Yankees and Athletics could connect on starting pitcher trade as talks heat up

sean manaea, yankees

The Oakland Athletics are currently focused on trading left-handed starting pitcher Sean Manaea before the start of the regular season. The New York Yankees have an opening in their starting rotation, especially with Domingo German heading to the 60-day IL.

To start spring training, the Yankee starters have been batted around quite a bit, with LHP Jordan Montgomery allowing three runs and six hits in his first inning of action on Wednesday.

With liabilities scattered throughout the rotation, injecting more talent is a recipe for success, but general manager Brian Cashman has been conservative with his approach this off-season.

According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, teams are discussing Manaea in prospective trades.

Last season, Manaea finished with a 3.91 ERA over 179.1 innings pitched. He made 32 appearances, recording 11 wins, a 9.74 strikeout per nine rate, and 77.3% left on base percentage. Hosting a 3.68 SIERA and 3.62 xFIP, Manaea might be a perfect fit for the Yankees, specially after the departure of Corey Kluber, who signed a one-year deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Manaea features a fastball, slider, and change up. He throws his fastball at 92.2 mph on average, enjoying a 2 mph increase compared to the 2020 season. Given his best days are clearly ahead of him, the Yankees could rent Manaea for one more season as he prepares to hit free agency in 2023.

One year of team control isn’t worth much, but it is the probability of an extension that makes Sean so valuable at this point. In addition, another left-handed pitcher could add great diversity to the rotation alongside Montgomery.

New York Giants reunite defensive tackle Justin Ellis with DC Wink Martindale

Ravens DT Justin Ellis (71) pressuring Browns QB Baker Mayfield.

The New York Giants are continuing to fill the holes on their roster with low-cost free agency moves. New York went into this offseason well over the cap. New GM Joe Schoen made a lot of moves to free up money for roster improvements. With free agency winding down, the remaining players available are likely to receive veteran minimum contracts. Today, the Giants filled another roster hole with a low-cost contract by signing defensive tackle Justin Ellis.

The Giants lost nose tackle Austin Johnson to the Los Angeles Chargers through free agency this offseason. This left a large gap on the Giants’ defensive line with no solid nose tackle left on the roster. Joe Schoen has seemingly filled that hole by the way of 6-foot-2, 305-pound Justin Ellis. New defensive coordinator Wink Martindale is familiar with Ellis as he coached him for three years with the Baltimore Ravens.

What Justin Ellis brings to the New York Giants

Since being drafted by the Raiders in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft, Justin Ellis has played in 100 regular-season games with 50 starts for the Raiders (2014-18) and Ravens (2019-21). He is a 31-year-old veteran run-stuffer with experience playing in Wink Martindale’s defensive scheme.

Justin Ellis might not provide much in the pass-rushing department. The Louisiana Tech product has totaled 0.5 career sacks through eight years in the NFL. But Ellis has made a decent impact in his career as a two-down run defender. The most productive season of his career came in 2017 when Ellis 48 combined tackles in 16 games with 14 starts.

The last three years of Justin Ellis’s NFL career were spent with the Baltimore Ravens. In 2021, Ellis played 35% of the Ravens’ defensive snaps in the regular season. Wink Martindale was comfortable giving Justin Ellis significant playing time, making this signing one of great value. The Giants are not making a splash with this signing, but they are acquiring a quality player at a position of need with scheme familiarity.

What’s next for Paddy Pimblett after UFC London victory?

Paddy Pimblett

On the main card of UFC London, we saw the second octagon appearance from arguably the biggest prospect from the UK. Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett (18-3) was back as he took on Rodrigo Vargas (12-5).

All eyes were on Paddy Pimblett as the UFC is gearing up for a major push of Paddy Pimblett. He already has a sizable following and he’s the first UFC fighter to be sponsored by Barstool Sports.

The promotion has eased him into things by feeding him the first two opponents that he’s had. While Rodrigo Vargas isn’t a pushover, Pimblett had tougher competition during his days with Cage Warriors.

When the UFC London fight started, Pimblett dealt with some adversity. It appeared that an overzealous Pimblett was hurt with a shot from Vargas that caused the two men to go to the ground. Vargas had top position, but it didn’t last long.

Pimblett was able to get to his feet and he ultimately used a throw to take down Vargas. Once on the ground, Pimblett was able to advance and secure the back of Vargas. He locked up the rear naked choke for the win and the UFC London crowd went crazy.

What’s next after UFC London?

Now that he’s won his second fight in the UFC, it’s time for the promotion to amp up the competition. In my opinion, the sexiest fight that can be made is a grudge match with Ilia Topuria.

Topuria was also on the card and scored a second round knockout over Jai Herbert to kick off the main card. Earlier in the week, Pimblett and Topuria had a fight at the hotel and that was caught on tape by Topuria’s camp. 

After Topuria’s win, he called for a matchup with Pimblett. While that’s the fight I would love to see, the UFC won’t make it. These two have a ton of hype and potential, and I think the promotion would like to build them both up a little more before the match happens.

If that fight isn’t an option, I would like the UFC to give Pimblett someone with a name that could really test him. Perhaps a guy like Jim Miller. This would be a big step up and a true test to see how good Pimblett is. Miller looks better than ever and he wouldn’t be intimidated by the English contender.

PFL Announces 2022 Season Opener

The PFL is gearing up for their 2022 season and we now know that the season has an official kickoff date. The promotion sent out a memo yesterday afternoon announcing that they were returning on April 20th to kick off the 2022 season.

PFL will be kicking off the new season with lightweights and light heavyweights. There are several key bouts to focus in on, but obviously anyone is going to look straight at the main event.

2021 lightweight champion Raush Manfio (15-3) will begin his quest for a second straight title as he takes on Don Madge (10-3-1). Madge will enter the April contest riding a seven-fight winning streak including two wins in the UFC.

Last year, Madge joined the PFL and fought once scoring a submission victory. Manfio went a perfect 4-0 to capture the 2021 title which featured wins over Anthony Pettis, Clay Collard, and Loik Radzhabov in the finals.

Rest of the PFL Opener

Speaking of Anthony Pettis (24-12) and Clay Collard (20-9), they have some big fights in their 2022 season debut. Pettis is in the co-main event as he takes on Ireland’s Myles Price (11-7).

Price hasn’t fought in three years and his last fight came in Bellator where he got a win over fellow Irishman Peter Queally. Pettis is coming off of an extremely disappointing debut season with the PFL.

It was huge news for the PFL to sign a former UFC lightweight champion. However, Pettis went 0-2 in his first season. He’s hoping to bounce back and prove his worth to his new promotion in 2022.

Speaking of making their PFL debuts, former UFC lightweight and featherweight contender Jeremy Stephens (28-19) is making his debut on the card. Like Pettis last year, Stephens will be making his debut against Clay Collard. A lot of eyes will be on that matchup.

2021 light heavyweight champion Antonio Carlos Junior (13-5) kicks off his defense campaign against fellow Brazilian Delan Marte (8-1). You can view the rest of the 2022 season kickoff card here. 

Tom Thibodeau explains Obi Toppin benching during Knicks’ 4th qtr meltdown

Former New York Knicks lottery pick Obi Toppin had a rare start on Tuesday night in a crucial game against their rival Atlanta Hawks in place of Julius Randle, who sat out with sore right quadriceps.

Toppin made the most out of the opportunity and produced 10 points on 5 of 7 shooting while adding seven rebounds, three assists, and one steal in 24 minutes, the most he’s played since a career-high 45 minutes back on January 2 when the team was decimated by COVID-19.

“It felt good. I had to find my rhythm because I haven’t played a lot with these guys (starting group),” Toppin said. “When I was out there, I was just playing basketball how I play basketball.”

Despite his productive minutes, Toppin didn’t get the chance to close out the game in the fourth quarter after getting hit with his fifth foul in the final 2:42 of the third quarter. Veteran Taj Gibson took over his spot and played the rest of the game, much to the chagrin of a quarter of the Knicks fan base on social media.

The reigning NBA Coach of the Year Tom Thibodeau explained his unpopular decision afterward.

“It was really the way the game was flowing,” Thibodeau said. “That group that started the fourth had a pretty good run going, and then with Taj — it’s his experience, his defense, and also the matchup with (Danilo) Gallinari is something you’re concerned about.”

“So those were the reasons and obviously the five fouls. We got to that point with five minutes to go where you got to [decide] who we are closing with, and I went with the group that was in there. That was basically it, but you know what, I wouldn’t hesitate to put him in that situation either.”

With Toppin on the bench for the entire fourth quarter, the Knicks built a 10-point lead but blew it in a deflating 117-111 loss to the Hawks with Trae Young erupting for a Garden career-high 45 points, including the dagger over Gibson with 1:04 left.

The loss put the Knicks six games behind their tormentor with 10 games remaining. They have to go at least 7-3 in their final 10 games and hope the Hawks will end the regular season on a 10-game losing streak. In short, the Knicks need a miracle.

Thibodeau isn’t ready to raise the white flag yet.

“Well, the position we’re in, they’re all must-have games. So, that’s it. But you’re not eliminated until you’re eliminated,” Thibodeau said. “So, keep fighting.”

Will that mean Thibodeau will still play a veteran over a young player down the stretch?

To be fair to the veteran coach, his closing lineup against the Hawks was composed of three players under 23 (23-year old Mitchell Robinson, 22-year old Immanuel Quickley, and 21-year old RJ Barrett) flanked by two veterans (30-year old Alec Burks and 36-year old Gibson).

“The thing is, we’re shorthanded. It’s not only Julius (Randle), but it’s Derrick (Rose), Nerlens (Noel). But it also gives other guys an opportunity,” Thibodeau said. “And so I thought we got some production from a lot of guys.”

“I thought they played well. We just didn’t finish the game, and that’s the biggest thing. Sometimes, the only way to get experience is to get experience. So, it’s a good opportunity for those guys to be out there. But we got to finish better.”

Unfortunately for Toppin, he didn’t get that much-needed crunch time experience.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Yankees’ star discusses the importance of getting off to a fast start

anthony rizzo, yankees

Anthony Rizzo understands the importance of playing for the New York Yankees. He knows the fan base is among the most demanding in the sport, and they don’t like to settle for seasons like 2021, with an early playoffs exit.

It’s crucial to get off to a good start, especially for a team like the Yankees. If the team loses too many games in the early going, they could find themselves in a very deep hole, and getting out is not always easy. Losses in April and May could be costly, and Rizzo knows that.

“You can’t win a World Series in April and May, but you sure can lose one and put yourself out of it. Getting off to a good start is the most important thing in establishing that confidence and that kind of swagger that teams develop throughout the year,” Rizzo said to Max Goodman of SI.com.

You just can’t win the World Series without making the playoffs first. Several things would have to go wrong for the Yankees to miss October baseball, with the expanded postseason to 12 teams (six per league). However, in the tough AL East landscape, winning a lot of games in the first two months of the season is awfully important.

The Yankees are in a really tough division

The Toronto Blue Jays are looking very much improved, and may be the best team of the AL East division. The Tampa Bay Rays are down Tyler Glasnow, but remain an extremely competitive ballclub and finished eight games ahead of the Yankees last year.

The Yankees are quite comparable with the Boston Red Sox, especially since they added shortstop Trevor Story. But they will be without ace Chris Sale for a while and that will hurt them in the standings.

For the Yankees, the keys to the season will be staying consistent month-to-month and win a lot of games in the early going to set the tone like Rizzo says. It’s a very competitive division, and they could finish fourth in a worst-case scenario, jeopardizing their playoff chances.

UFC proceeding with Figueiredo – Moreno 4

Back at UFC 270, the flyweight title was on the line in the third installment of Deiveson Figueiredo (21-2-1) – Brandon Moreno (19-6-2). These two men had fought each other two straight times and in January, we saw the third fight.

In the first fight at UFC 256, Figueiredo and Moreno fought an incredibly close fight. However, the fight was ultimately decided by a low blow. Figueiredo landed a kick that landed low and had a point taken away from him.

That point ultimately led to the fight being a draw. The UFC decided to run the fight back immediately and Brandon Moreno had his time to shine. Moreno shined on the biggest stage and became the UFC’s first Mexican-Born champion in June of 2021.

After the first two fights, the promotion decided to run things back for a third time in January. The fight was very close with both men hurting the other at times. However, Figueiredo looked much better and way more sharp in the third fight than he did in the second.

While the fight was very close, all three judges awarded the fight to Figueiredo and he regained the flyweight title. Now, the two men have fought three times with a different result in each contest.

UFC’s Fourth Installment

After the fight ended in January, there were questions regarding whether or not the UFC would do the fourth fight right away. We now know the answer to that and for the first time ever, we are going to see a fourth title fight between two men.

Ariel Helwani reported yesterday that the UFC is proceeding with making the fourth fight between Moreno and Figueiredo. Now, there are still question marks regarding the date, but the word is that July is the current target for this matchup.

These are clearly the two best flyweights in the world and whoever wins this one, will win the series. It’s time to settle who is truly the UFC’s best.

Yankees’ division rival targeting Brett Gardner as free agent signing

New York Yankees, Brett Gardner

No matter how old Brett Gardner gets and how disinterested the New York Yankees seem to be, he always somehow manages to find his way back to the Bronx wearing the pinstripes at the beginning of every season.

After the 2021 season concluded, the Yankees rejected their team option, making Gardner a free agent once again. Gardner earned $5.1 million over the last two years, are the Yankees bought him out at $1.1 million to save a bit of cash.

General manager Brian Cashman hasn’t signed Brett to be a primary starter the past few seasons, but due to injury, he has been injected into a more prominent role that has required him to play significant games. Last year, he featured in 140 contests, posting a .222 average with 10 homers and 39 RBIs. It is quite clear that Gardy is witnessing a massive drop off in production as a result of age.

Nonetheless, a division rival of the Yankees has inquired about his services; the Toronto Blue Jays, according to Joel Sherman of MLB Network.

The Yankees are planning to get Aaron Hicks back in the outfield and could feature Estevan Florial and Ender Inciarte as their depth options. Gardner still offers quality defensive value and solid base running, but the team may be looking to move on based on his regression.

With Toronto featuring a heavy right-hitting lineup, adding a veteran outfielder with a lefty bat could be in the cards. However, Gardner has made it clear he would like to finish his career with the Yankees, so if anything, Cashman will once again bring him back on a minimum contract.

Giants have interest in one surprise tight end out of Iowa State

charlie kolar, giants

After allowing Evan Engram to walk in free agency and releasing Kyle Rudolph and Kaden Smith, the New York Giants have a significant void at the tight end position. The 2022 NFL Draft presents the best opportunity for management to land a young player with tremendous upside.

Names that stand out are Trey McBride out of Colorado State and Jeremy Ruckert from Ohio State. However, one name is flying under the radar, and the Giants have shown interest in him, having attended his Pro Day this week.

Charlie Kolar out of Iowa State could be a day 2 target for Big Blue. Kolar finished the 2021 season with 756 yards receiving and six touchdowns. Over his career, he has 23 total scores, showing his physicality and phenomenal red-zone abilities.

Kolar stands at 6’6″ and 260 pounds, featuring as a more predominant receiving TE over run blocking. NFL analyst Lance Zierlein compared Kolar to Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears TE. With phenomenal measurements and production at Iowa State, Kolar’s tape presents some intriguing positives.

With near automatic hands, Kolar simply needs to improve his blocking qualities before he can become a legitimate starter at the next level, but the Giants have time and free reps to hand out to a rookie.

Having hired former Baltimore Ravens TE coach Andy Bischoff, who played an instrumental role in developing Mark Andrews, the Giants are hoping he can replicate a similar strategy with a draft pick this year.

Another pro comparison that Kolar has earned is Andrews himself, making himself an even more intriguing target for Joe Schoen.

Here’s what an AFC Executive had to say about Kolar:

“He’ll get better as a blocker — they all do. He’s got great size, great hands and he’s really productive in their passing game. He might end up being another Mark Andrews.”

Andrew is now one of the best tight ends in football, developing his blocking abilities overtime but always featuring elite receiving value.

With exciting route running and balance, Kolar would offer the Giants a nice pairing with Ricky Seals-Jones, a conservative free agent acquisition who can offer good experience at a position that was recently gutted.

Gonzalez says Astros’ sign-stealing scandal won’t be an issue in the Yankees’ clubhouse: ‘It’s in the past’

Marwin Gonzalez, yankees, houston astros

The New York Yankees signed utilityman Marwin Gonzalez to a minor league deal this week. The pact also included an invitation to spring training, and the former member of the Houston Astros and Boston Red Sox is already in camp.}

“You want to be on a winning team,” Gonzalez said in the clubhouse at George M. Steinbrenner Field on Tuesday morning, per SI.com. “That made it easy for me.”

Gonzalez is 33 and can play a myriad of positions for the Yankees if he makes the roster: he has experience in every position of the field except for catcher, but is most suited to play the infield corners, second base, and the outfield corners.

“I’m always open to play any position,” he added. “I’ll be ready for whatever they need from me.”

He hasn’t talked about 2017 with any of his new Yankees teammates

Gonzalez was in the middle of the sign-stealing scandal with the Astros back in 2017. In fact, he is a career .256/.313/.404 hitter with a 96 wRC+, but that year, he slashed .303/.377/.530 with a 144 wRC+.

But the newest Yankees player will not let that affect his future with the team, and he is solely focused on making the club out of camp.

“That’s been in the past,” Gonzalez said. “We’ve played four seasons after that. We’ve been facing each other and playing around so I think that that’s really in the past and I’ve talked to a lot of the guys during the games and it’s been four years.”

Gonzalez added that he hasn’t talked about the 2017 season with any of his new Yankees’ teammates, so it seems all parties are trying to leave it behind.

In the meantime, Marwin will play his first spring training game with the Yankees on Thursday, and his focus is in getting in the best possible shape with the start of the season around the corner.

“Spring training is super short, so I gotta hurry up,” Gonzalez said. “That’s the best I can do.”