesn’t necessarily equate to wins.

The team later announced Hernandez was hit in the upper right forearm and was returning to the Mariners’ complex in Peoria, Ariz., for further examination.

However, the X-rays on Hernandez’s arm came out negative, which moves Hernandez’s status as “day-to-day.”

The 2010 Cy Young Award winner has been hampered by injuries the past couple of seasons. A six-time All-Star, “King Felix” slumped to a 4.36 ERA last season.

According to MLB.com, Hernandez has made nine straight opening-day starts, the longest active streak among pitchers.

I wanted to ask you about the special adviser role. What does that entail and what have you learned from it being on the front-office side of things?

My focus has been Double-A and Triple-A. So I go to the games, I work with the coaches, I observe the players and offer whatever feedback I can provide with hopes of helping the players.buccaneers_021

Twins’ Miguel Sano reportedly spoke to MLB investigators regarding alleged assault

An MLB investigation into an alleged assault involving Twins slugger Miguel Sano and a female photographer could be nearing a resolution.

According to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Sano met with Major League Baseball Tuesday. The dialogue is likely the last major step before a decision on discipline is announced by commissioner Rob Manfred, the report says.

Sano, who signed with the Twins in 2009 and made his MLB debut in 2015, vehemently denied the allegations in December.

“I unequivocally deny the allegation made against me today — it never happened,” Sano said in a statement. “I have the utmost respect for women, especially those working in professional sports, and I deeply sympathize with anyone who has experienced sexual harassment. There is no place for it in our society.”

Sano is expected to make his spring debut Wednesday after recovering from a leg injury.

The office of the commissioner announced the suspension Wednesday.

“I made a mistake and take full responsibility for my actions,” Whitley said in a statement issued through agent Matt Laird, via Fox 26 in Houston. “I want to apologize to the Astros organization, my family and those closest to me. I will learn from this mistake and continue striving to be the best baseball player that I can be.”

Whitley’s suspension will begin on the first day of the Texas League season.

“It’s disappointing,” Astros general manager told reporters Wednesday, via MLB.com. “But we move on and hopefully it’s a good learning experience for him and for us as an organization.”

Luhnow would not address specifics of the violation.seahawks_118_ac6e06be82b83229-180x180

Not to mention, the signing of Jason Vargas adds some depth to an oft-injured rotation.

What’s their current CB situation? Kansas City is in the market for a true No. 1 corner after trading Marcus Peters to the Rams, and Sherman would fit that bill while playing mentor to younger defensive backs like Kendall Fuller , Eric Murray , and Steven Nelson in the process. The Chiefs could also potentially lose Terrance Mitchell , who started nine games last season, to free agency, which heightens the team’s need for experience in the defensive backfield.

Why Sherman would make sense: A combination of Sherman and a returning Eric Berry would give Andy Reid two of the league’s most productive defenders patrolling the skies at Arrowhead Stadium.

Bruce signing a three-year, $39 million deal is something of a win, too: He posted 2.7 WAR with the Mets in 2017 before being traded to the Indians (in a salary dump, somewhat ironically). He’s a solid defender and a generally productive player, despite what his career WAR says.

Vargas posted a 4.16 ERA last season (4.67 FIP), but started 32 games and amassed 179 innings. Anthony Swarzak adds a quality bullpen arm. Sure, not all these names are sexy, but they’re effective moves that help put a more major-league ready product on the field in 2018.

That ends Talib’s tenure in the AFC West. That’s good news for Crabtree — his showdowns against the standout corner repeatedly ended in chain-snatching skirmishes . Now Crabtree won’t face Talib twice a season … though the Rams do play the Raiders in 2018.

Talib had a penchant for getting inside opponent’s heads on the field and finding himself in trouble off it. His tenure with Tampa Bay, the franchise that drafted him with the 20th overall pick in 2008, ended after testing positive for Adderall. That issue helped facilitate between the Buccaneers and Patriots , where Talib immediately became one of the team’s best defensive playmakers.

He’d make his first Pro Bowl the following season, then depart in free agency to sign a six-year, $57 million deal with the Broncos. He’d been just as good in Denver, earning Pro Bowl honors each year with the team, returning six interceptions for touchdowns, and making five tackles in his team’s 24-10 Super Bowl 50 victory over the Panthers . Despite a down year in interceptions and tackle, Talib was rarely targeted by opposing quarterbacks last season. When he was, he was still quite efficient in coverage . seahawks_103_789f0d40f15a84d5-180x180

Bucks rookie Sterling Brown arrested, tased in parking lot incident

Bucks rookie guard Sterling Brown was arrested Friday morning and charged with a tentative misdemeanor of resisting or obstructing an officer, according to multiple reports. Officers tased Brown during the arrest.

Adebayo hasn’t been flawless on defense, but he’s made about as much of an impact on that end of the floor as one could expect from a 20-year-old rookie center selected in the middle of the draft.

He’s already had success switching onto some of the best perimeter players in the league, and he’s protected the rim well enough to have confidence in his ability to log more minutes at center moving forward. The list of players who can do both of those things at a high level isn’t very long, and it’s headlined by Draymond Green and Giannis Antetokounmpo.

Will Abebayo ever be the type of All-NBA defenders they are? Maybe not. But they are the sort of players he should be modeling his game after on defense.

Defense is always going to be Adebayo’s calling card, so how he develops on that end of the floor is going to be incredibly important for him. His ability to switch onto smaller players gives him the tools to be an impact defender in today’s NBA.

The Orlando Magic waived two-way player Adreian Payne, league sources tell ESPN. He was playing with G-League Lakeland Magic. Payne, a former first-round pick, has surfaced in the Michigan State scandal.

Ben Arledge: I touched on this about a month ago. Grubauer and San Jose Sharks No. 2 Aaron Dell strike me as the most likely starters next season. Dell’s numbers have sunk a little of late, but the UFA-to-be was near the top of the NHL in save percentage at points over the past two seasons. In fact, there was a time this season when he looked like he was taking the No. 1 gig from Martin Jones. Grubauer, meanwhile, has quietly posted excellent numbers in Braden Holtby’s stead for a few years now. He’ll be an restricted free agent this summer, and I think the Caps will look to deal his rights to a team in need, similar to what the Chicago Blackhawks did with Scott Darling at the end of April.

Allen: Does Carter Hutton count? If not, Grubauer has shown enough chops to get a gig with one of the teams struggling with goaltending. Saros looks ready in the limited action we’ve seen, but he’s only 22 and it has been just that, limited action.lions_035

Yankees, Dodgers top Astros in MLB Future Power Rankings

Compared to the normal Power Rankings that focus on where a team currently is, ESPN.com’s Future Power Rankings tackle the trickier task of figuring out how teams will fare over the next five years. Predicting future success isn’t easy, especially because time machines don’t exist. To tackle this uncertainty, Buster Olney provided the overview on where things stand for each team, while Dan Szymborski ranked teams in four categories, explained below, to attempt to cut through the fog of uncertainty. The rankings were used to compute each team’s overall score out of 30 points.

Current talent: 25 percent of the ranking. While a team’s farm system has the heaviest weighting, the talent a team has right now is a large part of predicting the future as well. Good players now, especially those younger than 30, are likely to continue to be contributors for the next few years. Current talent also can be traded for future talent.

Here, we’re looking for front offices that most capably combine their strengths in the first three categories and, whether now or later, maximize their team’s success. We’re also looking for owners with the willingness to be patient with and to support the plans laid out by their front offices.

What this means for fantasy baseball managers is that you can take a somewhat passive approach to drafting home runs, considering the glut of them on the market. I find the .240/30 threshold particularly interesting. There were 35 such players last season, the most in 13 seasons and fifth most in history, trailing only four years that fell within what is widely regarded the “steroid era” (2000, 46; 1999, 45; 1996, 43; 2001, 41). Just three years earlier, there were only 10 such campaigns, the fewest in any non-strike year since 1992 (9).

Similarly, Carlos Santana and Adam Duvall might both be in that .240/30 tier we’re focusing on here. Santana has a BB/K that is seemingly always in the elite 1.00 neighborhood. Duvall’s career BB/K is a scary-bad 0.23, and if you give a six-point minimum value to each home run (4 TB, 1 RBI, 1 run), then his 170 whiffs last year came dangerously close to wiping out all of the positive value of his 31 homers. Guess who I’m not spending up for?

Kyle Soppe: Power is king. It’s that simple. Want some fun numbers to prove it? There were 165 players who hit 15-plus homers in 2017. How crazy is that? There were more players who hit at least 15 homers than there were players who stole at least five bases (I’m not setting the stolen base bar all that high; Duvall swiped five bags last season). Heck, there were 20 more 15-plus home run hitters than batting average qualifiers.raiders_007-223x223

Houston is 29 and coming off an injury-riddled season.

Turning only 29 in August, Taylor has a few good years left as a versatile veteran stopgap. It just won’t be for Buffalo, which will move on to find a true franchise guy it totally trusts. Arizona and Denver are Taylor’s best fits elsewhere.

Yet he still played 15 games in 2017 and produced 9.5 sacks, his highest total since his 22-sack, monster 2014 season. The Chiefs want him on that defense. They need him on that defense. He’s not going anywhere.

Protecting him would be paramount to the team’s success, as last year’s 1-10/5-0 splits prove. Upgrading a unit Football Outsiders ranked as 18th-best in pass blocking will certainly be on Lynch’s to-do list. Left tackle Joe Staley put together a typical Pro Bowl season, but at age 33 his play could begin to decline next fall.

The rest of the line — Laken Tomlinson, Trenton Brown, Brandon Fusco, and Daniel Kilgore — was effective in the running game but below average when it came to protecting its quarterbacks. Fusco and Kilgore are each free agents this spring, and their departure could create space for upgrades in the middle of the line.

Now Carr has the chance to be the best quarterback that Gruden’s ever had, which seems like a perfect storm for getting the Raiders back into the postseason. There’s work to be done on defense, but if DC Paul Guenther is able to do as well has he did in Cincinnati, the Raiders could immediately look better in 2018.

During the fourth stage, the individual will try to out-fan those around them in peacock-like displays designed to show dominance. With inhibitions gone, the fan will risk life and limb to prove that their safety is nothing compared to an Eagles win.

Heady off a feeling of community, the individual will risk their safe-being believing their newfound friends will be there to catch them, should they fall off something very high. This faith is often rewarded, but sometime misplaced — leading to injury.patriots_025

Connor Hellebuyck makes 34 saves, Jets beat Blues 4-0

Connor Hellebuyck shut down the St. Louis Blues — again.

Hellebuyck made 34 saves for his sixth shutout of the season and Blake Wheeler and Kyle Connor each had a goal and an assist in the Winnipeg Jets’ 4-0 victory Friday night.

Hellebuyck has three shutouts in six career games against St. Louis.

The good news for the Wings is that it’s not a displaced fracture, so Mantha isn’t expected to miss any games, although he will be required to wear a full face shield.

“It is difficult,” Mantha said of wearing the face mask. “When you look down to try to find the puck between your legs, the lower part is kind of weird, but I guess you get used to it.”

The Wings are also expecting to get defenseman Mike Green back for Saturday’s game. Green has missed the last four games due to an upper-body injury.

“He skated today,” Blashill said Friday. “He felt good, so we’ll see how he feels tomorrow. But I would say he’s a game-time decision.”

How many more games Green will play as a Wing is another decision that must be made soon. He’ll be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end and Monday is the trade deadline.

On Thursday, the Panthers faced the Washington Capitals — Florida’s first home game since the Feb. 14 shooting. There was a moment of silence before the game as well as an extended tribute featuring video and speakers, similar to what the Vegas Golden Knights produced for their Oct. 10 home opener after a mass shooting on the Las Vegas Strip that month.

Seventeen people died when a gunman opened fire at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, which is about 10 miles from the Panthers’ arena in Sunrise and just less than four miles from their practice facility in Coral Springs. Many Panthers employees and players — including goalie Roberto Luongo and captain Derek MacKenzie — live in the neighborhood and have children enrolled in the school district.

Luongo, a Parkland resident, gave an emotional statement about the bravery of those who lost their lives trying to save others and how inspiring the students have been coping with the tragedy.

“The first 10 minutes of the game was very difficult. I was not in a zone, that’s a good way to put it. Emotions were still running high from the ceremony,” said Luongo, who lives in Parkland, where the shooting occurred.jays_520_41b40ff4f2f65fdb-180x180

Slumping Heat host Grizzlies

When the slumping Miami Heat play host to the woeful Memphis Grizzlies on Saturday night at AmericanAirlines Arena, it will be the Florida franchise’s first home game since Feb. 9.

The Heat, who lost to the New Orleans Pelicans 124-123 in overtime on Friday night, have lost eight of their past nine games, putting the franchise in danger of missing the playoffs.

Miami (30-29) is a defensive-minded team, ranking third in points allowed, although some of that has to do with their slow pace of play (28th out of 30 teams in that category).

Grizzlies point guard Mike Conley (heel) is gone for the season, having played only 12 games, and wing Chandler Parsons (knee) has been severely limited.

The Grizzlies, who will miss the playoffs after qualifying for seven consecutive years, have seen their 14 players miss a combined 175 games due to injury or illness this season.

That situation could be made worse by the time they arrive in Miami since guard Tyreke Evans left the Cleveland game midway through the fourth quarter due to a rib injury.

“We may have our shortcomings,” Grizzlies interim coach JB Bickerstaff said in a massive understatement told to the Commercial Appeal, “but our effort and competitive nature are still there.”

“I just think being the leader of this team, I don’t think he thinks he can take games off, because, you know, guys being hurt and going through a rough patch, and now new guys coming in,” Lue said before the Cavs’ 112-89 win over the Memphis Grizzlies on Friday. “So, I think he’s trying to lead and lead by example … I think we still got to be smart about the situation, but [the training staff] say he feels good.”

Friday was the 58th game of the Cavs season and the 58th that James played in. He recorded a triple-double (18 points, 14 rebounds, 11 assists) in 37 minutes of action.

Last season, James rested in the Cavs’ 11th game of the season and played in 74 games total.

Cleveland came into the season with eight new players, then went through a rotation shuffle in late December through early January when Isaiah Thomas and Tristan Thompson were worked back onto the court after rehabbing injuries and are in the midst of more change since dealing away six players and adding four more in their place at the trade deadline.bears_093-223x223