The Yankees could target one fantastic bullpen arm

New York Yankees, Brad Hand

After New York Yankees relief pitcher Tommy Kahnle elected to hit free agency after undergoing Tommy John surgery this past season, he left a void in the bullpen. The Yankees need upgrades in multiple positions, and with veteran relievers like Adam Ottavino struggling in 2020, feeling confident in the area might be overly optimistic.

That doesn’t mean the Yankees have a lack of talent because they have some solid players who can get the job done. They still have Zack Britton, Luis Cessa, Chad Green, Ben Heller, Jonathan Loaisiga, and several other supplemental pieces.

However, the expectation is that the Yankees will target a relief arm this off-season, and there is one that stands above the rest and has received interest from other clubs.

Former Cleveland Indians’ ore life arm Brad Hand is one of the better options on the market. This past season, he finished with a 2.05 ERA over 22 innings pitched. He was fantastic, with elevated strikeout numbers, including 11.86 strikeouts per nine.

Hand primarily uses his fastball, sinker, and slider. While he’s not a high-velocity guy, he has fantastic control and location abilities. He would be a very nice fit with the Yankees as they try to piece together some of their weaker units. Nonetheless, most consider the bullpen for the Yankees one of the strongest links, and adding Hand would only improve it.

MLB Insider Bryan Hoch stated:

There are appealing options on the free-agent market, paced by Brad Hand, whom the Yankees last saw coughing up the lead in the memorable Game 2 of the American League Wild Card Series against the Indians. The lefty was lights-out during the regular season, converting all of his Major League-leading 16 saves while pitching to a 2.05 ERA over 22 innings. He struck out 29 against four walks.

One of the more attractive aspects regarding Hand is his consistency. The last time he had an ERA over 3.30 was back in 2014 with the Miami Marlins. Since then, he’s improved dramatically, and at 30 years old, he is still in his prime. Also, he’s a lefty and stands at 6-foot-3, giving him solid size and a bit of diversity for the Yankees in the bullpen.

Ultimately, it boils down to his contract, as Hand went unclaimed after being placed on outright waivers. Other teams had an opportunity to pick him up and his $10 million option, but they rejected. This made him a free agent, so the Yankees could likely land him on a bargain deal worth under $10 million. Cashman is looking for cost-efficient pitchers, so Hand falls right into that category given his price tag.

New York Knicks: Austin Rivers injects confidence into team ahead of Sunday’s ‘big game’

New York Knicks, Austin Rivers

The New York Knicks head into another competitive game against the Denver Nuggets on Sunday evening. The Nuggets have won three of their last four games, scoring no less than 115 points. They are an offensive powerhouse at the moment, with their primary scores being Nikola Jokic, Jamal Murray, and Michael Porter Jr.

While the Knicks have been solid this season, their defense is inconsistent. They are an aggressive basketball team under Tom Thibodeau, but they are still finding their sea legs as they piece together their starting five. They have won five of their last seven games, but their most recent loss to the Oklahoma Thunder was a bit disappointing.

In the loss, NY allowed 101 points and didn’t see any of their players breach 20 points. While Julius Randle averages a double-double per game, he only recorded 18 points and struggled at times. They simply need more production from their bench, as the starters are incapable of pushing carrying the load.

One player who understands the significance of Sunday’s game is Austin Rivers was made a positive impact so far this season.

“Tomorrow’s a big game, man,” Austin Rivers said Saturday’s practice. “Just for the fact that we have a back-to-back and we head to Charlotte right after the game. We dropped a game that we felt like we should have won [Friday]. Going into the game, we felt like that’s a team that we should beat. So when you mess up like that, when you mess with the game, the game pays you back. You gotta get back on track.”

It is clear that the Knicks are capable of winning tough matchups, but they have to do it more consistently so they can bounce back from losses.

Head coach Tom Thibideau re-affirmed that the New York Knicks are still a work in progress:

“We’re a work in progress. We’re striving to be a 48-minute team. If we don’t play hard and with great intensity and share the ball and play unselfishly, it’s going to be tough. I like the resiliency of the team. We gotta have that fight every night. Some nights we may fall short, but we gotta learn from it and get ready for the next day.”

I believe that the Knicks will continuously improve as the 2021 season moves onward. Thibodeau has clearly made an early impact on these players and their desire to win. As they continue to learn his system, growth is expected.

The New York Rangers could use more toughness in their lineup for 2020-21

Whether you use the word toughness or the ever-popular hockey term grit, there is without a doubt that the 2020-21 version of the New York Rangers needs a team to display some physicality and do it in an intelligent matter.

This was very evident when the Rangers were swept out of last year’s playoffs by the Hurricanes, as the Blueshirts were easily manhandled by the Canes. It was not like they did not try, they just were not sure how to play physically in the proper manner. This was evidenced by Chris Kreider‘s comments after the Rangers were eliminated.

“We thought the playoffs were a blood sport, and we were going to go out there and run around and hit, instead of playing the puck possession style that we play,” he said. “A big part of that is on me. Obviously, we needed to snap out of that sooner. I need to acknowledge that. I should have done whatever I could to get us back on the right track.”

During training camp 2021, head coach David Quinn knows that his team will have to play physically smarter in order to improve upon the gains they made last season.

“We need more of an in-your-face, staying-on-top-of-people, defensive-conscious approach to having success,” Quinn told the media following Tuesday’s practice. “It just can’t be one guy on a line.”

This means not only the defense but the forwards must be better on defense, starting with forechecking. Something that is easier said than done with a group of skilled players, but who think offense first.

Part of this will be done with the new pairing of Jacob Trouba and Tony DeAngelo, who should provide more physicality to the team when they are on the ice.

For the forwards, it might be a bit tougher as the Rangers saw one of their more grittier players last season leave to take up a new residence in Carolina.

Quinn also added about the physicality, “we don’t need just one or two guys to do it, we need everybody to do  it”

Possibly inspired by the NFL who are now in their playoffs, Quinn has asked that his team have a mentality that is more similar to a football player.

“In football, every yard, every inch matters,” Quinn said. “And I think in hockey, sometimes people say, ‘I’m close to this guy, I’ll let someone else do.’ And to me, we have to get out of that mentality. We have to get out of that mentality to make the next step as an organization.”