MLB trade deadline: What AL contenders must do to stay in first

Baseball is back and the second half push to the playoffs begins. The MLB trade deadline comes in the second half as well and is Christmas in July for baseball fans. Strategy, money and moves galore (hopefully).

This period is a chance for teams to either sell off parts in order to rebuild or make the trades necessary to help their squad make it to the playoffs and an eventual push for the World Series. These are the moves the teams currently in first place for their respective divisions need to make to remain in first by July 31.

Boston Red Sox

If you follow baseball or this team at all, then you know their weakest position currently is at third base. Pablo Sandoval has been anything but useful or even available and has been designated for assignment. Also they traded away Travis Shaw who is having an excellent season for another first place team.

While everyone believes Todd Frazier is the best and only option available for trade, I would like to look at another in Nick Castellanos.

MLB trade deadline

Courtesy of: Bleacherreport.com

The Detroit Tigers are having a very disappointing season and will most likely be sellers during the trade deadline for the first time in a long time. They also have arguably one of the worst farm systems in baseball. Most of their top players are in Double-A ball and below which means they have a long time to wait to see if they develop.

To speed up the process of their inevitable rebuild, they could and should be looking to trade away as many players as possible.

Castellanos is only 25 and is under team control until 2020 which means Detroit could ask a decent return. So why would the Red Sox make this trade?

To start, they would get a solid everyday third baseman that could grow with the young players they are building around now like Andrew Benintendi, Mookie Betts and more. Rafael Devers is still at least one or two years away and wont be able to help them win now. It is unlikely they would have to part with him to get Castellanos as well.

Castellanos has been in the league for four full years now. You know what you are going to get out of him, whereas you never truly know with a prospect. He has experience, making playoff runs with the Tigers and still has room to grow.

The Red Sox would most likely only have to give up two of their top 25 prospects, most likely ones in the teens and below. They may also throw in a PTBNL or just an extra pitcher to sweeten the deal.

Nick Castellanos would solidify the Red Sox third base problem not only for now but also for the future. Todd Frazier on the other hand may cost only one top 25 prospect but he would also be a free agent at the end of this year and has seemed to have trouble batting for average ever since he was traded to the White Sox.

Cleveland Indians

It took the Indians awhile to catch up to the Twins, but they have taken hold of first and wont let it go for the rest of the season. This team can hit and is being led by its young superstars Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor while getting help from players like Edwin Encarnacion who struggled mightily to start the season but has figured it out.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: Sportsblog.com

Another strength of the World Series runner-ups is their bullpen. Their weakness? Outside of Corey Kluber, Carlos Carrasco and surprisingly Mike Clevinger, this team’s starters have struggled. Trevor Bauer, Danny Salazar, and Josh Tomlin all have ERAs over 5.

There are many attractive options on the market for the Indians. The question will be how much are they willing to give up in order to get the starting pitching help they need?

Last year, they traded away Clint Frazier and a multitude of other prospects in order to get their stalwart setup man, Andrew Miller. That being said the Indians still have some pieces that they could trade. I highly doubt they will trade Bradley Zimmer as he is with the club now and making a solid contribution.

There are a multitude of options for the Indians to help make their second World Series run in as many years. I like Sonny Gray, but I think his asking price will be too high considering how he has pitched in the last two seasons. This leaves two options: Gerrit Cole and Johnny Cueto.

Both the Pirates and Giants respectively have been under-performing and it looks like they will have to be sellers. While Gerrit Cole is better, he and Sonny Gray have a similar problem. They are going to cost more than the Indians are willing to give.

That is why they could trade for Cueto. He has won a World Series and has been in Cy Young contention, but the Indians could get him for a bargain. He has not pitched extremely well this season and the Giants are desperate (or should be) for prospects as they have one of the worst farm systems in baseball.

The Indians could give up one top 25 prospect not named Zimmer or Mejia and two others right outside their top 25 for Cueto. He would be a great pickup and if he could find his form again, he could be a top of the rotation guy to help the Indians try to make it back to the World Series.

Houston Astros

The Astros were my World Series pick back in January and I am glad that they have yet to let me down. Their lineup can hit from 1 to 8 and Keuchel and McCullers make up an amazing top of the rotation.

MLB trade deadline

Photo: SFgiantsrumors.co

Brad Peacock is finally living up to his potential, whether he is in the bullpen or the rotation. While most are looking at the rotation, and they could improve there, Peacock may actually be a legitimate option that will help them keep their first-place standing. Also, Colin McHugh should be coming off the DL soon and can help to solidify the rotation.

The Astros are missing another reliable bullpen arm. We saw how important they were in last year’s playoffs and right now the Astros have a pretty good bullpen. But if they are going to want to make a real run, they need a great bullpen.

They won’t give up what teams gave up to get pitchers like Andrew Miller and Aroldis Chapman last season. Instead, they will go for options that are a small step down.

In steps another Giants player and someone who has been a crucial piece in their bullpen for a long time, George Kontos.

Kontos has a career ERA under 3 and he has been in many high-pressure situations, including helping the Giants win multiple World Series. While he is not a flashy pickup, he is a reliable one, and should be relatively cheap, as he’s still under team control until 2020.

The Astros would not have to part with any of their major prospects. They could easily throw the Giants one of their lower top 25 prospects and some cash or another lower level prospect with high potential.

Kontos would solidify the bullpen as the Astros head into October. His experience would help the younger Astros team and again he would cost a lot less than someone like Sonny Gray or David Robertson.

Conclusion

The trade deadline is an unpredictable time and has a major affect on the way the rest of the season and future seasons will play out. Look out for what first place NL teams needs to do in order to stay in first place.

 

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An Ode to Mike Ilitch

News broke over the weekend that Mike Ilitch, longtime owner of the Detroit Tigers and the Detroit Red Wings, had passed away at the age of 87. He leaves behind a wife, seven children, and millions of people in the Detroit region who will miss him dearly.

Ilitch was more than just another ultra-wealthy professional sports mogul. Yes, he was ultra-wealthy. Yes, he was a professional sports mogul. However, when all is said and done, these accomplishments will pale in comparison to everything else Mr. I managed to accomplish in his 87 years.

IN THE BEGINNING

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: Little Caesars Pizza.

Michael Ilitch was born in Detroit in 1929 to Sotir and Sultana Ilitch. The son of two Macedonian immigrants graduated Cooley High School in Detroit and served for four years with the United States Marine Corps.

After his military career came to a close, Ilitch took to professional baseball. He played second base for a handful of teams, including his hometown Tigers.

In 1959, after his playing career had come to a close, Ilitch opened a small pizza franchise. Little Caesars Pizza Treat, a tiny pizzeria in Garden City, Michigan, would eventually grow into the multi-billion dollar, international fast food conglomerate you see today.

Marine, professional ball player, restaurateur – Mike Ilitch was truly a self-made man.

It was here at this junction in Ilitch’s life, that his sports legacy began to take shape.

HIS IMPACT ON PRO SPORTS

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: NHL.com.

After purchasing the Red Wings in 1982, Ilitch turned the fledgling Wings into a team to be reckoned with. Under his ownership, they’ve managed to make the playoffs for 25 consecutive seasons, win six Presidents Trophies, and four Stanley Cup championships; including back-to-back titles in 1996-97 and 1997-98.

On the passing of Ilitch, ESPN analyst Craig Custance said, “The Detroit Red Wings franchise was a first-class franchise under Ilitch, one that sacrificed nothing in the pursuit of a Stanley Cup.”

To many in the hockey world, Ilitch was known as an owner who

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: Kevin Dietsch, UPI.

truly loved the game. He would do anything for his club.

He purchased the Detroit Tigers in 1992. In a similar fashion, he restored the Tigers to their former glory, reaching the World Series twice and winning four consecutive Central Division titles from 2011 to 2014.

Forget the franchises for a moment, Ilitch would do anything for Detroit.

 

 

A GIVING MAN

What Ilitch did for his franchises was but a drop in the bucket compared to what he did for the Detroit community. While most investors were running as fast as they could out of Detroit, Ilitch never flinched. He purchased property after property in his pursuit of revitalizing the downtown core.

Aside from his financial investments in the city of Detroit, a list of Ilitch’s philanthropic efforts reads longer than most resumes. Apart from the wonderful work his franchises have undertook, his personal contributions have been enormous.

  • In 1985, Ilitch started the Little Caesars Love Kitchen, a traveling restaurant equipped to feed the hungry and assist in national disasters.
  • In 1986, he formed the Little Caesars Amateur Hockey Program, an organization which has helped literally thousands of children to play the sport.
  • In 2000, Ilitch Charities for Children was founded. As a non-profit, the charity was dedicated to improving health, education, and recreating in the lives of children. The charity was renamed Ilitch Charities in 2008 and broadened its focus. Ilitch Charities invests in communities and supports economic development and job growth to address issues like poverty and unemployment.
  • In 2006, Ilitch started the Little Caesars Veterans Program, which provides veterans with business opportunities after their life in the service.

Ilitch has been recognized for his charitable efforts by the likes of former Presidents Ronald Reagan, George H. W. Bush and Bill Clinton. He received the Secretary’s Award from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, had the “Mike Ilitch School of Business” at Wayne State University named after him, and in February of 2008 was given the key to the City of Detroit.

In 2003, Ilitch was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame and in 2004 he was inducted into the United States Hall of Fame.

HIS LAST CONTRIBUTION

Mike Ilitch, Detroit Red Wings, Detroit Tigers, Detroit, Joe Louis Arena, Comerica Park, Fox Theatre, Woodwar Ave, Stanley Cup, Presidents's Trophy, Charity

Photo credit: Olympia Development of Michigan.

Unfortunately, Ilitch passed before he had the opportunity to see his last contribution to the city of Detroit come to fruition. In 2014, it was announced that the Red Wings would soon break ground on the construction of a new arena.

Soon after, construction on the Little Caesars Arena was underway. The Wings are set to move into the new, state-of-the-art complex next season; without their enigmatic owner Mr. I.

For his commitment to the city of Detroit, for his love of sport and his fellow man, Ilitch will undoubtedly be remembered as one of sport’s most endearing franchise owners.

ARRANGEMENTS

The public is invited to share memories and condolences at a public memorial site outside of Comerica Park on Woodward Ave. Also, a public visitation will be held at the Fox Theatre Grand Lobby on Wednesday from noon to 8:00p.m. Ilitch purchased and restored the historic theatre in 1987.

In lieu of flowers, the family has asked for donations to be made in Ilitch’s memory to:

 

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“From Our Haus to Yours”

Sports cities power rankings: November 2016

Everywhere you look, there’s power rankings available for every in-season sport. However, it can be hard to find rankings on the top sports cities in the nation. There’s always rankings on the top teams in the NFL during the winter, but what if we looked at the overall sports cities power rankings?

That being said, it’s time to break out a new top ten ranking, and that ranking is the top ten sports cities in the nation.

So, how are these rankings done? Well, because this will be a monthly installment, the cities will change based on each of its teams performance. Take a look at this handy dandy list on what goes into rankings, from most important to least important.

  • In-season professional team performance, with the team with a higher percentage of its season played getting higher priority
  • In-season college performance in football and basketball
  • Out-of-season performance of a team
  • Potential to be better or worse as season goes on
  • Amount of teams a city or region owns
  • Slight weightage for college teams in the area

For a city to be considered, it must have two or more of the major professional sports in its area. Sorry San Jose and Portland, but you guys don’t count.

Teams that are technically located outside of their city name will be claimed by their closest city. So, Boston claims the Patriots, New York City claims the Jets and Giants, and so on.

Scores are an average of all totals from each sport. The scale is from one to five, with five being the best.

Now, let’s begin. Go ahead and light me up in the comments and on social media. As a writer, I’m always begging for the approval and validation of my readers.

  1. Cleveland- 3.8- Fans in Cleveland are no longer deprived of rooting for a successful sports franchise. Bar the Browns, and Clevelanders get the privilege of rooting for the 2016 NBA champions, the 2016 AL Pennant winner, and, in some cases, the Ohio State Buckeyes. It’s easy to complain about the Browns, but they are in line to get the number one pick of the NFL Draft. However, the Browns organization is about as successful with drafting as an umbrella is at peeling a banana. Overall, life isn’t too bad outside of Sundays in Cleveland, OH, and the Indians are on the verge of winning the World Series.
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Dak Prescott (4) and Ezekiel Elliott (21) could become one of the most dynamic duos in sports. (Photo: The Dallas Morning News)

  2. Dallas- 3.8- It’s surprising to see Dallas so high on the list, but the city has plenty to root for. The Cowboys are 6-1 and look poised to fight for a first-round bye all season. They also have an incredibly bright future. Although the playoff outcome wasn’t what the Rangers wanted, they still won 95 games and took the AL West crown. The Mavericks will need a new face of its franchise, but they still made the playoffs and won 42 games. In the NHL, it’s quite early, but the Stars are 3-4-1 and in position to fight in the Central Division. The state of Texas has multiple colleges to root for, and none of which are located in Dallas, so they don’t get much credit in collegiate athletics.
  1. Boston- 3.4 Boston was the city I expected to see at the top of the list prior to my evaluations. With the Red Sox, Patriots, and Bruins, Boston has enjoyed a lot of success recently. However, the city’s closest university, Boston College, had a combined 0-25 conference record in football and basketball in 2015. The football team is 4-4 this season, but that’s still nothing to get excited about. The Celtics are also popular picks to win a lot of games this season, but they haven’t done it yet. If it wasn’t for the minor scoring weightage for college sports, the city of Boston would have the highest score.
  1. Pittsburgh- 3.75
    Sports Cities Power Rankings

    Evgeni Malkin helps lead the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. (Photo: Pittsburgh Sporting News)

Another team I didn’t expect to be this high is Pittsburgh. However, when delving into the city’s sports, they root for a perennial Super Bowl contender in the Steelers, and the defending Stanley Cup champion in the Penguins. The Pirates weren’t terrible, but they did finish five games under .500 at 78-83. The Pirates could be going downhill with the demise of Andrew McCutchen, but hockey and football seems to always be a constant in the Steel City.

  1. Seattle- 3.7

Sitting atop the NFC West with a comfy 1.5 game lead over the Arizona Cardinals, the Seahawks look primed to make the playoffs for the fifth year in a row. On top of that, the Mariners won 86 games this season, just missing the final AL wild card spot. Fans of the Washington Huskies have plenty to root for as well. It’s not so bad in Seattle. On top of all that, Seattle seems to be the most popular city for relocation or expansion in the NBA – rightfully so.

  1. Detroit- 3.4

The city of Detroit is anchored by having no terrible teams right now, and by college sports. With Detroit being just 50 minutes away from Ann Arbor, Detroit fans get to root for one of the fastest-rising college football programs in the University of Michigan. Not only that, but the Tigers missed the playoffs by just three games, the Pistons made the playoffs last season, and the Red Wings are one of the best hockey franchises in the NHL.

Sports Cities Power Rankings

Derek Carr is giving Oakland fans plenty of reasons to be happy. (Photo: AP)

  1. Oakland- 3.25

Luckily for Oakland, the city is carried by the Dubs. Blowing the first ever NBA Finals 3-1 lead is nothing short of embarrassing, but they’ve still got the most star power in the NBA. The Raiders are finally rising with Derek Carr and Khalil Mack commanding the offense and defense. Baseball is the only thing bringing the city down, as the A’s won just 69 games last season. By November, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Oakland rise on the list.

  1. Houston/San Antonio-  3.25

These two cities had to be paired together, as San Antonio’s NBA organization cannot be left out, and Houston is the closest city to them. With the Spurs and Rockets carrying the city, there’s not much to be giddy about. The Texans are simply terrible, and overpaid a below-average in Brock Osweiler. With nearly no body of work, yet money that would make even Donald Trump squirm, Houston will regret their decision to pay him so much. The Astros are up-and-coming, but underperformed with 84 wins last season. If the two NBA franchises can produce playoff runs, look for this pair of cities to rise on the monthly.

  1. Chicago- 3.25

Other than the Cubs being in the World Series, the city of Chicago is somewhat average. Yes, they do get the Blackhawks, who sit at third in the Western Conference, but the Bears are bad, and the White Sox and Bulls leave much to be desired. In college sports, Chicago doesn’t have much going for them, however they have a very broad college spectrum. Overall, the Bears hold this city back from being ranked higher.

  1. Toronto- 3.2

Last, and technically least on the list is a city outside the United States. Toronto houses just two professional teams, but both of them are pretty solid. The Blue Jays took a wild card spot and snuck into the playoffs, only to be beaten by an eventual World Series team in the Indians. Their basketball team isn’t too shabby, with the best backcourt in the NBA, besides Golden State. In the NHL, the Maple Leafs sit towards the bottom of the basement in the Atlantic Divsion, but it’s too early to write off any team in the NHL yet.

 

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“From Our House to Yours”

Top 5 NBA Games to Watch (Week of 2/1 – 2/7)

#5- Detroit Pistons @ Boston Celtics (Wed. 2/3): Detroit is currently the 8th seed and Boston is the 5th seed, as these two young teams who are trying to emerge as contenders in the East get ready to clash. Reggie Jackson versus Isaiah Thomas should be a great matchup to watch. Andre Drummond is a stud and is turning into a star. It will be interesting to see how this one plays out and this could eventually be a preview of a potential playoff series.

My prediction: Detroit 92 @ Boston 98

#4- Miami Heat @ Dallas Mavericks (Wed. 2/3): This should be a great out of conference game. Miami and Dallas are both currently the 6th seed in their respective conferences. Both teams aren’t considered title threats but any team who makes the playoffs is dangerous. These teams have lots of Finals history against each other in the last 10 years so this could cause fireworks.

My prediction: Miami 101 @ Dallas 94

#3- Boston Celtics @ Cleveland Cavaliers (Fri. 2/5): These teams met in the playoffs last year and there is bad blood. Cleveland swept Boston but Kelly Olynyk injured Kevin Love for the rest of the playoffs and J.R. Smith punched Jae Crowder. This may be an old fashioned eastern conference match up that could get physical. Entertaining and exciting may not even begin to describe this game. Tune in basketball fans; this will be a good one.

My prediction: Boston 99 @ Cleveland 104

#2- San Antonio Spurs @ Dallas Mavericks (Fri. 2/5): Tim Duncan. Dirk Nowitzki. Another matchup between division rivals and future hall of famers. These teams have had great battles over the years and the games are always exciting. I see no reason this one should be any different. There isn’t much to say except get the popcorn then kick back and relax and enjoy the show.

My prediction: San Antonio 91 @ Dallas 83

#1- Oklahoma City Thunder @ Golden State Warriors (Sat. 2/6): The star power in this one might take us to space: Steph Curry, Russell Westbrook, Kevin Durant, Draymond Green and Klay Thompson. This is the marquee game to watch this week and this will be the first time these two teams play this season. This is one of those games that when you look back, it could go down as game of the year. I know NBA fans are licking their chops to catch this one. The NBA is smart to showcase this game Saturday night because games don’t get better than this. I would say get that couch comfy, but this game is going to be so electric you might not even sit down. I hope you can feel my excitement for this game because come this Saturday NBA fans are in for a real treat!

My prediction: Oklahoma City 104 @ Golden State 105