MLB Free Agents

When will the free agent market topple?

The hot stove has been a buzz this offseason. Much of the conversation has centered around trades and international signings. Giancarlo Stanton has moved on to the Yankees, and the young phenom, Shohei Ohtani is an Angel. However, we have yet to see many big names fall off of the free agent board this winter. Why is that?

Patience a free agent’s friend

MLB free agency

Relievers like Brandon Morrow are having a good offseason thus far (Photo from FanRag)

In this day of age, free agents are paid an exuberant amount of money, especially if they are on the right side of 30 and have shown great potential. That is why it is best to wait and see what the market does before signing onto any long-term deals.

This winter has been kind to relievers thus far. Although not a lot of closers have come off the board, middle relief pitchers have been doing quite well. What this means is Wade Davis, the top reliever on the market, is going to be in for a big payday. He should be coming off the board soon as many relievers have been flying off and there are plenty of teams looking for a new closer.

What we have yet to see is many offensive players get signed to new teams. We have seen Giancarlo Stanton, Evan Longoria and Marcell Ozuna move to new ball clubs. However, the only big name hitting free agents to be signed thus far are Zack Cozart and Carlos Santana. Neither of these players signed deals that exceeded four years though, which is what some of the other free agents are looking for.

Has it always been like this?

MLB free agency

Bryce Harper will likely fetch the largest contract in baseball history next winter (Photo courtesy of ESPN)

Mike Axisa of CBS Sports wrote an article back in November about how slow the offseason was pre-thanksgiving. He stated that you are not imagining things, the hot stove is rather cool this year.

Some rumors were that teams were waiting for the Giancarlo Stanton trade to be finalized before any free agent hitters would be signed. Well, Stanton was traded two weeks ago and the winter meetings have come and gone. What is the hold up?

One theory is that next year’s free agent class is having a large influence. Bryce Harper and Manny Machado will both be testing free agency, and they could be fetching figures in the $400 million range, so it would make sense that teams are saving up for those kinds of contracts to land a new franchise player.

Harper and Machado aren’t the only big names hitting the market though. Clayton Kershaw has an opt-out clause after 2018. Other big names are hitting the market such as Josh Donaldson, Charlie Blackmon, Andrew McCutchen, Brian Dozier, and A.J. Pollock. Either way though, we should be getting close to some names coming off the board. Then again, who knows anything in this tumultuous offseason.

Who will be the next to come?

Unfortunately, we still may be a ways away from any hitters being swept off the market. As mentioned earlier, Wade Davis should be picked up by someone soon, even though there have not been many rumors surrounding him. Yu Darvish has met with the Cubs and stated that he thought the meeting went well.

Pitchers are the hot commodity at the moment, partially due to the fact that power hitters are a dime a dozen these days. Major league ballplayers hit more home runs last year than any other year in history.

Perhaps teams are not sure how to value someone like J.D. Martinez. Normally, a player who hit 45 home runs and over 100 RBIs with a .300 batting average would be signed by now, at least we should have heard more about him at the winter meetings. However, teams are not sure how much to give the slugger. It has been reported that Martinez is looking for something in the range of seven years, $200 million. He has been linked to Boston, but nothing seems imminent.

We still have a way to go before pitchers and catchers report in February, so there is still plenty of time for the dominoes to fall. Once some teams figure out that they won’t be able to trade for some of the names they would like to, then they will focus their attention onto some of the available free agents.

This free agent class does not offer some of the young superstars like next year’s class will. However, players like J.D. Martinez and Lorenzo Cain both have the ability to make a difference on a contending team. Even with how things have been going, it is difficult to imagine them being available for much longer.

 

Featured image from Arizona Sports

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Worlds

Impact denying SKT T1 offer has several meanings

Free agency is here for those involved with League of Legends and along with that comes plenty of news about who will be on what team in 2018. One of those free agents is Eonyoung “Impact” Jeong, the former top laner for Cloud 9 and reportedly the newest member of Team Liquid. Before any reports came out about which team he signed with, there was another report stating he denied an offer from SK telecom T1. While it’s not weird to deny an offer from any team, this is one of the best teams in the world that we’re talking about. There are several reasons why he might have denied their offer, one of them being money.

more money, less stress

impact

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

According to the ESPN podcast, Impact stands to make around $1 million with his new contract which would keep him in the North American League. While he could probably make that much and more if he went back to South Korea, it wouldn’t be without a lot of stress. SKT has just lost in the World Championship and lost in the final of the Summer Split. They are coming back next year with something to prove and that is going to be a lot of stress placed on the team as they chase glory. That might not sound so appealing to someone who is a World Champion already, is one year away from becoming a resident player and is placed in North America where franchising has begun.

Samsung galaxy

Samsung Galaxy, Impact

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

Not only Samsung Galaxy, but Longzhu Gaming proved that you don’t need to be part of SKT to win anymore. While it might help immensely going by their past record, we live in an era where other teams have a good shot at winning. It’ll probably help a lot more to be part of the LCK to do so and even then the other teams that might beat SKT are slim pickings, that’s still a lot more than in the past. When a team known for constantly being the best go in a rebuilding year that’s when other teams get to shine. League of Legends will see another time where SKT rules over, but that’s not what is currently happening.

faker

Faker, Impact

Image from LoL Esports Flickr

As mentioned before, Impact has already won Worlds, he has the title forever attached to his name. He still has plenty of things to do now that North America has started to franchise. It wouldn’t be surprising if he didn’t want his name and his legacy always attached to Faker. It might seem like a trivial problem because who wouldn’t want the best player to have ever played League attached to their legacy, but fans have seen it time and time again. SKT does well in their region and crushes at Worlds, some players on SKT along with Faker get a lot of praise and then usually someone leaves to another team or region to strike out of their own. It’s one thing to be considered the best with Faker by your side and it’s another when you realize how far you can go without him.

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Washington Nationals 2018

Washington Nationals team profile

After a successful regular season, the Nationals came up short in the postseason once again. The franchise still has not won a postseason series. This year looked to be their year, as their roster had few holes in it especially after bolstering their bullpen. However, Game 5 in the NLDS slipped through their fingers, and now Washington is in a state of perplexity. What can they possibly do at this point that they have not already done?

The managerial carousal

The Washington Nationals fired another manager at the end of 2017. This time, Dusty Baker was the victim despite winning 192 games in two seasons and winning the NL East both years. He is also the third manager to be fired in five years in Washington.

Washington Nationals 2018

Dusty Baker is the latest example of how Washington is insecure at the manager role (Photo from AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

What makes the situation interesting is that they have still won their division four times in seven years. Not only that, but two of the three managers (Davey Johnson and Matt Williams) have won the NL manager of the year during their tenure in Washington.

Is the management really the problem? It is understandable why the front office points to the skipper role as the issue with their teams. This is apparent in the fact that there are no glaring issues in the roster. The bullpen was by far the weakest aspect of the team at the beginning of the season, but were able to make it an asset through trades.

Replacing the manager will not fix the Nationals’ issues. Dave Martinez has accumulated a lot of experience under the wing of Joe Maddon in Tampa Bay and Chicago. However, he still has a lot to learn as a manager seeing as this is his first gig. What it is really going to come down to is the Nationals being able to execute in the postseason.

Washington found themselves down 2-1 in the NLDS against the Cubs. They were able to win Game 4 in order to force a fifth and final game, and the offense really showed up when it needed to. The only problem was that Matt Wieters fell apart when it mattered most, and his mistakes cost the Nationals three runs in what ended up being a one run game.

The players need to be held more accountable, rather than thinking that the manager is the problem.

Bryce Harper and free agency

2018 marks the final year on superstar Bryce Harper’s contract, and oh boy will teams be coming out for him this time next year. No matter where he signs, expect for him to surpass Giancarlo Stanton for the largest contract in the sports world.

What has Nationals fans worried is that Harper has been rather aloof when it comes to his status in Washington. Harper asked Washington for a $400 million extension, which the team of course was not able to meet.

This is purely speculative, but it seems Harper made a rather high asking price just to see if the Nationals would meet it. It is hard to think that he expected Washington to pay up that kind of dough. It is very tempting for Harper to test free agency, so why not see if you can get that much?

Harper had to be ecstatic when he heard of Stanton’s record contract. That is because most teams would value Harper over Stanton at this point in time, despite the 59 home runs Stanton hit this year. The precedent of Stanton’s contract may just boost Harper’s value through the roof.

One ridiculous move that will never happen is Washington possibly trading Harper this offseason. Harper has never said out loud that he would like to stay in Washington, so his future there looks murky. With the high possibility of him chasing the money in 2018, why not see what you can get for him this offseason? One season of Harper’s services for a contender could be worth some very valuable prospects in the long run, and Washington should have an eye past 2018. This is especially the case since their current formula can’t seem to get them past the NLDS.

What is in store in 2018 for the Nationals?

Don’t expect a whole lot different in 2018. The NL East is going to be controlled by Washington once again. Brandon Kintzler, Matt Albers and Jayson Werth are some notable names leaving, but the core is still in tact. On top of that, Adam Eaton will be returning from his devastating injury he sustained early in the season.

Washington Nationals 2018

Eaton’s return to Washington will have a large impact. (Photo from MLB.com)

The Nationals ought to target an arm or two in order to bolster their bullpen. Other than that and maybe adding an arm like Jaime Garcia to the rotation, they shouldn’t be too active at the winter meetings barring any big news.

Derek Jeter and the Marlins will be taking a step back next season as the front office has expressed a desire to tear things down and build back up. Miami finished second place in the East despite being 20 games back of the Nationals. The Mets may be making moves this offseason in order to get back into their World Series form from a few years ago, but they are still far behind the Nationals.

The main questions is, who will face Washington in the NLDS? Also, will Dave Martinez make the difference that the front office hopes he can make? Either way, all of the 2018 season is already riding on whether or not they will make it past the NLDS.

The ultimate goal is the World Series obviously. However, they first need to win their first playoff series in franchise history.

 

Featured image from Sports Illustrated

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Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

In a significant turn of events, the National Baseball Hall of Fame announced substantial changes in voting on Nov 6. These changes will have a major impact on how the 2018 Hall of Fame class could be comprised. The Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope for several of the game’s elite players, who’ve now been given a second crack at Cooperstown.

The Hall of Fame defines the Modern Era as the span of time from 1970 through 1987. To the layman, this means for a player to be considered in this era, his peak years should mostly fall within that range. This, of course, has serious impact for several players who’ve watched their initial 15-year period of eligibility expire.

Among the names on the newly formed 10-player Modern Era ballot are, Steve Garvey, Tommy John, Don Mattingly, Marvin Miller (executive nominee), Jack Morris, Dale Murphy, Dave Parker, Ted Simmons, Luis Tiant and Alan Trammell.

Among the players on this list with a career WAR of (50+) are pitchers Luis Tiant (66.1) and Tommy John (62). Also joining this list are position players Alan Trammell (70.4) and Ted Simmons (50.1), respectively.

In my estimation, the no-brainer selections are Alan Trammell, Ted Simmons and Marvin Miller. Trammell deserves it for being among the best short stops ever, Simmons for being among the best catchers ever and Miller for his work as the first MLBPA union head. Miller has a legacy that every player in today’s game owes a serious debt of gratitude.

How voting works

Alan Trammell had a (52.6) WAR between 1980-1989. (Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images)

This newly formed selection committee will consist of 16 members. Membership of the Modern Baseball Committee will be a mixture of HoF members, executives and veteran media members (BBWA). Members will be appointed by the National Baseball Hall of Fame’s Board of Directors.

The appointees to the Modern Baseball Committee will each serve for a renewable term as well. They will meet twice every five years to discuss the merits of elite players that have slipped through the cracks.

According to the Hall of Fame, voting set to begin in 2017. So presumably, we will have our first voting process at the winter meetings this coming December in Orlando, Fla.

Voting can only take place when there is a 75-percent quorum (12 of 16 members). In the event a quorum isn’t reached, there is an allowance for voting via conference call.

Short Stop, Alan Trammell – Detroit Tigers

Alan Trammell is one of the biggest snubs in the history of the game. I know there is fervent debate about Pete Rose, but unfortunately, he’s banned from baseball. So are the PED players, in a round-about way.

Trammell was a career Tiger having played the entirety of his career in Detroit. A career that spanned 20 major league seasons. These were 20, mostly bright, seasons as well. Had Trammell not had the break down at the end of his career, he would most likely be in already. Still, it’s a shame to see arguably the best short stop of the 1980’s, not enshrined in Cooperstown.

Of the three Hall of Fame short stops that would be classified in the Modern Era (Yount/Ripken/Smith), Trammell (52.6) has a higher WAR than all but Yount (55.1) throughout the decade of the 1980’s. It should be noted, however, that Yount switched to center field full-time in 1986.

It’s not just WAR in Trammell’s case though that shows his greatness. We’re talking about a player that not only posted a (70.4) WAR, we’re talking about an all-around elite player. We’re talking about a six-time All-Star. We’re talking about a four-time Gold Glove winner.

Trammell was a fine hitter, though not known for his power he hit a (.285) clip in his 20 professional seasons. That’s not bad, in fact, it’s the same career average as Robin Yount.

The Tiger legend was also great when the moments were biggest. In the 1984 postseason, Trammell went 13-for-31 in his eight playoff starts. In case you are wondering, that’s an average (.419). However, Trammell saved his best for the World Series in ’84. He hit a blistering (.450) with two homers and six RBI on his way to winning World Series MVP.

Put Trammell in already.

Catcher, Ted Simmons – St. Louis Cardinals

Ted Simmons is one of the greatest catchers that has ever played the game. He still ranks in the top five is several offensive categories after retiring almost 30 years ago. I would go much further in depth on this legend, but I recently laid bare the case for Ted Simmons just days ago.

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Robin Yount was the only short stop with a better WAR rating than Alan Trammell in the 1980’s. (Photo courtesy of: baseballhall.org)

What should be mentioned is that Simmons, a (.285) hitter, was the first catcher to hit 400+ career doubles, and still ranks second in RBI all-time among catchers. That’s impressive no matter which way a person looks at it.

With each passing year, Simmons’ career continues to look better and better. Like a fine wine, it’s time to pop the cork on this fine vintage. Ted Simmons deserves the call to Cooperstown.

Read the case for Ted Simmons here!

Marvin Miller – Former MLBPA Union Head

Marvin Miller wasn’t a player, but his impact on the game of baseball was immense. Miller, an economist by trade, became the first head of the Major League Baseball Players Association in 1966.

In 1968, Miller successfully lead the first negotiation of a collective bargaining agreement between players and owners. As a result, the minimum salary was raised from $7,000 to $10,000 over the seasons of 1968 and 1969.

Perhaps the biggest battle Marvin Miller fought while head of the MLBPA, was the challenge to what was known as the reserve clause. Under the reserve clause, players had no rights to pursue better financial offers from other teams. In effect, the owners of major league franchises held all the power. Under the reserve clause, players were bound to a team as “property” and could be sold, released, or traded on the whim of the owner.

Enter Curt Flood.

During the 1969 season, Curt Flood was locked in a battle with Cardinals owner August Busch over a dispute of a $10,000 raise. As a three-time All-Star, and seven-time Gold Glove winner, Flood was right in thinking he was worth more. However, because of rocking the boat, Flood was traded to Philadelphia at season’s end. Presumably as punishment.

Flood denied the trade, and making a long story short, ended up suing MLB over the legality of the reserve clause. A case he would lose, but would lay the ground work for others in his wake. Flood sacrificed his career for those that came after him. I wonder how many of us would be so principled in that same situation.

Miller’s legacy

Modern Era ballot offers renewed hope

Curt Flood, along with Marvin Miller, reshaped the financial aspect of MLB. (Photo courtesy of: The Atlantic)

In 1974, Miller won a landmark case on behalf of the MLBPA. Due to a missed annuity payment, owed to Catfish Hunter, by A’s owner Charlie Finley an arbitrator ruled that Hunter was fee to sign with any team of his choosing. Thanks to Marvin Miller, free agency in baseball was born when Hunter signed a five-year deal with the Yankees.

For the first time a player had all the negotiating leverage to get the maximum financial return out of his skill set.

Also in 1974, Miller successfully convinced two pitchers to play out their 1975 seasons without signing a contract. It was then that these players challenged MLB by filing grievances with the league. The case was heard by arbitrator Peter Seitz, who ultimately sided with pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally.

Though the fallout from this case sparked widespread collusion against many of the pioneers of free agency in the 1970s, Miller perhaps changed the game in more ways than any player ever has on the field. After all, Miller fought for free agency, led the MLBPA through three labor stoppages and oversaw average salaries rise from $19,000 in 1966, to $326,000 by the time he stepped away from the union in 1982.

Miller, who passed away in 2012, always blasted the Hall of Fame for colluding against his inclusion in those hallowed halls. Maybe the Modern Baseball Committee will finally give this man his just desserts. Even if it does have to come posthumously.

 

(feature photo courtesy of: Sporting News)

 

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J.D. Martinez free agency: Where should he sign?

Arguably the top free agent in the upcoming 2018 class, J.D. Martinez is anticipated to receive a hefty contract next offseason, although which team he will sign for is unknown.

After missing all of April and part of May, Martinez clearly has no shot of winning league MVP, although after his monstrous second half, he has been propelled into the conversation. The 30-year-old has played a total of 107 games, where he has batted .318 with 39 home runs, 25 of which have come in the second half. When healthy, it is clear that Martinez is one of MLB’s premiere power hitters, and thus will continue to be a sought-after fantasy commodity.

Any Chance of returning to an old club?

J.D. Martinez free agency

J.D. Martinez began his career in Houston after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB draft. (Photo by Getty Images)

Houston Astros

Martinez began his career in Houston after being drafted in the 20th round of the 2009 MLB Draft. He failed to make an impact in his 252 games as an Astro, batting only .251 with 24 home runs and 126 RBIs. He was consequently released by the club in 2014.

Now a serious World Series contender, the Houston Astros don’t necessarily need Martinez, although adding his bat to a lineup of George Springer, Jose Altuve and Carlos Correa would allow the Astros to compete to be the best offense in baseball with the Cleveland Indians.

The Astros will head into 2018 with nine players under contract and over $93 million already on their total payroll. Their total payroll in 2017 was $148 million, which included over $14 million in retained salaries. It is approximated that Martinez will earn a multi-year $25 million offer, so it seems unlikely the Astros would spend nearly half of their remaining salary on an aging outfielder, as they already have Springer, Josh Reddick, Marwin Gonzalez, Derek Fisher and Kyle Tucker under contract.

Detroit Tigers

After being released by the Astros, Martinez was signed two days later by the Detroit Tigers. Martinez was under the tutelage of future Hall of Famers Miguel Cabrera, Justin Verlander and Torii Hunter. Martinez improved drastically, batting .315 in 2014, his first season in Detroit. He would go on to bat .300 with 99 home runs and 285 RBIs in 458 games.

Detroit had a fire sale this summer, trading away the aforementioned Verlander, along with former All-Stars Justin Upton and Alex Avila. It isn’t likely that Detroit would resign Martinez, although with Miguel Cabrera, Ian Kinsler and Nick Castellanos still in the lineup, they should compete in the consistently competitive American League Central.

J.D. Martinez free agency

Since his arrival in Arizona, J.D. Martinez has batted .285 with 23 home runs and 49 RBIs in 50 games. (Photo by the Detroit Free Press)

Arizona Diamondbacks

Martinez was traded to the Diamondbacks in July for three minor league prospects. Since his arrival, he has been phenomenal, batting .285 with 23 home runs and 49 RBIs in 50 games. At this pace over a full season, Martinez would have 74 home runs and 158 RBIs. Although that is clearly an unsustainable pace, it shows how elite Martinez can be during a stretch, especially in a lineup like Arizona.

According to AZcentral.com’s Nick Piecoro, Martinez said “he would love to return to the Diamondbacks”, although their financial situation makes that possibility seem very unlikely.

Where do we want him to land?

Obviously, we would all love to have Martinez sign with our favorite team. For me that would mean Boston. With the Red Sox outfield filled, Martinez would be forced into the everyday designated hitter role. This move is more realistic than I originally thought, as Mitch Moreland is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. So, if the Sox let him walk and move Hanley Ramirez back to first base, Martinez would fit perfectly into the designated hitters role.

He would undoubtedly dominate in Boston, as he bats .444 at Fenway on the career. Also, he would assume the same mentor role that Miguel Cabrera once played for him, as he would join a young lineup with blossoming stars Mookie Betts, Xander Bogaerts, Andrew Benintendi and Rafael Devers.

Fantasy-wise, where would the optimal landing spot be?

J.D. Martinez

(Photo by Latinoathlete.com)

Aside from the Red Sox, the best landing spot for Martinez would be with the Baltimore Orioles. With Baltimore, Martinez would replace Seth Smith in right field. He would be in line for improbable levels of production, as he be surrounded by the likes of Adam Jones, Manny Machado, Jonathan Schoop, Chris Davis, Trey Mancini and Mark Trumbo.

It is clear that Martinez is most comfortable when batting fifth, as his career batting average in that lineup position is .296, compared to .264 when batting third and .266 when batting second. If he were to land in Baltimore, he would likely fit in to the fifth spot in the order due to the depth of their lineup.

Also, Martinez has had incredible amounts of success against American League East foes. He has a batting average at least .300 against the Yankees, Red Sox, Orioles and Blue Jays. Unfortunately, he has had minor struggles against the Tampa Bay Rays in his career, as he bats .250 when in a dome and more specifically .257 at Tropicana Field, although it is public knowledge that the Rays need a new stadium, so if they were to leave the Trop, Martinez could thrive even further in the AL East.

Martinez is good enough to be an impact fantasy player on any team, although some situations are clearly more beneficial than others.

If J.D. Martinez ended up in San Francisco, which is a very possible move as they are desperate for power hitters and outfielders, it would not bode too well for his fantasy outlook. Although Martinez would be given the opportunity to play a good chunk of games in Arizona and Colorado, he would be forced to play over half of his games in San Francisco and San Diego, creating a disadvantage as San Francisco and San Diego are notorious pitchers ball parks. Also, Martinez would be forced to bat clean-up behind Buster Posey, placing an abundance of pressure and lack of protection around the 30-year-old.

If Martinez can stay healthy and find himself in the middle of an elite offense, he will be a top-10 fantasy player next season.

Featured image by AZcentral.com

 

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Kevin Shattenkirk free agency: Best options

Ever since the end of the Stanley Cup Final, the NHL offseason hasn’t slept. The expansion draft built the Vegas Golden Knights while New Jersey and Philadelphia selected Nico Hischier and Nolan Patrick, respectively. One of the top free agents expected to hit the market, T.J. Oshie, heads back to the Capitals on an eight-year deal.

With Oshie settled in the Capitol, the best all-around player available is former Caps defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk. The seven-year veteran is the most talented offensive blue liner.

This season, he finished with 56 points, trailing Norris finalists Brent Burns, Erik Karlsson and Victor Hedman. He’s notched 27 goals the past two seasons with both St. Louis and Washington. Defensively, he’s a solid skate who can move the puck from zone to zone.

Where he has the most value is on special teams. His eight power play goals and 27 points were second-most for a defenseman this season. His shot percentage has improved each season since 2013-14. He can lead the attack on the man advantage.

While his plus-minus isn’t pretty to look at the past two seasons, it improved on a stable Capitals blue line. Teams will keep that and the price he will garner in mind when signing him. What teams are in the running for him?

The Favorites

Boston Bruins – Kevin Shattenkirk has been linked to Boston for a few years. He played college hockey at Boston University after growing up in Greenwich, Connecticut. Boston inquired about him at the trade deadline, but the Blues reportedly wanted two first-round picks and David Pastrnak, which was way too high.

The Bruins have a young core of defensemen with Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo. Torey Krug does well on the power play, but he was the main quarterback on special teams. McAvoy had two assists on the power play in the playoffs, but he may need more time.

With Shattenkirk, Boston gets a proven asset that makes their blue line fast and deadly on offense. Its roughly $13.5 million in cap space means they can afford him if he stays around the $6-$7 million AAV range. He provides that leadership for a young core. General Manager Don Sweeney has to think about if Shattenkirk’s offense is enough of an upgrade without breaking the bank.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left, playing with Blues) could join the Rangers in free agency. Photo courtesy of Newsday/Photo by Mary Altaffer, AP

New York Rangers – On paper, the Rangers and Shattenkirk is a perfect marriage. New York now has $20 million in cap space after buying out Dan Girardi and trading Antti Raanta and Derek Stepan. Rumor has it Shattenkirk favors the Rangers for its location close to home.

On the ice, he fills a dire need for the Blueshirts. Girardi, while a gritty player, is not the same puck mover as Kevin Shattenkirk. On the power play, their special teams were 3-for-39 in the postseason after a top 10 finish in the regular season. Shattenkirk can replace Brady Skjei on the second unit, giving them a Ryan McDonagh-Shattenkirk combo on the man advantage.

Despite the recent trade for Anthony DeAngelo, New York still needs help on defense. Brendan Smith is still in play for New York, and they can still sign both. He checks every box on both sides. Even if the Rangers may look to get younger and cheaper after shedding Stepan’s contract, Shattenkirk can still make them competitive and fill multiple needs.

Dark Horses

Tampa Bay Lightning – Tampa’s interest in Kevin Shattenkirk is one of the worst-kept secrets in the NHL. In January, the Lightning tried to trade for the blue liner from St. Louis. It did not come to fruition. Now, the Tampa Bay Times reported GM Steve Yzerman is kicking the tires on Shattenkirk.

Even after snagging Montreal’s pristine defensive prospect, Mikhail Sergachev, Tampa is looking for top-four defensive help. Shattenkirk joining Hedman gives the Lightning one of the best combos in the league. His offense and his right-handed stick, according to Times’ writer Joe Smith, is a fit for Tampa Bay.

Ultimately, Shattenkirk’s willingness to come to Tampa Bay is the biggest obstacle. He rejected a seven-year, $42 million extension and a deal to head to the Sunshine State. Does he want to be there? Are the Lightning built to succeed in the next few years? With Shattenkirk, they can, but it’s hard to see unless they gain more pieces.

Kevin Shattenkirk free agency

Shattenkirk (left) could become teammates with Miles Wood next season. Photo courtesy of My NHL Trade Rumors/Photo by USATSI

New Jersey Devils – Any Rangers fan might have a tough time reading this, but it has some traction to it. Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman reported in March he wouldn’t be surprised if the Devils threw money at him.

New Jersey has $24 million free in cap space, so their offer could blow almost every other team out of the water. They have five total defensemen and a restricted free agent on their roster at the moment. Andy Greene and Damon Severson were their best defenders, and they were -16 and -31 for a weak team last season.

Basically, Kevin Shattenkirk becomes their best blue liner if he signs. New Jersey should make him their biggest priority. An offense with Taylor Hall, Kyle Palmieri and now Nico Hischier is impressive, while Cory Schneider is strong in net. However, he needs help badly in front of him. Shattenkirk helps them out, and they have room to look at other names such as Cody Franson or Karl Alzner.

Other Possible Destinations

Buffalo SabresTSN’s Darren Dreger reported last week of the Sabres’ interest. Like the Devils, they have a vast amount of cap space. They have a nice defensive core already in Rasmus Ristolainen and Zach Bogosian. Buffalo is very young, so Shattenkirk would have to be patient with them.

Montreal Canadiens – No surpise here, but Montreal needs to shore up their defense. They have space with $21 million, but there hasn’t been a lot of mutual interest. Plus, if they deal Alex Galchenyuk and lose Alexander Radulov, they may need to prioritize finding some forward help.

 

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What’s Next For Chris Paul?

Chris Paul has failed to even make the Western Conference Finals for his sixth straight year in Los Angeles. The Clippers have had trouble in the playoffs during Paul’s time with the team despite having other star players surrounding him. Paul’s time as a star player is coming to an end, which raises the question of what’s next for CP3?

Paul has an opt-out clause in his contract that would allow him to hit the free agent market this summer. Regardless of whether or not he decides to stay in Los Angeles, Paul will almost certainly use the opt-out clause.

If Paul stays with the Clippers, he is eligible to sign a five-year deal worth more than $200 million. Leaving the Clippers would significantly reduce the maximum contract that Paul could sign. However, some other factors must be considered.

A recent report said that Paul is likely to opt-out and resign with the Clippers. However, the status of fellow star Blake Griffin is also up in the air. If Griffin decides to leave in free agency, would it be wise for Paul to return to Los Angeles?

Paul’s window of opportunity for winning a championship is closing fast. Blake Griffin has proven his lack of durability again this season, and he has lacked the same explosiveness after suffering a number of knee injuries. Clippers starting shooting guard J.J. Redick is also a free agent this summer, which could further impact Paul’s decision.

The incentive to move would be motivated by a desire to have a better chance at a championship as his prime begins to come to a close. Paul looked great without Griffin in this year’s playoffs, and could likely be a key piece in a championship contender if the fit was right. The incentive to stay would be the considerably larger contract.

It seems that no matter how well Paul performs in the playoffs, the Clippers are doomed to have an early exit year after year. According to NBA analyst Shane Young, his career playoff stats have been historically great. He ranks third in player efficiency behind LeBron James and Michael Jordan, third in true shooting behind Magic Johnson and Stephen Curry, second in assist percentage behind John Stockton and has had a career playoff slash line of .519/.318/.847.

Clearly, the Clippers playoff woes run far deeper than Paul. Would his chance at a ring be heightened if he were to change teams? Paul could move to San Antonio this summer and team up with Kawhi Leonard to try and take down the Warriors in the West. With better coaching, Paul would likely thrive in the Spurs’ system. He would also be able to be more of a playmaker for the offense with Leonard, which could make him a much more efficient player.

The Clippers would still be a strong team if Griffin and Paul returned and could still continue to compete for a championship. After all, they looked like one of the strongest teams in the league at the beginning of the year.

However, after six years of failing to meet expectations, how high is the Clippers’ ceiling truly? Either way, Paul is a generational talent and will be a game changer no matter where he ends up going.

 

(Featured Image by Sporting News)

 

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Why Adrian Peterson to the Saints makes sense for both parties

On February 28th, the Minnesota Vikings decided not to pick up Adrian Peterson’s option for the 2017 season. However, the former MVP will now be joining the New Orleans Saints on a two-year, $7 million deal.

At first glance, this seems like an odd signing for a player that wanted to be on a contender. However, this might be the perfect fit for Peterson and the Saints. With Peterson coming off a torn meniscus, he will be out to show the NFL that he is still a top running back. As for New Orleans, they are looking to stop their three season streak of going 7-9.

Another question that continues to come up, is how the Saints split carries between Mark Ingram and Adrian Peterson. After all, Ingram is coming off a season were he rushed for over 1,000 yards. Last year it was clear that Ingram was the lead back, while Tim Hightower also got his touches (133 carries for 548 yards & 4 Touchdowns).

Regardless of injury Peterson is an upgrade over Hightower, which means the carries should increase. Ingram will still be the top running back for the Saints, due to his ability to receive and pass block. So the question is now asked, why is Adrian Peterson a good fit in New Orleans?

Image result for adrian peterson drew brees

Peterson and Brees could give defenses nightmares ( TSgt Michael Holzworth).

Why this could work

Adrian Peterson may have led the NFL in rushing for three different seasons (2008, 2012, 2015), but he received no favors from his quarterbacks. Throughout his prime years, “AP” had quarterbacks such as Christian Ponder, Joe Webb and Tavaris Jackson under center. Pairing him now up with Drew Brees is a scary thought for opposing defenses.

The days of seeing eight players in the box to stop him are now over. If healthy, teams will have to decide whether they are going to try and stop Brees or Peterson. For the first time in his career, the pressure is off of him to carry an offense. Not only that, but he’ll also under one of the best schemes in the NFL.

Sean Payton might be deemed as overrated by some portions of the media, however there is no denying his play-calling ability. The Saints always find themselves in the top five offenses year after year, regardless of the skill players in the system. Adding a future Hall of Fame running back, will make Coach Payton’s job a little less stressful.

The last aspect, and arguably the most important is the change in offensive lines. The Vikings ranked 30th in average yards per carry before contact, meanwhile the Saints ranked 6th. A much improved offensive line will definitely help open more holes for Peterson to hit.

There’s no denying that Peterson’s best days are behind him, but that doesn’t mean the tank is empty. For the first time in his career he has an elite quarterback, an offensive minded coach, and a lighter work load.

The Saints might not be the contender that fans were thinking of, yet they aren’t far off. It’s no secret that they have been a victim to their horrid defense. Perhaps the combination of Adrian Peterson and Mark Ingram can keep the defense off the field, which would be a recipe for success.

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Adrian Peterson Free Agency

Adrian Peterson Free Agency: Where Will he Sign?

The clock will soon be ticking now that Adrian Peterson is entering free agency. Adrian “All Day” Peterson could retire today and be an NFL Hall of Famer. Peterson holds the record for most rushing yards in a game, as he ran for 296 yards on Nov. 4, 2007.

Peterson also had an MVP season in a passing era when he ran for the second-most yards in a single season back in 2012. He ran for 2,097 yards coming off a gruesome knee injury in which he tore his ACL and his MCL along with straining his LCL.

Peterson has run for a total 11,747 yards in his career in just 123 games. He has a career average of 4.9 yards per carry and 95.5 yards per game which ranks third all-time behind Jim Brown and Barry Sanders. Peterson is going to generate a lot of interest in free agency even though he turns 32 on March 21.

Not many running backs produce after the age of 30 but Adrian Peterson could be the exception. His work ethic is legendary and he will be a valuable asset to any team in contention. Here are a few teams who will be in the running for Peterson and make sense for both parties.

Minnesota Vikings

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Jim Mone)

Peterson released this statement to ESPN after hearing his option would not be picked up, and said there’s still a chance he lands with the Vikings.

“It’s been a great 10 years with the Minnesota Vikings,” Peterson said. “They know what I bring to the organization as a player, with my work ethic and dedication. The door is still open to find some common ground.”

Peterson went on to say he will look at other opportunities, and that his primary focus is winning a Super Bowl.

He says the door is still open and that the main goal is to win a championship in which he believes the Vikings are capable. The Vikings need Adrian Peterson at the running back position. Matt Asiata is also a free agent and that means the Vikings current running backs are Jerick McKinnon, C.J. Ham and Bishop Sankey. McKinnonn has shown promise but isn’t going to be a feature back for a contending team.

The Vikings went from about 22 million in cap room to approximately 38 million in cap space by declining Peterson’s option. Peterson knows the Vikings will be working hard to bolster the offensive line. If he is willing to see that taking somewhere between eight to 10 million will allow him to finish his career in Minnesota with a top five defense to carry the team.

Oakland Raiders

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: AP Photo/Ben Margot)

If Derek Carr didn’t go down with a broken leg, the postseason may have played out differently. The Raiders are going to be contenders and they have a great offense. The Raiders have let go of Latavius Murray and are in need of a running back. Peterson would be a great fit in the Black Hole.

The Raiders have one of the best offensive lines in all of football as Pro Football Focus ranked them the fourth-best offensive line. Joining the Raiders would give Peterson a great offensive line and a great young quarterback that defenses have to respect. This would open up the running game for Peterson.

The Raiders will have 48 million in cap space allowing for tons of flexibility. They could throw more money at Adrian Peterson then most teams if they believe he is the piece that takes them from contender to champion.

The Raiders also have a young defense that continues to get better. A young strong defense and a solid offensive line with playmakers all over the offense is what makes the Raiders such an attractive option for Adrian Peterson.

New York Giants

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: Twitter)

Adrian Peterson’s tweets are a good indication of just how interested he is in the Giants. He likes the moves they are making. They have also proven that they can win a Super Bowl as their quarterback has won two. The Giants also let go of starting running back Rashad Jennings leaving the door open for a guy like Peterson to fill that void.

New York fills the contender criteria Peterson is looking for and lack the depth at the running back position. They also have 14 million in cap space available to bring him in. New York has a young defense that is continuing to get better. There is a common theme with the teams that would be a good fit for A.P.

A good defense that can help a team win a Super Bowl and an offense that is capable of playing well around Peterson. The one thing that might hurt the Giants is their offensive line which was ranked 20th by Pro Football Focus. Why leave Minnesota with a suspect offensive line to go to another contender with the same problem? The difference is the Vikings have the cap room to improve the line while the Giants are more limited.

Adrian is tweeting about the Giants which means he is interested. It will take a lot for the Giants to get A.P. but they are one of the teams with a legitimate shot at doing so.

Dallas Cowboys

Adrian Peterson Free Agency

(Photo Credit: http://www.bloggingtheboys.com)

The hometown team is always in play. It does not matter that they have Ezekiel Elliot. Jerry Jones has made bold moves in the past and this surely would be a bold move. Could you imagine a one-two punch of Elliot and Peterson? Jerry Jones can, which is why the Cowboys are one of the favorites.

They are attractive to Peterson for three reasons. First, as mentioned already, they are his hometown team and he grew up a Cowboys fan. He has been on record in the past saying he would love to play in Texas if he ever had to leave Minnesota. Second, they have a great offensive line ranked second by Pro Football Focus. Lastly, they are a contender. They made the playoffs last season and have a good, young quarterback.

It makes sense for the Cowboys because spelling Ezekiel Elliot with Adrian Peterson would be legendary. Both backs could potentially have a 1,000-yard season. Elliot had numerous runs in which he would go untouched for 10 or more yards and if Peterson got into that open field he could bust a lot of long runs into touchdowns.

The Cowboys cap space is where the issue may lie. They only have $4.3 million in available. Dallas has an opportunity to free up cap space by releasing Tony Romo. Releasing Romo would make eight million in cap space available. If that is enough to sign Peterson, Jerry Jones will give it some thought.

Prediction

It is hard to imagine the Vikings not finding a way to get a new deal done. Peterson will test the market but once he realizes his value is much lower than he’d like he is going to look at the Vikings and see three things. First, he is familiar with the organization and can remain comfortable without relocating. Second, he himself sees the Vikings as a contender which is what he wants most and the Vikings defense can help him win a Super Bowl. Lastly, he will most likely get the most money from the Vikings because they know him and will value loyalty.

In the end, Peterson is a Viking and will alway be a Viking even if he decides to start a new chapter.

 

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Franchise Analysis – San Francisco 49ers

For more than 60% of the NFL fan base, the season is over. Whether it was a key injury or an inept GM, there is a reason why your team didn’t make it. Fear not, because you may have heard of an event in May that allows teams to accumulate new players and renew faith in your franchise, the NFL Draft. This will be the first of an ongoing series in which I will perform an in depth analysis to assess the strengths, weaknesses, and needs of every NFL team, including what positions need to be addressed in the draft and free agency, starting with the San Francisco 49ers.

2016 Evaluation

Any competent 49ers fan knew that this year had the potential to be rough. Of course, Chip Kelly and his unique offense brought potential and excitement, but also an element of uncertainty. On the season, the 49ers ranked 27th in points and 31st in yards. Clearly, those rankings are not the hallmark of Chip Kelly’s offense. However, they were first in situation neutral pace. This means that the 49ers ran plays faster than any other team when the game was within one possession. Sadly, when your team can’t run or pass effectively and consistently, being the fastest team works against your defense.

Despite the offensive rankings, the 49ers do have assets at the running back and the left tackle position. According to Pro Football Focus, Carlos Hyde had a 71.4 player rating, which is average. So why would an average running back be an important asset moving forward? Because of the offensive line he’s playing behind. At season’s end, the average rating of a 49ers offensive linemen was a 58.08.

If you remove Joe Staley, their other offensive asset, they average is a 52.25 rating. The fact any running back could be considered average running behind this atrocity indicates talent. Also, if you happened to watch any of their games this year, they often were playing from behind, meaning, Hyde’s ability to run the ball is incredibly limited, as they need to make up ground. There aren’t many players that will entice potential head coaching candidates, but Hyde is certainly one.

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

Joe Staley was one of the few players the 49ers could consistently rely on this season at left tackle. (Courtesy of: USA Today)

As a linemen, Staley is the highest rated offensive player with an 81.4. This makes him a top 25 player at his position among qualified players. Sadly, his age and injury concerns decrease his value. Given that he is under contract, there is no reason to believe that the new 49ers general manager will let him go. Look for Staley to return next year as a top 15 tackle.

I’ll try to keep this brief. The 49ers defense was horrific this season. They were the absolute worst in terms of points and yards. Specifically, the 49ers were one of worst defenses against the run in NFL history. Of course, injuries to key defensive players attributed to this statistic.

However, there is clearly a scheme issue here. There are multiple players on defense that are not a fit for their 3-4 style defense. I won’t elaborate on which players, because the next coach may run a completely different defense, making some of those out of position players more valuable.

The only redeeming players on this side of the ball, outside of the injured NaVorro Bowman, are Tramaine Brock and Gerald Hodges. Brock is just outside of being a top 25 cornerback and Hodges is a top 20 inside linebacker. If the next head coach decides to stay with the 3-4 scheme, they will have a good pair of inside linebackers in Bowman and Hodges.

Divisional Analysis

You hear analysts and former coaches say it all the time, you build a team to win your division. There are a few things the 49ers have to do if they want to compete for a division title in 2017.

First, they have to be better against the run. When a team can run the ball effectively, they control every aspect of the game. The 49ers will never be able to compete if they can’t contain running backs like David Johnson and Todd Gurley the four times a year they play. But where do the 49ers need help most?

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

Deforest Buckner will look to improve upon his rookie campaign, but will a new coaching staff help or hurt his development in year two (Courtesy of: USA Today)?

In order to compete, they need to address the defensive line position in the draft or free agency. Their best interior or edge defender was DeForest Buckner. Buckner is a young, ascending player, but his strength is rushing the passer. The 49ers need to pair him with an interior defender who’s biggest strength is stopping the run.

Next, this team needs to address their offensive line. As stated, Joe Staley is an above average tackle. The 49ers absolutely have to acquire a tackle to pair with Staley on the right side. Their right tackle this year was Trenton Brown, who received a 53.7 rating. If the 49ers can find even an average tackle, they will see a dramatic increase in their ability to run and pass.

If this team can be better against the run and be more efficient on offense as a whole, they will find themselves in a position to win more of their games in 2017.

Don’t worry, I didn’t forget. This team, like most NFL franchises, has to address the quarterback position. There’s a reason Seattle and Arizona have been battling atop this division- consistency at quarterback. I sadly don’t have much to offer in this area, as free agent quarterbacks don’t often work. At this point, there isn’t a quarterback worthy of their 2nd overall pick in the upcoming draft with prospects like Myles Garrett and Johnathan Allen that could help address their putrid rush defense.

Of course, there are more positions that the 49ers need help at, but these are the positions they must improve with the focus on competing in their division. That’s not to say they can improve by upgrading other positions, rather, these are the most important to their success.

Postseason Prospects

Moving forward, I will include what a franchise needs to do compete in the playoffs. However, this is one of the few cases where I simply won’t. This team just has too many holes that can’t possibly be addressed in one season. Here are the most critical metrics that determine whether or not a team will make the playoffs.

On offense the important categories are points, yards per attempt, 3rd down conversion rate, sacks allowed, and time of possession. On defense the following metrics that determine playoff viability are points allowed, yards allowed, 3rd down efficiency rate, sacks, and turnovers.

Here are all the categories previously mentioned and how many playoff teams are within the top 15 in that respective category, in order from highest to lowest ranking.

Offensive Metrics

Points

  • Atlanta, New England, Green Bay, Dallas, Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Kansas City

Yards Per Attempt

  • Atlanta, New England, Dallas, Seattle, Miami, Pittsburgh, and Detroit

3rd Down Conversion Rate

  • Green Bay, New England, Detroit, Dallas, Atlanta, and Pittsburgh

Sacks Allowed

  • Oakland, Pittsburgh, New York, New England, Dallas, Miami, Kansas City, and Houston

Time of Possession:

  • New England, Green Bay, Pittsburgh, Dallas, Miami, Houston, New York Giants

Defensive Metrics

Points Allowed

  • New England, New York, Seattle, Dallas, Kansas City, Pittsburgh, Houston, and Detroit

Yards Allowed

  • Houston, Seattle, New England, New York Giants, Pittsburgh, and Dallas

Turnovers

  • Kansas City, Oakland, New York, Green Bay, Miami, New England, Pittsburgh

3rd Down Efficiency

  • New York Giants, Miami, New England, Houston, Seattle, and Dallas

Sacks

  • Miami, New York Giants, Seattle, Pittsburgh, Atlanta, Dallas, and New England

I’m sure you’ve noticed a trend. These teams made the playoffs because, for the most part, they don’t have any glaring holes in their game. That’s why the threshold was the top 15 teams. It proves that to make the playoffs you don’t have to be elite in every category. However, you can’t be terrible either.

Unfortunately for the 49ers, they are nowhere to be found in these categories that determine playoff viability. But, that doesn’t mean they can’t improve in 2017.

2017 Prediction

San Francisco 49ers Analysis

With Chip Kelly and Trent Baalke out in San Francisco, the Niners are looking for new faces to lead this franchise in 2017 (Courtesy of: Inside the 49ers).

There’s too much unknown to make an honest prediction about who the 49ers will select in May. They still have to hire a general manager and head coach. They could go a variety of different ways depending on their scheme and philosophy.

If I had to guess, I would see them addressing their defensive line position given the number of premiere players in the draft. Rather, I could see them trading back with a team like Tennessee who has multiple first round picks, courtesy of the Rams, in order to just accumulate as much talent as possible.

Barring something incredible, this team as it’s currently constructed will not win the NFC West. However, I do think they will finish 3rd and improve their record to 5-11.

The Rams were as dysfunctional as the 49ers, but now that they have cleaned house officially, they will be more stable moving forward. The decision on who will lead the 49ers on the field and in the front office will have a huge impact on their success over the next decade. So, choose wisely San Francisco.

 

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