New York Giants Corner Among Most Promising Sophomores

The New York Giants need an improvement in the secondary if they want to win – that’s practically a fact going into the 2020 season. There’s a number of things that could be changed, from altering the personnel to changing schemes to more player-friendly ones, to improving the defensive line to allow the corners and safeties to spend less time in coverage. Personnel, however, will almost certainly be part of the team’s success or failure regardless of what other changes are made.

Fortunately, the Giants seem to have at least one promising and versatile young player on their hands, who entered the 2019 season late but made an impact despite the poor results overall for the team.

This is of course, former Notre Dame corner and safety Julian Love. Love entered the league playing second fiddle to DeAndre Baker, who was the higher draft pick between the two of them and was taken in the first round after the Giants traded up, but Love perhaps had the better start after getting to spend more time on the bench and adjust to the NFL before entering the game for real. Baker, on the other hand, was thrown right into the fire and it showed in his play.

Love will be a competitor going into the position battles of the 2020 season, of course – both at cornerback and at safety, where an aging Antoine Bethea may end up replaced by someone else. Pro Football Focus spoke on Love, and placed him on the list of 2019 rookies most likely to make a jump this season.

At Notre Dame, Love played the vast majority of his snaps at wide cornerback, and he played well there, too, earning a 92.6 coverage grade across the 2017 and 2018 seasons. His transition to the NFL came with a position change, though, as the Giants asked Love to play safety as a rookie. This season, he split his time between playing in the box (176 snaps), slot corner (129 snaps) and even a little bit of free safety (77 snaps). As the table of his snaps by alignment below shows, that was new territory for the rookie.

 

Love didn’t see significant playing time until Week 12, but he made a good first impression to close out his rookie season by earning an overall grade of 70.5. The versatility to play safety, slot corner and wide corner — like he showed he was able to in college — serves the Giants well as they head into 2020. At the very least, Love showed that he deserves more playing time next season.

The Giants could come into the 2020 season with another revamp at secondary and it looks like Love is set to be a part of that – whether he ends up at corner or primarily safety remains to be seen, but in a season where the Giants have holes at both currently and parted ways with top cornerback Janoris Jenkins towards the end of the year, the fact that Love is able to play at multiple spots seemingly only increases his chances of making it onto the field more consistently in the coming season.

New York Yankees 2020 Season Preview: Aaron Judge

New York Yankees, Aaron Judge

Despite an injury that landed him on the IL for two months, New York Yankees star Aaron Judge pieced together a decent 2019 season. His stats weren’t quite what he and the team wanted, but were far above average.

Judge landed on the IL in April after he pulled an oblique muscle while swinging in a game against the Royals. He would return in June and struggle at times but wound up with a .272 average on the year. He had a ton of trouble getting his power back after the injury but got it back by August.

Additionally, the 27-year-old of Linden, California, hit 27 home runs and drove in 55 runs. His slugging was .540 with a .921 OPS.

Judge was flawless on defense, literally. In 92 games played in the field, Judge never made an error. That was a massive part of why he had a 5.4 WAR in just 378 at-bats.

2020 Expectations

The Yankees need Judge to stay healthy in 2020. He was healthy throughout 2017, and look at what he did. He won the Rookie of the Year and finished second in the MVP (to Jose Altuve, who cheated his way there).

It would also be great if Judge could have a little more consistency at the plate and reduce the number of strikeouts. A ton of his outs are via the strikeout, and when he gets cold, he strikes out almost every time up to bat. I understand that it’s something that happens to power hitters, but it needs to try to be avoided.

If Judge could bat around .280, that would be fantastic. He needs to continue to drive the ball and hit home runs from the second spot in the order. If DJ LeMahieu can lead off with a single or double frequently, then it sets up Judge to bring him home with an extra-base hit or even a weakly hit single.

The Yankees are expecting big things out of Aaron Judge in his fourth full major league season.

New York Yankees receive good news on the James Paxton front

New York Yankees, James Paxton

When the New York Yankees officially released the news that starting lefty pitcher James Paxton would miss 3-4 months of the season after having a cyst removed from his lower back, optimism regarding the beginning of the 2020 season took a hit.

Luckily, the signing of Gerrit Cole and return of Jordan Montgomery offers the team much-needed support in the pitching rotation.

According to MLB Insider Jon Heyman:

“We’re very optimistic he’ll back in the first third of the season,” agent Scott Boras said, via Heyman.

The initial recovery timetable ended in June, but it’s possible Paxton return in April at some point, which gives the Yankees more comfort. Having a top lefty pitcher is an essential part of the Yankees’ rotation, considering the top four pitchers are now all righty.

Behind Cole, Paxton is arguably the second-best pitcher with Luis Severino close behind. In “Big Maple’s” first season in the Bronx, he finished wit a 15-6 record with a 3.82 ERA in 29 starts. Over the second half of the season, he showed ace potential, winning 10 of his final 11 games. His 2.51 ERA was tremendous, along with his 69 strikeouts in 61 innings. While his postseason form was jittery, he performed well enough for the Yankees to win, but their run-support fell off due to fatigue and injury.

The Bombers and manager Aaron Boone will rely on Paxton moving forward to help lead the rotation, along with Cole and Severino, who are both considered ace-level pitchers.

As per NJ.com:

Dr. Andrew Sama, co-chief of spinal surgery at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City, said he believed the 31-year-old Paxton should make a full recovery. Sama has performed the surgery before, but on other athletes, and hasn’t seen Paxton’s medicals.

“If the thing that’s slowing someone down is — this cyst or disc or whatever it is pressing on a nerve — and that offending agent is removed, then once they heal from the surgery, theoretically, they should be good to go,” Sama said. “Now, there is a possibility that the cyst or the disc or whatever it is can come back, but that’s pretty rare. It’s less than three or 4 percent.”

New York Giants: What are the chances Dave Gettleman trades back in the 2020 NFL Draft?

New York Giants, Dave Gettleman

The New York Giants have various avenues they can explore in the 2020 NFL Draft, including drafting a top talent with the 4th overall pick or trading back to add draft capital.

However, GM Dave Gettleman has never traded back in his career, despite the upcoming draft presenting a great opportunity. I don’t believe Gettleman will elect to trade back as Clemson linebacker, Isaiah Simmons, will likely be on the board for the Giants to pluck an inject into their defense if they feel necessary.

The New York Giants need to adopt a new mentality:

Gettleman admitted recently that his win-now approach in 2018 was wayward and was too optimistic heading into a full-rebuild. After two consecutive seasons of losing and disappointing performance, the general manager agreed that it’s time to take things one step at a time, which is a more conservative approach. The idea that the Giants can bounce back in 2020 and have a great season isn’t out of the question, considering the progress San Francisco made in just one offseason.

The Giants will need to strike gold in the draft and have a substantial free agency period to turn the team around quickly. The utilization of Saquon Barkley and bolstering of the offensive line will be a focus in the upcoming season, especially with the hiring of Jason Garrett, who will focus on the running game and tight ends.

Who would the Giants trade back with?

With Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert, and Tua Tagovailoa as options for quarterback-needy teams, the Giants can easily trade back and still land a top talent in the draft. The Dolphins (5th pick), Panthers (7th pick), and Raiders (12th pick) could be looking to add a talented young passer, which will only benefit the Giants. It’s possible they could still land Simmons in a trade-back scenario, including the Dolphins or Panthers, however, Gettleman is convinced that if a player you like is available, it’s best not to test the luck of the football gods. In this specific situation, though, it could make more sense to consider a trade back and add the lost capital they lost in the Leonard Williams trade.

The New York Mets…’Nuff Said

When you go down the list of terrible team owners, you’ll see the New York Mets’ owners sooner rather than later. That’s because the Wilpons are easily among the worst owners in professional sports. Back in December, Mets fans were elated to hear that the Wilpons would be selling the team. Fans were even more excited to learn that billionaire Steve Cohen was the one the Wilpons were selling to. They were even MORE excited when they started hearing about Cohen’s willingness to spend any amount of money to win. Yesterday, Mets fans were reminded exactly why they should never get their hopes up.

The Wilpons Hate Mets Fans

Yesterday, Barstool Sports reported that the potential sale of the New York Mets to Steve Cohen had gone south. Now, in fairness, neither the Mets nor Cohen has confirmed this report. However, this is due more to the non-disclosure agreements between the two parties than anything else. Reports suggest that Cohen has stepped back because the Wilpons tried to change the terms of the deal. It’s the type of thing that shady business people do. This is fitting because the Wilpons are shady business people.

A similar situation unfolded in 2011 when the Wilpons tried to sell a portion of the team to David Einhorn. A deal was in place and at the last moment, Fred Wilpon and Saul Katz decided to remove a provision that would have allowed Einhorn to take majority control of the team down the road. We’re unsure of what changes the Wilpons tried to make this time. However, they must have been significant for a man who’s worth $13.7 billion to potentially walk away at this late stage.

What Do We Make of All of This?

Reports suggest that while this deal is not entirely dead, it is on life support, to say the least. Cohen is a businessman and by all accounts, a tough negotiator. This could be a strategy by Cohen to make the deal more favorable to him. Given the Wilpons’ track record though, that seems unlikely. The more likely scenario is that the Wilpons attempted some sort of bait and switch. There have also been reports that there may be another potential suitor. This also seems unlikely though due to the late stage this deal was already at. Not only that, but that Cohen was about to pay $2.6 billion for a franchise valued at $2.3 billion.

The Cohen sale falling through would be a shot through the heart for Mets fans. This fanbase has become jaded by the way the Wilpons operate. Time and again the Wilpons have prioritized saving money over winning. There’s something to be said for operating this way if you’re a small-market team. The Mets are no small-market team though. In fact, as of 2019, the New York Mets were the 6th most valuable franchise in MLB. All Mets fans want is an owner who wants to win as badly as they do. The Wilpons have never been that and likely will never be that. Again, this deal isn’t completely dead but it doesn’t look good. If this sale falls through, who knows when the next potential sale of the Mets will happen. I’m not sure this fanbase can deal with another decade of the Wilpons.

New York Mets’ spring training complex won’t be ready by the time pitchers and catchers report

Simeon Woods-Richardson

Pitchers and catchers will report to Port St. Lucie on Monday. Yet, the New York Mets‘ house for spring training, Clover Park, won’t be fully ready to receive the players and coaches when they arrive.

Clover Park (formerly known as First Data Field) is currently undergoing renovations worth roughlt $57 million. TC Palm reported that the 7,100 seat stadium is only 62 percent complete according to a December quarterly construction report that the St. Lucie County sent to the state.

The country released the report this week. It looks like the Mets won’t be able to enjoy the whole renovations by the time pitchers and catchers report, but the report states that crews are working additional hours to complete the work, per county spokesman Erick Gill.

The county officials released their new target date to have the works on the stadium done, and it is February 24th. That would be a couple of days after the first New York Mets’ home game in spring training.

The work as a whole is expected to be ready by June 3, per the report. The seats, at least, have been completely installed.

The 62 percent is by December: the updated completion status of the project wasn’t available. Additionally, there wasn’t an explanation about the reasons for the delay.

The work will also include “an expanded entry plaza, team store and ticket office; concourse enhancements, including new restrooms and concessions; widened entrances into the stands; new locker rooms; and administrative offices.”

The county asked for a $60 million loan back in June 2017 to pay for the work and received $20 million from the state toward the project, according to TC Palm.

The Mets have their share of the blame

Things started off on the wrong foot in July 2018, because the New York Mets and the county took multiple months to trim $6 million from the original project to remain under the budget available. The construction started in March 2019, almost a year from now.

The County Commission Chairwoman Cathy Townsend didn’t hide her frustration. “I am extremely frustrated with this process.”

Yankees: Paxton surgery explained and spring training to decide the fifth Yankee starter

New York Yankees, James Paxton

After New York Yankee’s General Manager Brian Cashman announced that the fifth starter for the Yankee rotation would be J.A. Happ, the rotation seemed to be set.  However, upon the notification that James Paxton underwent surgery for a Discectomy with the removal of a periodical cyst, it opened up what some see as an open competition for the last spot in the rotation.    J.A. Happ will undoubtedly be moved up to fourth in the rotation.

The Paxton surgery is best described by USCspine.com: Microdiscectomy, also called Microlumbar Discectomy (MLD), is performed for patients with a painful lumbar herniated disc. Microdiscectomy is a very common, if not the most common, surgery performed by spine surgeons. The operation consists of removing a portion of the intervertebral disc, the herniated or protruding portion that is compressing the traversing spinal nerve root.  A 1-2 centimeter longitudinal incision is made in the midline of the low back, directly over the area of the herniated disc.  A few millimeters of the bone of the superior lamina may be removed to fully visualize the disc herniation. The nerve root and neurologic structures are protected and carefully retracted so that the herniated disc can be removed.  Paxton also had rare cyst removal.

USCspine reports:  Patients may return to heavy work and sports as early as 4-6 weeks after surgery if the surgical pain has subsided and the back strength has returned appropriately with physical therapy.  Because of the demands caused by the twisting and strain on the back, pitchers like Paxton usually can’t return to pitching earlier than 12 weeks.   So fans will likely not see Paxton on the mound until just before the All-Star Game at the earliest.

Before Happ’s appointment to be the fifth starter, it seemed to be a competition between him and Jordan Montgomery, who didn’t pitch last year as he recovered from his June 2018 Tommy John surgery.  It’s been quite a long time since he has pitched, and many may not recall how good he was as a rookie in 2017.  He was 9-7 with a 3.86 ERA and 144 K’s in 29 games started and finished sixth in the AL Rookie of the Year voting.  In 2018 before the surgery, he was 2-0 in 27 innings pitched.  It would seem that he deserves the position, but spring training will determine if he gets it.

Other contenders for that fifth spot are starter Jonathan Loaisiga, prospect Deivi Garcia, and mid-reliever Luis Cessa.  The 25-year-old Loaisiga in his short career is 4-2.  Last year he started four games for the Yankees and relieved for a total of 31.2 innings.  MLB.com projects he will pitch this year with an even number of wins and losses probably due to his higher than average ERA.   Loaisiga is nasty when he’s on.  Garcia is untested in the majors, and so far in the minors, he seems to tire as he pitches.  Cessa has been a reliable short and long reliever.  In 2019 he appeared in 43 games as a reliever or opener for a 2-1 record and an ERA of 4.11.  These writers guess is that unless there are some unforeseen surprises in spring training, that fifth spot will be Jordan Montgomerys to lose.

The New York Rangers Waited Too Long on a Chance for Goaltender Trade

New York Rangers, Alexandar Georgiev

The New York Rangers lost a really good chance to take advantage of a nice situation in the trade market. After a 5-3 victory over the Toronto Maple Leafs, it is apparent that the Maple Leafs do not have a solid back up in Michael Hutchinson, as he was less than spectacular for the Leafs Wednesday night.

The time was right for the New York Rangers to trade Georgiev, and they lost it.

On Monday night, the Leafs lost their workhorse goalie Fredrick Anderson.  After dominating the Florida Panthers for most of the games, embattled backup goalie Michael Hutchinson allowed three goals on 13 shots and saw his save percentage dip to .886 on the season, fourth-worst in the NHL among those with at least 10 games played. After Anderson was ruled out for Wednesday night’s game, Hutchinson was thrust into the starting lineup and did not really produce in the loss. The Toronto media was more that was willing to give Hutchinson a boost, pointing out that he has won his last four starts with a .948 save percentage in those games.  After the Wednesday loss, the time is right to make a trade for the odd goaltender out, Alexandar Georgiev.

The Rangers need to realize that as the trade deadline gets closer, more and more goaltenders made be made available to contending teams.  Another goaltender that has been mentioned for a trade to Toronto is Los Angeles King goalie Jack Campbell. Many feel that Campbell could get dealt because the Kings have prospect Cal Petersen at AHL Ontario, and he’ll need a spot in the AHL or NHL next year.  However, the Rangers lost a chance to move Georgiev when just after their loss to the Rangers, the Leafs announced that they have acquired goaltender Jack Campbell and forward Kyle Clifford from the Los Angeles Kings in exchange for forward Trevor Moore, Columbus’ third-round pick in the 2020 NHL Draft and a conditional third-round pick in 2021.  Toronto being out now takes a big suitor and a lot of noise off the market and makes it likely that the Rangers will get less than market value for Georgiev, even if they can move him at all before the trade deadline.

New York Giants: Prized free agent pass rusher may be out of reach

New York Giants, Nate Solder, Jon Halapio, Mike Remmers

The New York Giants are in dire need of upgrading their defense and one highly regarded free agent may be too pricey for Big Blue. According to Matt Verderame, the Jacksonville Jaguars are looking to keep talented defensive end Yannick Ngakoue in Duval.  The hope remains that the Jaguars will be able to strike a deal with Ngakoue.  If not, the franchise tag is very well in play.

What does a franchise tag mean for the Giants, Ngakoue?

The deadline for an NFL team to apply a franchise tag is 4:00 PM EST on March 10th.  For Ngakoue, this could mean a $17.95 million deal for the 2020 season.  If the Giants still wanted to offer the young defensive star, they would have to forfeit two first round picks.  A price that is much more than New York will be likely willing to spend.

Of course, Jacksonville also has the ability to apply a transition tag to Yannick.  This would be a cheaper option for Jacksonville ($15.32 million), but would allow other teams to negotiate with Ngakoue without needing to surrender a return.  Jacksonville would still be allowed to match an offer made for Yannick, but the transition tag is so rarely used in the NFL.

It has been documented that Yannick Ngakoue seems to want out of Jacksonville, so a franchise tag could make for a long offseason.  He may intentionally miss OTAs and minicamp if he does not agree.  The Jaguars could then trade Ngakoue, getting draft assets in return.

Frank Clark, Jadeveon Clowney and Dee Ford were all traded after being tagged last season.  The Kansas City Chiefs gave up a first and second round pick for Frank Clark.  Likewise, San Francisco sent a second round pick to Kansas City for Dee Ford.  Seattle seemingly got Jadeveon Clowney for a bargain.  With Clowney being dealt after the July 15th deadline, the Texans received a third round pick, as Seattle had more leverage in negotiations.

The Giants can still land Ngakoue… Technically

So, it is still possible for the New York Giants to acquire Yannick Ngakoue, but the cost may be too rich.  According to Spotrac, Ngakoue’s market value is somewhere between $17 and $18 million per year. However, the requirement of giving up two first round picks is incredibly steep.  Much like trading a first, second or a combination of picks for Ngakoue, giving up valuable draft assets is an unattractive option for a team in the Giants’ position.  Dave Gettleman already received criticism for giving up a third round pick for free agent to be Leonard Williams.  It is unlikely he would be willing to do that again.

Wilpons end talks with Cohen but still intend to sell the New York Mets

New York Mets

According to the New York Mets‘ beat writer for MLB.com Anthony DiComo, the team will not be selling a majority stake to Steve Cohen. The Queens’ squad confirmed the news. The hedge fund manager was looking to acquire his favorite ballclub since December, but talks recently hit a snag and they ultimately decided not to continue with the negotiations.

The Mets explained that they still intend to sell the team, just not to Cohen and his group. In fact, they announced the hiring of a local investment bank to assist with the process. As it turns out, the New York Mets will be exchanging hands relatively soon.

Earlier in the week, reports started to come up about the snag in the negotiation process, ongoing since late last year. The parent firm of the Wilpon, Sterling Equities, confirmed that much.

“The transaction between Sterling and Steve Cohen was a highly complicated one,” the statement said. “Despite the efforts of the parties over the past several months, it became apparent that the transaction as contemplated would have been too difficult to execute.”

The terms of the Mets’ sale that fell apart

What we knew before the negotiations fell apart was that the proposed deal included a transition period of five years. Over that timeframe, Fred and Jeff Wilpon would still manage the Mets’ operations and decisions. That setting, according to DiComo, “became a point of contention between the Wilpons and Cohen during negotiations.”

In Thursday’s early hours, MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred called “the assertion that the transaction fell apart because of something the Wilpons did … completely and utterly unfair.” He also said that at the time, he didn’t think a deal would happen. Time proved him right.

The Wilpons hired the services of Allen & Company, a local investment bank. The idea is for the firm to help them manage the sale of the Mets to another group. The Wilpons and Saul Katz (the team’s president) have been the majority owners since 2002, with Jeff Wilpon as the COO since that year.