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Blue Jays break the bank with risk-reward signing of ace Hyun-Jin Ryu – Toronto Sun

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The Blue Jays have found their ace — a big-money, top-of-the-rotation starter in the form of free agent left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The news broke late Sunday that the rebuilding Toronto franchise signed the 32-year-old South Korean to a four-year US$80-million deal.

The signing turned a quiet off-season into a home-run acquisition for Jays general manager Ross Atkins and team president Mark Shapiro.

Most importantly, it gives manager Charlie Montoyo and pitching coach Pete Walker a legitimate starter to lead the young team after one of hits worst seasons in decades.

Though he pitched for the Los Angeles Dodgers for six seasons, Ryu led the majors in earned-run average in his outstanding 2019 campaign, finishing with a 2.32 ERA which earned him an All-Star berth and a runner-up for the National League Cy Young Award. Those honours were well earned with a 14-5 record which included 182.2 innings of work and 163 strikeouts.

Obviously the southpaw immediately vaults to the top of a Toronto rotation that for the most part was a disaster last season. It got particularly bad when Aaron Sanchez continued to battle injury issues and Marcus Stroman was a disruption in the clubhouse. Both were dealt prior to the July 31 MLB trade deadline and a troubled season in which the Jays used 21 different starters was in full disarray.

In Ryu, however, the team now has a legit ace to build around and complement the talented group of young position players led by Vlad Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio.

It also makes it a productive off-season for Atkins and a Jays offence that has taken a lot of heat from a frustrated fan base. Quietly the Jays brass made it known they were serious about Ryu, however, and from a perception standpoint with the clubs followers, landing him has to be viewed as a large score.

Already, the team has acquired potential starters in Chase Anderson, Tanner Roark and Shun Yamaguchi, the latter who would appear to be a candidate for the bullpen.

As with any acquisition, the Ryu deal is pending a physical, which isn’t likely to take place until the new year. In his six seasons with the Dodgers, Ryu compiled a record of 54-33 with a stellar 2.98 ERA. Prior to coming to North America, Ryu was a legend in his homeland where he was a star in the Korean Baseball Organization.

The signing comes with some risk, however, given Ryu’s age and the fact that he has battled injuries throughout his career. But his most recent form is difficult to ignore and the need to acquire a pitcher with star power and effective stuff was critical.

From a money standpoint, the expenditure on the lefty is certainly a breakthrough for the Jays organization. Atkins has vowed all off-season that he had clearance from team owner Rogers Communications to spend — and spend he did.

The reported $80-million outlay is the most under the current administration and is the most money the team has spent since signing Canadian-born catcher Russell Martin to a five-year, $82-million contract. It also continues a massive MLB off-season for free-agent pitchers to break the bank. The biggest of those contracts went to Gerrit Cole, who signed with the Yankees for a record US$324 million.

In a perfect world, the Jays likely would have preferred topping out at three years for Ryu, so the term certainly brings some risk as the pitcher ages. On the other hand, with the Yankees getting so strong, so much young talent on the roster and attendance plummeting, one could argue that the team could ill afford not to make a splash by acquiring a quality arm.

The recent Jays acquisitions certainly change the makeup of a pitching staff that laboured last year. If you were projecting a rotation today — seven weeks and change before pitchers and catchers report to Dunedin, Fla. for spring training — Ryu would be at the top followed by Roark, Anderson, and Matt Shoemaker (who is coming off of knee surgery), with Ryan Borucki and Trent Thornton battling for the fifth spot.

With Ryu under contract for four years, if things go to plan the Jays pitching situation now seems loaded with promise. Nate Pearson, one of the most coveted pitching prospects in the game, is a year at most from a potential arrival in the big leagues and a host of other strong arms, including 2019 first-round pick Alek Manoah are also well regarded.

Until the Ryu signing, the Jays off-season was dominated by talk — with both Atkins and Shapiro maintaining they were aggressively pursuing big names. Sources around the league confirmed that strategy by Toronto management and now the talk is real.

And perhaps the Christmas miracle came just in time to stuff some Blue Jays tickets under the tree.

rlongley@postmedia.com

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Drew Brees' career possibly ends with more Saints playoff sorrow as Tom Brady and Bucs move on – Yahoo Canada Sports

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The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Brett Martel, The Associated Press

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FRIESEN: Injury to Laine just latest curveball for Jets – Winnipeg Sun

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Article content continued

“He couldn’t warm up right during practice,” Maurice said, shedding little light on the trouble. “I don’t even know if I’m going to list him as day-to-day, yet. We’ll get to tomorrow to see how he’s feeling.”

At least Laine was planning to get on the plane to Toronto.

Winnipeg Jets defenceman Tucker Poolman (centre) defends as Calgary Flames forward Matt Tkachuk tips the puck past goaltender Connor Hellebuyck in Winnipeg on Thursday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Tucker Poolman, Josh Morrissey’s partner on the first defence pair, wasn’t.

Poolman spent his second day on the COVID-alert list and won’t make the three-game trip out east, where the Jets face Ottawa on Tuesday and Thursday.

It was Poolman’s issue (flu-like symptoms, presumably, or perhaps a close contact) that caused the Jets to cancel Saturday’s practice.
Maurice says he didn’t have to cancel, that the Jets were just being extra careful. Better safe than sorry, especially these days.

If potentially having your scoring star out and your top defence pair halved isn’t enough, first-line winger Nik Ehlers didn’t practice on Sunday because he’s still dealing with symptoms that produced a negative COVID test which allowed him to play the first game against Calgary, Thursday.

Ehlers made the trip to Toronto.

Dylan DeMelo did not, and this is where the good news comes in.

One of the Winnipeg’s top defensive defencemen, DeMelo and his wife had a baby that kept him out of Thursday’s game.

The pandemic prevents the couple from getting any help, though, so dad is staying home to help with the new addition.

Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sun., Jan. 17, 2021. Kevin King/Winnipeg Sun/Postmedia Network
Dylan DeMelo during Winnipeg Jets practice at Bell MTS Centre on Sunday. Photo by Kevin King /Winnipeg Sun

Maurice says mom and baby are doing fine, so that’s a plus.

The Jets survived DeMelo’s absence just fine in Game 1. Compounding it with Poolman’s will add to the challenge.

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Chiefs' playoff win over Browns becomes an afterthought due to Patrick Mahomes' injury – Yahoo

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The Canadian Press

Saints’ Brees exits playoffs, perhaps career, on sour note

NEW ORLEANS — Nearly two hours after the New Orleans Saints’ season had ended, Drew Brees stood on the Superdome field in street clothes, throwing passes to his children while his wife, Brittany, captured images of those moments with her cellphone. Brees routinely throws the ball around with his kids after home games, but after a 30-20 playoff loss to the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Sunday night, he lingered longer than usual — and there was no telling whether that familiar postgame scene would play out again. Two days after Brees’ 42nd birthday, his 20th NFL season ended with statistically his worst playoff performance. Brees threw three interceptions, his most in 18 post-season appearances. His 134 yards passing were a career-playoff low. And because of COVID-19 restrictions, there were fewer than 4,000 fans in the 73,000-seat Superdome to bid him farewell — if indeed it was his final game in a Saints uniform. For now, Brees won’t say. But he’s also said nothing that would lead one to believe he’s prepared to play next season, his last under contract. “I’ll answer this question one time and that is that I”m going to give myself an opportunity to think about the season, think about a lot of things just like I did last year and make a decision,” Brees said. That decision for the NFL’s all-time leader in yards passing will come after a fourth straight season that saw the Saints (13-5) win 11 or more games and go to the playoffs, only to come up short of the Super Bowl. This season, Brees missed four games with multiple broken ribs and a punctured lung, but came back in time to see New Orleans through to its fourth straight NFC South crown and a convincing playoff victory over Chicago in the wild-card round. “I would never regret it. Never. No complaints, no regrets,” Brees said. “I’ve always tried to play this game with a great respect and a great reverence for it, and I appreciate all that this game has given to me. “There are obviously so many incredible memories and so many incredible relationships that have come as a result of playing this game,” Brees continued. “You find out so much about yourself and you have to fight through so much when you play this game. And I’d say this season I probably had to fight through more than I’ve ever had to in any other season in my career, from injury to all the COVID stuff, to just crazy circumstances. And it was worth every moment of it. Absolutely.” Brees said the way this season ended “won’t have anything to do” with his decision on whether to retire. As for what will go into the decision, Brees said, “I’ll keep that to myself right now.” Saints coach Sean Payton seemed to be taking his cue from Brees when he, too, sidestepped a question about what his decade-and-a-half relationship with Brees has meant to him. “That’s probably for another press conference,” Payton said. “Obviously he’s been tremendous for this team, this city. I could go on and on, but let’s wait and answer that at the right time.” Other teammates didn’t wait, though. “He’s been everything you could imagine a leader could be,” said Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan, Brees’ teammate since 2011. “He’s the first one in, the last one out. Every stereotypical leadership core value you think of, Drew has. He exemplifies everything that he does in terms of wanting to be a better teammate.” Veteran linebacker Demario Davis said playing with Brees has meant “everything” to him. “When I came to New Orleans, I wanted to help Drew Brees win another Super Bowl because I feel like he deserves it for the accomplishments that he’s had,” Davis said. “I wanted him to have some more championship trophies on the mantle. “He’s a great teammate, a great leader, a great man, a great husband and a great father,” Davis added. “He’s just an example for all us to try to emulate.” Brees, who brought the Saints their only Super Bowl appearance and win in the 2009 season, is not only the all-time leader in yards passing with 80,358, but also completions 7,142. He began this season first in touchdowns, but is now second with 571, behind the 581 of Tampa Bay’s Tom Brady, who is moving on to his 14th conference title game at age 43. When the game ended, Brees greeted a couple of Bucs players, including Brady, who he’s known since college, and then pointed to the stands and blew kisses as he jogged to the tunnel leading to the Saints locker room. When he first emerged from the locker room back onto the field in street clothes, he shared a long embrace with Brittany while his three sons and daughter played nearby. “I always soak in the moment and I’m looking up at my family and blowing kisses to my wife and my daughter and fist-pumping my boys,” Brees said. “They’ve become so much a part of this as my kids have gotten older, and they are so invested in this as well. That’s what makes the moment special, to be able to share it all together.” ___ More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL Brett Martel, The Associated Press

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