New York Giants claim former 49ers WR Dante Pettis off waivers

New York Giants, Dante Pettis

The New York Giants stood still at the 2020 NFL trade deadline, holding onto trade-candidates like Golden Tate and Kevin Zeitler. It was a quiet deadline across the league with minimal trades made this season. But after the deadline, plenty of teams reshaped their rosters, cutting players that they were unable to trade before the deadline.

The San Fransisco 49ers were one of the teams that made a surprising cut this week, waiving wide receiver Dante Pettis. Pettis is a former second-round draft pick that has now been claimed off of the waivers by the New York Giants, according to Adam Schefter.

This roster acquisition comes in the wake of the news that the Giants have told veteran wide receiver Golden Tate to stay away from the team for disciplinary reasons. Tate has been frustrated with his role in the Giants’ offense and has made his frustration public. Now, it does not look like his role will expand anytime soon with the acquisition of Dante Pettis.

Dante Pettis Stats and Highlights

Dante Pettis is 25-year-old, third-year wide receiver that was waived by the San Fransisco 49ers after a few disappointing seasons. Pettis was an exciting prospect coming out of college that many 49ers fans believed could be a true weapon in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Unfortunately for Pettis, he never put the talent together in San Fransisco. But he will now have a chance to turn things around in New York.

The New York Giants claimed Dante Pettis off of the waiver wire on Wednesday afternoon. New York’s lowly 1-7 record placed them high on the waiver priority. The Giants’ offense has been missing an outside receiving threat opposite of Darius Slayton.

Dante pettis has not seen the field much this season. He has had only one target thrown his way and 0 receptions to show for it. San Fransisco had made Pettis a healthy scratch for a few games this season, as well, so the writing was on the wall.

Pettis is also a player who has struggled to stay healthy throughout his young career, injuring his knee on multiple occasions. But in his first two seasons, Pettis flashed potential when on the field. In his rookie season, Dante recorded 27 receptions for 467 yards and 5 touchdowns, including a 75-yard touchdown reception. Pettis could be a new home-run hitter for the New York Giants’ offense.

New York Yankees: Which of the internal options could step up in the bullpen?

New York Yankees, Jonathan Holder

The New York Yankees‘ bullpen would be in shambles if it wasn’t for Aroldis Chapman, Chad Green and Zack Britton. It’s that simple. It’s sad to see a unit that used to have six or seven reliable arms not so long ago reduced to only three trustworthy relievers.

In fact, it was evident that New York Yankees’ manager Aaron Boone only trusted these three guys in Game 5 of the American League Division Series against the Tampa Bay Rays. The Bombers absolutely need to shore up their bullpen if they are going to re-take the division crown in 2021.

They could consider free agent signings like Trevor May or Liam Hendriks, if they are willing to splash the cash. They could also scout the trade market to see if they can land a relief ace or at least a solid arm or two.

But, for the Yankees, it is also important to develop from within. They have some interesting arms in the roster, so who could make that leap into the circle of trust? Who could step up and claim a spot in that select group of relievers that the manager can use at any moment of the game?

Candidates to take the next step in the Yankees’ bullpen

Domingo German: The right-hander had a breakout in the first half of 2019, but then things started going wrong both on and off the field. He was suspended for the 2020 season and will return in 2021, but at what capacity? He has an explosive fastball and he can go all-out as a reliever, he has a plus curveball and a good changeup, and he’s significantly better the first time through the order (3.87 ERA) than the secondf (4.62) or third (7.38.) He could be a bullpen candidate.

Nick Nelson: The rookie finished with a 4.79 ERA in 2020, but if we take away an outing against the Phillies in which he was performing mop-up duty and the Yankees didn’t want to burn more pitchers (aka: he was left on the mound until he got the three outs to end the inning, allowing six runs in 1.2 frames) he would have finished with a 2.37 ERA. Nelson racked up the strikeouts and has a good, rising fastball, which is the ultimate weapon for relievers. He needs to take step forward with his control and command, though.

Jonathan Loaisiga: With Lasagna, the main issue is the lack of fastball command. He actually had a decent regular season (3.52 ERA, 4.41 FIP) but is too homer prone to be relied on a consistent basis. He still has considerable upside, though, but if he doesn’t cut the mistake pitches, he won’t realize it.

Adam Ottavino: The expensive 2019 free agent signing had a poor season by an ERA standpoint (5.89) but had a good FIP (3.52.) He wasn’t as bad as his ERA suggests, but his days as an elite weapon against tough righties seem to be over, and that’s not what the Yankees signed.

Luis Cessa: The righty had a good 3.32 ERA and a 3.79 FIP, but wasn’t particularly dominant (18.3 K%.) For some reason, the Yankees don’t seem to trust him in all spots and situations, but he could earn that status with an extended look on the strength of his good slider. He needs his fastball to miss more bats, though.

Jonathan Holder: He started the season strong, but ended it in disappointing fashion, with a 4.98 ERA and a 5.22 FIP. He’s been successful before, but his ceiling is not extremely high. The Yankees need a good season from him, though, to take the burden off the top guys.

Mike King: The groundball specialist is a decent pitcher, but the strikeout upside is just not there for him to be an elite option. He could be serviceable, though, if tried in the bullpen full-time by the New York Yankees.

The rookies: Miguel Yajure, Luis Gil, Luis Medina, Brooks Kriske and Clarke Schmidt all have electrifying stuff, but it is a matter of one or several of them standing out in spring training. That could lead to a role in the big league bullpen.

New York Yankees Analysis: Pitching or hitting? It’s the pitching dummy

For the New York Yankees and all of the other 29 MLB, whoever scores the most runs wins. It sounds like it doesn’t have to be said, and is obvious, the difficultly is getting there, particularly in the postseason. The Yankees seem like they have been losing each postseason now, for years. The team, like the Tampa Bay Rays that pitches better and hits better, will win time after time That is exactly what happened to the Yankees in 2017, 2018, and 2019.

The New York Yankees worked to make that happen this past offseason by going to California during the Winter meetings and procured the services of the best pitcher available in baseball, Gerrit Cole. The Yankees thought that one move would take them to a World Series and a win. The reality is that it didn’t produce that 28th World Championship.

It wasn’t Gerrit Cole’s fault; there was plenty of blame to go around. The injuries, the mostly failure of the pitching staff, other than Gerrit Cole, and bats that frequently went dead. So what is most important for the Yankees to fix. As they say, its the economy dummy; well, likewise, it’s the pitching dummy. Pitching is always more important than hitting. If your pitching staff hold the opponent hitless or runless, you win, period.

This is not to say that hitting isn’t important, of course it is. The Yankees are built to be a home run team, a team that hits for power. The problem with that is when you don’t hit home runs, you frequently lose games. To assume your lineup will hit home runs in every game is just not realistic. The Yankees have the power but misses something in the basic baseball book. They don’t bunt, they don’t stea,l and usually, they don’t run. They rely almost entirely on hitting home runs.

What makes home runs key is to have players on the bases when that power hitter hits for the fences. To do that, you have to have a balanced lineup of power and contact hitters. The Yankees have the power, but they are lacking in the small ball factor. If you look at the Tampa Bay Rays that have a tiny payroll compared to the Yankees with their monster payroll, you see a better balanced team and can execute all that baseball has to offer.

For the Yankees to win in the postseason, they must have quality pitching, and that usually means four pitchers that can consistantly win games. The Yankees, pure and simple did not have that in 2020. For your hitting to mean anything, you must have somone on the mound that can keep you in the game. If you look at it realistically, fans only felt good with Gerrit Cole on the mound. If any other Yankee pitcher was on the mound, you never knew what would happen. That is not a good way to go into the postseason and expect to win. After spending big on Cole, the Yankee owe it to themselves and the fans to upgrade the pitching staff to back up Cole.

The recipe that the Yankees must put together is a pitching rotation that wins a lot more than they lose. With Cole leading the rotation and Luis Severino coming back in May or June, and the return of Domingo German, assuming you can count on him repeating his 2019 season, the Yankees are pretty well set up. The big but, is that they need a fourth premium type pitcher. Jordan Montgomery, dubuting Deivi Garcia, and the departing Paxton and Happ weren’t the pitchers to get the job done.

The Yankees may very well take Masahiro Tanaka back on a short term, discounted contract. This writer isn’t sure that’s the right thing to do. Tanaka’s best days are behind him. The few years haven’t been great. Do the Yankees settle for an inconsistant pitcher, or do they get a legitimate mid rotation pitcher. They should secure by whatever means a fourth man in the rotation and let Mongomery, Garcia or whoever fight it out for that anchor spot in the rotation. If they can do that they will go into a postseason with pitching confidence.

If the New York Yankees can do that, when the hitters go silent, which unfortunately will happen in the best lineups, they can still win games. I am not discounting that the Yankees need a better mix of hitters, but the bottom line is good pitching normally wins games.

The photo accompanying this article is the Yankee pitcher Andy Pettitte, the winningness Yankee postseason pitcher of all time.

EmpireSportsMedia.com’s William Parlee is a member of the Society for American Baseball Research. Follow me on Twitter @parleewilliam.

 

 

UFC booking Stephen Thompson – Geoff Neal

The UFC‘s fight night on December 19th is getting another really solid matchup at welterweight. Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (15-4) will be taking on rising contender Geoff Neal (13-2).

The UFC had been working on matchups for both men that fell apart. The promotion was initially working on a matchup between Thompson and Khamzat Chimaev. Of course, Chimaev is headlining this card against Leon Edwards. 

Thompson wasn’t interested in the Chimaev fight, so the UFC moved on. Geoff Neal was originally supposed to take on Neil Magny. However, a couple of months ago, a health scare sidelined Neal who had already been having a tough 2020.

The two top ten UFC welterweights will now go to battle on a card that is shaping up to be huge for the welterweight division. Both men have title aspirations, and they will be looking to continue winning streaks when they step into the octagon on December 19th.

Moving Day for the UFC welterweights.

Between this fight and the headlining fight, this card is turning out to be a moving day for the UFC‘s welterweight division. For Wonderboy, he’s looking to climb the latter to get back to a UFC title shot. He’s fought for the title twice going 0-1-1 in those two contests.

The last we saw Wonderboy was last year at UFC 244. That night, Thompson was able to use his point style striking to defeat contender Vicente Luque by unanimous decision. Thompson is looking to turn back another dangerous contender on December 19th.

It’s been a tough year for welterweight contender Geoff Neal. The UFC struggled to get Neal a fight and as a result, Neal actually started waiting tables to make some money. Then he was supposed to fight Neil Magny before that fight was scrapped.

Neil will enter the octagon on a seven fight winning streak. Only one of those fights has gone the distance. If Neal can come out and stop a former title challenger like Wonderboy, it will put the rest of the UFC‘s welterweight division on notice.

Nick Tropeano has the potential to be quite a find for the New York Mets

New York Yankees, Nick Tropeano

Just a few days ago, the New York Mets claimed right-handed pitcher Nick Tropeano off waivers from the Pittsburgh Pirates. A waiver claim at this time of the year usually doesn’t mean much, but this particular one could pay huge dividens for a team in need of reliable relievers in 2021 and beyond.

Tropeano made his debut with the Houston Astros back in 2014, and then he pitched for almost five seasons with the Los Angeles Angels. He found his way to the Pittsburgh Pirates in the condensed 2020 season, and the team tried him in the bullpen after he had played 39 of his previous 42 games as a starter.

Sure, the sample size available in his first “extended” bullpen look was very small. But he was very impressed, a development that gives the New York Mets some hope that they have actually unearthed a gem.

For the Mets, the numbers don’t lie

With the Pirates, Tropeano pitched in seven games. In 15.2 innings, he had a 1.15 ERA with a 2.55 FIP and a 3.94 xFIP. Depending on the metric you look at, he was elite, excellent or adequate. For the Mets, even if he turns out to be a sub-4.00 ERA reliever, it would be seen as a victory.

In those 15.2 frames, Tropeano struck out 10.91 hitters per each nine innings, and handed out only 2.30 bases on balls per nine frames. Sure, he got lucky by leaving 96.6 percent of the hitters on base, but his .317 BABIP doesn’t scream a complete product of good fortune.

So what changed for the future Mets’ reliever? Well, he increased the usage of his slider (31.4%) and splitter (24.8%) and decreased his four-seamer (to 25.2%.) He also threw 13.6% of changeups and 5.0% of sinkers.

He had great results with this pitch mix, increasing his SwStr% (swinging strike percentage) to a career-high 14.9%, according to Fangraphs.

If the New York Mets continue to deploy him as a reliever, he could take off and prove that his excellent performance in 2020 wasn’t a mirage.

In the first time through the lineup, Tropeano has a 2.98 for his career. The number increases to 5.02 the second time through, and 6.15 the third time through the order. He is no starter, but he can be a fantastic reliever if given the chance.

New York Yankees: Trevor Bauer flirting with yet another AL East team

New York Yankees, Trevor Bauer

The New York Yankees know they may have strong competition for the services of free agent hurler Trevor Bauer. At this point, it is unclear if the Bombers will decide to pursue the flamboyant right-hander and whether they will offer him a short-term deal or a long-term contract. But one thing is sure: there will be plenty of suitors.

One of the teams that could entertain the possibility of signing Bauer, clearly and evidently the best free agent starting pitcher available in this market, is the Toronto Blue Jays. That would be highly inconvenient for the New York Yankees given that they are a direct AL East foe, and because it is an up-and-coming group that may be a star or two away of becoming a real problem for the Bombers.

MLB Network released a segment this week discussing Bauer’s future. As you know, the former Cincinnati Reds pitcher led the National League with a 1.73 ERA in 2020 and is a strong candidate to win the Cy Young award. He won’t be cheap, and he has made it clear that he will consider each and every offer that comes his way.

Could Bauer join the Yankees? Or could he choose Toronto?

He said that he could even consider joining the Yankees, which seems far-fetched given the team’s desire to cut costs and because of the alleged feud between him and ace Gerrit Cole from their UCLA days.

Bauer has downplayed the issue and says the dispute is “non-existent”, but coaches and other personalities have confirmed there is bad blood.

Anyway, if the Yankees don’t pounce, they should hope that Bauer doesn’t join Toronto. Bauer himself added fuel to the fire on Twitter, saying that “Toronto is a nice city. Could be a destination.”

The Blue Jays were, at one point deep into the season, ahead of the Yankees in the AL East standings. They are already a good club, but adding Bauer would push them near the top of the division given that they have fellow ace Hyun-Jin Ryu, a very good pitching prospect in the minors in Simeon Woods-Richardson, a young star ready to blossom in Nate Pearson, and one of the game’s top offensive cores, including Vladimir Guerrero jr, Teoscar Hernandez, Cavan Biggio, Bo Bichette, Rowdy Tellez and Lourdes Gurriel.

House of Payne: Knicks assistant Kenny Payne prepared his son for life without him in Kentucky

New York Knicks, Kenny Payne

Kenny Payne left not only his heart at Kentucky but also his son when he jumped on the opportunity to become one of Tom Thibodeau‘s assistant coaches in the New York Knicks.

Kenny will no longer be around when his son, Zan Payne, makes his college debut next season for the University of Kentucky Wildcats.

“It was hard at first because he’s always been here right by my side,” Zan told Empire Sports Media during his media availability on Wednesday. “Everybody in my family, we were all happy for him. We were happy he’s going to work for the New York Knicks. That was — one of his dream jobs was working in the NBA, so we were all happy for him.”

Perhaps it’s time for Zan to spread his wings like what his father has decided to do next in his coaching career. And so far, Zan is adjusting to his college life sans his father.

“It’s definitely different not having him around. The practice is way different. But we’re still doing good. We’re all on track. I still talk to him every day,” Zan said.

“My dad used to like, I guess, yell at everybody and make us run a lot. If you knew him, he’s hard on everybody. He likes things the way he wants it. It’s definitely different in that way.”

Under Kenny’s guidance, Zan grew up as a local basketball star in Lexington.

Zan was a first-team All-City and All-Region selection as a junior and senior at Lexington Catholic High School. His 1,282 points were the 14th most in program history. He also finished as the school’s fourth-leading rebounder with 934 career boards.

Zan’s initial success can be traced to Kenny’s knack for player development.

“He influences [my game] a lot. Every day when I was little, we used to work out together, like every single day. He would teach me everything that he would do. When he left, it was all good because he went to go work with the New York Knicks, obviously,” Zan said.

Kenny’s arrival in New York should augur well for the Knicks’ young core, especially the likes of former Wildcats Kevin Knox and Julius Randle. While Zan will no longer enjoy Kenny’s presence at Kentucky, he’s excited for his father and what he can bring to the Knicks.

“He’s just never going to give up on any of the guys that are on the team,” Zan told Ian Begley of SNY during the media roundtable.

“He’s just going to keep working with them until they perfect whatever he wants them to perfect or whatever he needs them to do. He’s just going to keep working until they’re at where they need to be at.”

As for him, Zan said he’s still been getting fatherly and coaching advice from Kenny every now and then. Kenny always reminds him to keep his high motor and play hard at all times, a signature trait that has become synonymous with Payne, and to rest his knees and work on his conditioning.

Zan, a 6-foot-4 forward, is joining a star-studded Wildcats team as a walk-on. While he’s eager to prove that he can step out of his father’s large shadow in Kentucky, he wants to do it the right way.

“In high school, I was the captain of the team. The coach always wanted me just to go score and stuff like that. But, here, I’m just probably going to play like defense. Go out there and play hard and play to win. Just do what the game tells me to do. That’s what coach always tells me, Coach Cal (John Calipari). Just do what the game tells you to do,” Zan said.

Kenny must have left his heart and his son in Kentucky, but he’s also left him with the best preparation only one can get from the “House of Payne.”

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

New York Mets Player Evaluations: Catcher Rene Rivera

Veteran catcher Rene Rivera joined the New York Mets for his fourth stint in Flushing. He was third on the catcher depth chart, but an unfortunate injury ended his season after two games. Rivera needed surgery to remove a bone spur from his left elbow, causing the Mets to dive deep in their catching depth.

Rivera picked up his only hit of the season in a blowout loss to the Braves. Three days later, Rivera got his only start of the season with Jacob deGrom on the mound. Rivera struck out in all three of his at-bats, and deGrom showed some frustration with him. deGrom threw a couple of wild pitches and asked Rivera what happened. deGrom’s frustration was with himself after making a couple of mistakes.

Another Campaign in NY?

As Rivera head into his age-37 season, he likely has to latch on to minor league deals to play in 2021. Defensively, he is still a terrific defensive catcher with a strong arm. It is unlikely he returns to the Mets due to the franchise trying to revamp their catching core after parting with two other veteran catchers.

2020 Grades On 20-80 Scale (2021 Projection)

Hitting: 40 (25).

Power: 20 (30).

Run: 20 (20), The Mets might have the slowest catching core in baseball.

Arm: 65 (65).

Fielding: 55 (55).

Overall: 30 (25). Hope Rivera gets a chance to play in the big leagues again.

The Islanders and Ryan Pulock both win big with new deal

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

The Islanders had one of their two huge off offseason dominos fall today.

The team and d-man Ryan Pulock agreed to a new two-year deal avoiding arbitration that was set to take place later this week. The news was first reported by Sportsnet’s Eliiotte Friedman.

Pulock’s deal will have him making $5M AAV.

“I’m obviously really excited to be back for two more years,” Pulock said on a conference call with reporters. “This team has come a long way and the future is bright.”

This transaction comes a few weeks after RFA Devon Toews was dealt from the team to the Colorado Avalanche in exchange for two second-round picks. Now all that remains for g.m. Lou Lamoriello and Co. is to get a deal done with star forward Mathew Barzal, which could hopefully come before the start of the regular season.

But for the team and the 26-year-old Pulock, this contract comes out as a huge victory for both sides.

“From our standpoint, we just wanted to make something work.. really excited that we were able to do that,” Pulock said.

Looking at the Islanders’ point of view, they didn’t have to break the bank for one of their two top-pairing defenseman. Some of that can be contributed to the unknown of the COVID-19 restrictions that teams may still be facing in the very near future.

Still, the value the Isles are getting here is tremendous.

It allows them to keep one of their key core players at a very affordable price, let alone their most important offensive d-man. In addition, the Isles received some extra wiggle room to get their cap situation worked out.

Something to also keep in mind is by the time this contract ends, Pulock will still only be 28 — just entering his prime for a player in the NHL — and the Islanders will have had Johnny Boychuk Nick Leddy, Thomas Hickey and Leo Komarov’s contracts all come off the books. This means the organization will most likely have the opportunity to get Pulock signed to a long-term deal as opposed to his previous deals, both of whom were bridge deals.

That last graf also plays into how Pulock is a big winner — he will get the chance to add even more to his value over the next two seasons, just in time for when the Isles can spend.

And things in a sense have already trended that direction from the player’s part.

Pulock has continued to get better defensively under head coach Barry Trotz and the structure he employs. His offensive production too has seen an uptick each season since he first joined the NHL four years ago. And it easy to tell he was going to be one of Lamoriello’s biggest priorities when the offseason began, and this agreement truly shows how much he meant to the success of the team. The Isles made it to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time in 27 years and he played an instrumental role, leading the team in ice-time and tying for the most points (10) by a d-man with the aforementioned Toews.

You could say this is another chance for Pulock to prove himself to be worthy of elite status. He’s not on that level just yet, but has shown flashes of being in that conversation. He betting on himself again — as he’s done previously — could finally bring out that next level in his game.

Last, the deal personifies how much the organization likes Pulock and how much faith they have in him.

The Islanders could have easily let Pulock play out the final year of his previous deal or even traded him for the simple fact they are loaded on the backend and the possible haul they could have received in return. Clearly though, they believe the Dauphin, MB native is one of the pieces to their championship puzzle and he fits the mold of what they want from a number one/two blue liner.

That says a lot and could help in further negotiations down the line.

Getting Pulock re-upped was critical for the the Islanders in more ways than one.

He was one of the bigger priorities to be checked off, and now that it’s done, he and the team can revel in what was a fantastic move for both parties. Most of the time in contract talks between the player and the team, one is usually comes out looking stronger than the other.

But this time, the Islanders and Pulock were both on the winning sides of things.

 

New York Islanders sign Ryan Pulock to extension

Ryan Pulock, New York Islanders

As stated many times, the New York Islanders are strapped for cap space. But, the Islanders finally struck a deal with one of their big-name free agents. Ryan Pulock has been re-signed after what seems like years of anticipation.

Pulock was heading to his arbitration date on Friday. I know Lamoriello is thanking his stars that he struck a deal before this court hearing. Lou Lamoriello worked his magic once again, and it helps the Isles a lot.

Length

This contract is not a long term deal, but no one expected it to be. Bridge deals were the only things that could keep Pulock/Barzal on the Island. This deal is only 2 years long, but it’s smart. This locks up Pulock until Nick Leddy’s, and Johnny Boychuk’s contracts are up. Then Pulock can get the big money that he deserves, but that’s in another two years. Pulock has another two years to put up even more points and even more hits to earn a longer deal. I believe he will earn 5-6 years when his next deal is ready. Ryan Pulock is the guy on the Island, and he will be paid like one in 2 years.

Money

I estimated Ryan Pulock to be awarded $6.5 million a year. Lou Lamoriello has pushed that contract value down to just $5 million. This is why Lamoriello is still a top general manager in the league, he signed a top 20 defenseman for just $5 million. This leaves about $4 million left over for Barzal, but there’s about $14 million left to be awarded because of NHL rules. Lou Lamoriello has done it again, and he’s made Islander fans happy once again.