Connect with us


After Blue Jays’ flurry of big moves, where else can they improve? –



TORONTO – After a memorable 10-day stretch highlighted by the acquisitions of George Springer and Marcus Semien, the Blue Jays are already a much better team than they were when last season ended.

They’re in a good spot – a legitimate contender on paper – but they haven’t come this far only to stop here. The addition of Steven Matz late Thursday reinforces as much, and more moves may be coming.

So what are the remaining ways to improve the roster further and what consequences would those moves have for the team’s existing players? Let’s take a look …

What does the Matz deal mean? Is Bauer off the table?

Even after adding Matz, the Blue Jays’ biggest need is a starting pitcher who slots in behind Hyun-Jin Ryu. Given that Matz struggled badly in 2020 and is on a non-guaranteed arbitration salary of $5.2 million, the Blue Jays can still be expected to keep looking for pitching.

Starting atop the market, the chances of a deal with Trevor Bauer appear to have dropped considerably over the last couple of weeks. While the Blue Jays had enough interest to meet with Bauer on New Year’s Eve, he’s in a position to ask for $30 million or more per season and the Blue Jays don’t sound like a team about to make further splashes.

“The bulk of our heavy lifting is done,” president and CEO Mark Shapiro said Thursday, speaking in general terms.

Rules rightfully prohibit executives from saying definitively that they’re out on players, but at most the Blue Jays appear to be on the periphery with Bauer. If they considered themselves major contenders for Bauer, would they have helped a rival suitor by acquiring Matz and lowering the Mets’ 2021 payroll commitments? It’s probably not a coincidence that this deal, which was first mentioned as a possibility by The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal in November, wasn’t completed until after they had safely secured Springer.

Still, the Blue Jays do have “some flexibility” to spend further, according to Shapiro. Other quality starting pitchers like Jake Odorizzi, Taijuan Walker and James Paxton remain available in free agency, but now that Masahiro Tanaka’s heading back to Japan, that list isn’t particularly long. With that in mind, the Blue Jays are open to trades and minor-league signings as well as big-league free agent deals.

“All of the above,” general manager Ross Atkins said Thursday. “We’re open to all three of those avenues and we’ll work toward them.”

“But as you know very well,” he added, “every team in baseball is in on the pitching market.”

What does Semien mean for Vlad Jr.?

Once the Blue Jays added Semien, Cavan Biggio became their likely third base option, but Biggio’s upcoming shift to third doesn’t preclude Vladimir Guerrero Jr. from getting reps there, too.

“I’m so excited about where he is, how he’s doing, how hard he’s working,” Atkins said of Guerrero Jr. “He’s in a better overall position than he was even at the end of last year. We’ll see where that plays out for him playing third base, playing first base. We’re excited about the position that he’s in to earn the right to be in the third base conversation and continue to improve as a first base alternative.”

If Guerrero Jr. can play third well enough to warrant one or two starts a week there, that would be ideal. Manager Charlie Montoyo could free up at-bats for others at first base or designated hitter in that scenario, and Guerrero Jr. would be able to spend some time at his preferred position.

It’s true that Guerrero Jr. is nobody’s idea of a Gold Glove third baseman at this point, but he also struggled at first. Realistically, he faces a learning curve regardless of which position he plays, so there’s no need to rule out third just yet.

Room for a bench bat?

While the simplest way to improve the Blue Jays’ roster would be to add pitching, there’s no such thing as too much offence. With that in mind, the Blue Jays haven’t ruled out further additions to their lineup. And because Semien will give them a second shortstop, they won’t be obliged to carry one of the glove-first infielders who typically gets a spot on every MLB bench. It adds up to an opportunity for more runs.

Still, some caveats apply. What money they do have left seems more likely to go to pitching, and the Blue Jays want to be sure emerging young players like Rowdy Tellez, Alejandro Kirk and Santiago Espinal get opportunities. But with that said, they are open to bolstering their bench.

“There is that opportunity,” Atkins said. “Whether it be the handedness or just the positional fit or just an off-the-bench bat that could improve our team. We need to think about any way and every way to make this team incrementally better or significantly better.”

One bench spot will go to a backup catcher, with Reese McGuire and Kirk the leading internal candidates. Beyond that, the Blue Jays could go in a few different directions. A defensive specialist like Jonathan Davis for late-game help? A left-handed hitter on a minor-league deal to balance out the lineup? Or simply more pitching? Those decisions don’t have to be finalized for months, but the Blue Jays appear quite flexible.

The fallout from a free agent-heavy winter

Until they completed the Matz deal, the Blue Jays had made all of their acquisitions through free agency rather than trade. It’s noteworthy, but considering their busy trade deadline last summer and the offer they reportedly made for Francisco Lindor, that’s not a reflection of an organizational philosophy.

“We are certainly open to making trades,” Atkins said. “And at some point we will have to.”

One way or another, prospect depth is always valuable. And depending on how this season unfolds, there’s a chance they might need to use their farm system to reinforce their pitching staff this summer.

Let’s block ads! (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


UK government approves US$5.33 billion sale of Chelsea to LA Dodgers co-owner Todd Boehly



London, United Kingdom (UK)- The UK government has formally approved the sale of Chelsea FC for US$5.33 billion to Todd Boehly, the co-owner of the LA Dodgers and Clearlake Capital, a Californian private equity firm.

As a result, this now brings Roman Abramovich’s 19-year ownership of Chelsea, in which the club has won 21 trophies including five Premier League titles and two Champions Leagues to an end.

“Late last night the UK government reached a position where we could issue a licence that permits the sale of Chelsea. Following the sanctioning of Roman Abramovich, the government has worked hard to ensure Chelsea has been able to continue to play football, but we have always been clear that the long-term future of the club could only be secured under a new owner.

Following extensive work, we are now satisfied that the full proceeds of the sale will not benefit Roman Abramovich or any other sanctioned individual. We will now begin the process of ensuring the proceeds of the sale are used for humanitarian causes in Ukraine, supporting victims of the war.

In addition, the steps today will secure the future of this important cultural asset and protect fans and the wider football community. We have been in discussions with relevant international partners for the necessary licences required and we thank them for all their cooperation,” read a statement from the government.

The UK government sanctioned Abramovich on March 10, 2022, due to suspected links with Russian President, Vladimir Putin.

This in turn led to several restrictions on the club such as the ability to buy or sell players and negotiate new contracts with players. However, due to the recent developments all of that is all about to change, a boost for Chelsea manager, Thomas Tuchel, as he prepares for the 2022/23 season after finishing third and qualifying for next year’s Champions League in the 2021/22 season.

Continue Reading


Blues' head coach Craig Berube addresses Nazem Kadri threats: 'It's not a good thing' – The Athletic



St. Louis Blues head coach Craig Berube denounced social media threats made toward Colorado Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri Wednesday, days after the coach said he had ‘no comment‘ when he was first asked about them Monday.

“I’m not on social media. I was aware of a threat made to Nazem, not the racist stuff,” Berube told the media Wednesday. “In no way is it acceptable by the St. Louis Blues or anybody else for him to have to go through that. Being a Native American myself, I’ve heard it all, I’ve been around it.

“It’s not a good thing. So I just wanted to get that out there that there’s no room for it anywhere.”

Kadri was subjected to racist comments and threats on social media following a collision with Blues goaltender Jordan Binnington during Game 3 of the Blues-Avalanche second-round series. Following the game, Binnington threw a water bottle at Kadri as the Avs forward was being interviewed by TNT.

In Game 4, Kadri scored a hat-trick en route to a 6-3 Avalanche win over the Blues. Colorado can eliminate St. Louis Wednesday night in Game 5 with a victory.

(Top photo: Scott Rovak / NHLI via Getty Images)

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading


Instigator call the turning point in Rangers’ Game 4 win over Hurricanes –



Yep. They picked up right where they left off.

Game 3 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes ended with tensions high and there was some obvious carryover into Tuesday’s Game 4 at Madison Square Garden that saw the Blue Shirts even the series with a 4-1 victory.

Whistles were few and far in between during a frenetic first half of the opening period as both teams traded chances. The Rangers controlled much of the high-paced action and eventually began winning more puck battles than the Hurricanes.

Then the key turning point of Game 4 occurred.

Jacob Trouba absolutely walloped Max Domi near the penalty boxes with a hard hit at the 11:38 mark.

Steven Lorentz was in the vicinity when the open-ice hit was delivered. Instead of merely taking Trouba’s number, Lorentz immediately came to the defence of his teammate and dropped the mitts with Trouba in a rare playoff scrap.

Trouba unquestionably contacted Domi’s head, just as the Hurricanes’ forward’s feet were sliding out from beneath him mind you, yet the officials deemed it a clean hit.

The sequence resulted in an instigator call on Lorentz.

Carolina’s bench, plus head coach Rod Brind’Amour, were visibly upset when Trouba only received five for fighting.

Rangers head coach Gerard Gallant told the broadcast at the first intermission “it was a great hit” before adding “Domi had his head down a little bit.”

Domi, of course, was involved in the rough stuff at the end of that heated Game 3 over the weekend.

The instigator call certainly seemed to affect the Hurricanes on the penalty kill and the Rangers capitalized with Lorentz in his team’s locker room as part of the 2-5-10 he was assessed.

Carolina was relatively sloppy while a man down and a turnover in their own end led to a missed opportunity to clear the zone. That led to Adam Fox patiently making a cross-ice saucer pass to Andrew Copp who neatly slide the puck to Frank Vatrano and the winger beat Antti Raanta low glove to open the scoring.

Brind’Amour, while wanting his players to be more disciplined, was fairly subdued in his post-game comments. He did mention he thought Trouba should’ve been given a cross-checking minor for getting his stick up on Lorentz prior to the brief punch-up.

“We’re not out there to catch guys (with their heads down) or play stupid or anything like that,” Copp said of Trouba’s hit after the game. “We’re just trying to finish our checks when we’re there and play physical when we can and make smart decisions. At the end of the day, them taking the two minutes changed the course of the game. … It’s not headhunting at all. It’s a good hit and their response warranted a penalty.”

Copp added his second assist of the period moments later when Fox, who leapfrogged Cale Makar for the active post-season lead in points among blueliners, tipped in his fourth of the playoffs on a Ryan Lindgren shot.

Lindgren, who has been excellent for the Rangers since returning to the lineup, was named the second star thanks to his two-assist night. Copp and Vatrano, both acquired in March trades, were named first and third stars of the game, respectively.

While there’s plenty of blame to go around on the Carolina side of the equation, Raanta’s performance is not why the series is even as it shifts back to PNC Arena.

Raanta did allow four goals on 28 shots, sure, however he also made a handful of highlight-reel saves to keep his team in it.

Alexis Lafreniere and Artemi Panarin were both separately stopped by Raanta on breakaway backhand deke attempts and he flashed the leather on Chris Kreider, yet his best of the night was against Mika Zibanejad.

The bigger concern for Carolina continued to be the lacklustre power play. It was only 5-for-43 in the playoffs prior to Game 4 where the issues persisted.

Carolina didn’t have trouble entering the zone when a man up. It’s just they couldn’t do much beyond moving the puck around the perimeter once the zone was established.

Their first man advantage of Game 4 occurred midway through the second period although the best scoring chance and only shot on goal during that PP was generated by the Rangers.

Brind’Amour’s group couldn’t get anything going with Lafreniere in the box serving a goalie interference minor early in the final frame either and they finished the night 0-for-2.

The Hurricanes were down by three goals heading into the third period and to say putting three behind Ilya Shesterkin in a single period is a tall task would be an understatement.

The soon-to-be Vezina Trophy winner had his shutout bid ended by Teuvo Teravainen in the third but that’s all Carolina could muster.

Brind’Amour didn’t even bother pulling his goalie in the final few minutes with the score 4-1.

There was some more pushing and shoving at the final horn with Ryan Reeves giving Domi the business – which was likely more fallout from the Game 3 rough stuff – but nothing escalated further.

The Hurricanes are winless on the road this post-season but perfect at home so they’ll appreciate Game 5 is scheduled for Thursday in Raleigh, N.C.

This series is now officially a best-of-three.

Adblock test (Why?)

Source link

Continue Reading