MLB trade rumors: Cardinals, Orioles, Braves among teams with potential breaking-point series this week

The July 31 non-waiver trade deadline is looming, and we’re at the point of the season where a couple of wins or losses can determine whether teams are buyers or sellers.

With that in mind, we thought we’d take a look at the series that start Monday that will have the biggest impact on the “buy or sell?” crowd.

Date: July 16

Analysis (Rivera): Well, it’s about time. You could have picked a couple panhandlers off the streets of Washington D.C. and they would have helped the Nats bullpen. Instead, Washington gets two quality arms to help solidify a glaring issue. Good move for Washington, as they’re probably looking World Series or bust this season.

Yankees get 1B help
Players involved: 1B Garrett Cooper (to Yankees); P Tyler Webb (to Brewers)

Joey Votto, Reds
Question: What do you think of all the home runs this year?
Answer: “I think that, as the season moves along and you start seeing some 30s and 40s and 50s from guys that you wouldn’t expect from, that’s when you start having conversations like, ‘What the heck is really going on?’ When there’s 15s and 25s, it doesn’t really hit home. But once we’re deep in the season and so-and-so has 45 home runs or so-and-so just hit their 30th, you’ll scratch your head and say ‘Alright, we’ll take it.’”

Michael Fulmer, Tigers
Question: Is the baseball juiced?
Answer: “Going right at it, huh? … There’s multiple sides to that. Obviously, we have some guys that believe that’s the main thing. Reports have come out, blah blah blah. We read them. As pitchers, we always try to (think) there’s always a reason the ball gets out of the yard. broncos_130

That’s because Quinn was in charge of making sure his entire team didn’t fall apart

Both that piece and his Q&A with showed a Michael Vick in a mood for reflection, regret and reconciliation, about a career self-sabotaged like few others in history.

A huge portion of the two stories were devoted to the day he started to fully come to terms with the future he had envisioned back with the Falcons once he got out of federal prison … how that future disintegrated before his eyes when the team drafted Matt Ryan in 2008, how he heard about it from another inmate and how the definitive signal that the Falcons were leaving him behind and moving on sunk in.

Just as riveting, though, was Vick’s description of what he and those Falcons had created in Atlanta at their collective heights — which, of course, made the crash even more destructive and the subsequent rebirth more joyous.

Which brought him to his triumphant return in the farewell to the Georgia Dome at the end of the regular season, the prodigal-son story to top all sports-related prodigal-son stories.

Worse than the Falcons squads of 1980 and 2012 that squandered double-digit leads in the second half of playoff failures.

And for Falcons head coach Dan Quinn, worse than when he was Seattle’s defensive coordinator in a last-minute Super Bowl 49 loss to New England in what was the largest Super Bowl comeback (10 points) before Sunday’s contest. That’s because Quinn was in charge of making sure his entire team didn’t fall apart, and he failed.seahawks_012

Fournette is arguably the most explosive pure runner to enter the league since Adrian Peterson.

This belief is magnified because Peppers is a two-way player. Remember Ohio State’s Chris Gamble? He had seven career interceptions at Ohio State, then had 13 interceptions in his first two years with Carolina. He enjoyed a productive nine-year career with the Panthers but never made the Pro Bowl. Gamble wasn’t a bust, but he’s not headed to Canton. The difference here is that if Peppers has that kind of career in the NFL, the side that thinks he’s overrated will proclaim he’s a bust.

Which brings us to the 2017 NFL Draft. Peppers’ performance likely clinched his status as a first-round pick, and that’s a question that still has wide-ranging answers. Is he Thorpe? Honey Badger? Gamble? Woodson? Su’a Cravens? Deone Bucannon? Somebody else?

Fournette is arguably the most explosive pure runner to enter the league since Adrian Peterson. With the backfield mess of Chris Ivory and T.J. Yeldon, he’ll get every chance to be the workhorse as the team leans on a power rushing attack with new football operations chief Tom Coughlin.

Fournette might struggle a bit if second-round tackle Cam Robinson has only limited effects on the team’s run-blocking woes, and if QB Blake Bortles isn’t more efficient to provide true balance to the offense. It will probably take something like a reasonable 1,200 yards rushing and double-digit TDs for Fournette to contend. It will take Jacksonville vying for at least a wild card for him to win.nike_steelers_3544

My lasting impression is a talented-but-arrogant quarterback who rarely smiled

One thing we know for sure: Cutler will not be afraid to call out players who mess up. He did that regularly to his teammates, either in words or in action. Who can forget the Cutler glare or his verbal attacks on his linemen after being sacked?

Cutler was condescending to his teammates, coaches, the media and fans. His unpopularity was never more evident than when he exited the 2010 NFC title game against the Packers with a legitimate knee injury but immediately was accused by players around the league of quitting on his team. In 2014, Bears legend Brian Urlacher said of Cutler: “Financially he is one of the elite guys in the NFL … he just hasn’t produced like an elite quarterback.”

Cutler’s 11 NFL seasons in Denver and Chicago resulted in a 68-71 record as a starter, a pedestrian 85.7 passer rating, one playoff win and one Pro Bowl appearance. He thought his arm was so good that he could force throws into tight windows, but the results too often were drive- and game-killing interceptions.

My lasting impression is a talented-but-arrogant quarterback who rarely smiled, was not a good leader and was not very coachable.

Quincy Wilson, CB, Florida: Wilson left Florida following his junior season and the 6-1, 211-pound DB plays with tremendous confidence. He has prototypical size and was a second-team All-SEC selection as he and teammate Jalen “Teez” Tabor comprised one of the best cornerback tandems in the nation. nike_steelers_1203

Cutler was nowhere to be found.

I have helped the family with PR and media relations for the tournament. One of my duties the year Cutler came was to help set up media interviews with the celebs.

Now, it was nice that Cutler wanted to support the Heimerdinger family and the benefiting charity. But it wasn’t a huge imposition since he’s a Vanderbilt grad. He often returns to Nashville.

There was a dinner and reception the night before the tournament with sponsors and golfers who paid to participate. I did not see Cutler in attendance. Then prior to the start of the tournament, media folks interviewed the celebs, all of whom were nice and cooperative, except for … guess who.

Cutler was nowhere to be found.

nike_cardinals_1804, Jeff Fisher, Brandon Marshall and many former Titans players talked about Dinger and how happy they were to support the event. They mingled with the sponsors and golfers.

Houston went 9-7 (again) with shaky QB play, mainly from Brock Osweiler, for most of last season. If Watson is a steadying force in helping the Texans win an improving division for a third straight year, with a better record, the credentials for rookie of the year would be in place.

Dalvin Cook, RB, Florida State: Cook might be the most talented running back in the class, but several off-field incidents have pushed him down. Despite character concerns, his talent is undeniable. He runs with power and speed, catches the ball well and is a solid blocker. A Le’Veon Bell-type player, Cook got better each of his three seasons at Florida State and finished with 4,464 yards and 46 touchdowns.

NFL Draft: Top 10 wide receivers in 2017 class

John Ross has become an en vogue top-rated receiver for the 2017 NFL Draft after his 4.22 40-yard dash at the Combine. The Washington product, though, deserves to be the first receiver drafted for more reasons than his record-breaking sprint.

In our wide receiver ranking for the 2017 NFL Draft, find out what makes Ross so special, how the rest of the “Big Three” receiver prospects rank and why Virginia Tech’s Isaiah Ford is the best receiver who’s not talked about enough.

The following 2017 NFL Draft wide receiver prospect ranking is included in Optimum Scouting’s 2017 NFL Draft Guide, which is available for purchase here. The draft guide includes 300-plus scouting reports as well as position-specific analytics for prospects in the 2017 NFL Draft.

“My dad is the one who, since I was 8 years old, was out at a park with me every single day for 365 days,” Chad said last summer, the Clarion Ledger reported. “He never missed a day, and he was out there with me, whether it was 8 o’clock at night or 8 o’clock in the morning. He was always there trying to help me get better.”

But Chad and Jim speak often, he said then, and it sounds like the nephew found a lot of strength in his uncle’s bout with cancer.

“Definitely inspired me to be great and to lead and to be a fighter and never give up,” Chad said. “He’s my uncle, he’s another extension of me. I’m thankful that I have an uncle like that that can help me out on the field and off the field.”


No NBA head coaches were fired during the season for the first time in 46 years.

This isn’t a recent trend, either. At least one NBA head coach has been fired during each of the past 45 seasons. Marc Stein of ESPN reported earlier this season that the last campaign without an in-season coach replacement was 1970-71, when the league was 17 teams deep, Nixon was President and the ABA existed.

However, that streak has ended. No NBA head coaches were fired during the season for the first time in 46 years.

As we first noted in November, few coaches came into the season under threat of firing. Alvin Gentry was a hot candidate early, but the New Orleans Pelicans dealt with injuries and made a brief run toward respectability once Jrue Holiday became available. It now seems his job will be at risk once the season ends.

Other coaches who have flirted with midseason dismissal include Fred Hoiberg of the Chicago Bulls, but amid a playoff race and a massive contract the franchise held on. We’ll see if that patience extends to the offseason.

Manning’s former receiver on the Indianapolis Colts, Reggie Wayne, had a different explanation for Omaha, but also admitted that there was “no way” it still had the same meaning so many years later.

You’ll also note that Omaha is not unique to Peyton Manning. See his little brother:

You can bet on the number of times Manning will say OMAHA during the Super Bowl — the line was set at 27.5 — and there’ll be plenty of talk about his love for the Nebraska town. But the word serves a very functional purpose, just as any other quarterback’s cadence (Russell Wilson will use Blue or White and a number, for instance) tells a story.

I say all that to say NFL fans should sometimes listen to college fans and sometimes ignore us.

Jadeveon Clowney at No. 1 would’ve still happened, Teddy Bridgewater wouldn’t have lasted until anywhere near No. 31, and Aaron Donald would’ve gone about 10 spots higher than No. 13, but …

Johnny Manziel would’ve been top-five, even if only for entertainment value. (If we’re talking a certain segment of college fans, at least. He had plenty of detractors, all of whom ended up being proved right about his game and otherwise — if you’re a Texas fan who’s had little to celebrate over the last five years other than Manziel’s pro career, then congratulations — but most younger fans like those in SB Nation’s aura would’ve co-signed Johnny.)

I say all that to say NFL fans should sometimes listen to college fans and sometimes ignore us. Winner: Patriots. Jackson started nine games in 2015 before missing the 2016 season due to injury. Cardona is an anonymous long snapper, which means he’s doing his job well. Cooper and Pullard have combined for four starts in their careers, and Hundley is a solid backup quarterback in Green Bay. All things considered, the edge goes to New England.

The FBS all-time receptions leader, Jones is consistently grouped among the top receivers in the 2017 NFL Draft. His Senior Bowl showed his red-zone ability, and his interior catch finishing is impressive. But much of his college film is almost unusable for his NFL projection.

Jones will be drafted in the first three rounds, but expecting more than a volume slot receiver who will have an adjustment in getting separation in the NFL would be a mistake.

LeBron James usually makes it to the NBA Finals regardless of seeding

After a 29-point blowout loss to the San Antonio Spurs on Monday, the Cleveland Cavaliers relinquished their standing as top seed in the Eastern Conference. That title bediamondbacks_342longs to the Boston Celtics, at least for the day.

The loss sent a once self-assured Cavaliers locker room into disbelief, having devolved into the league’s second-worst defense since the All-Star break. Cleveland has the league’s worst defensive rating in the month of March.

What’s unclear, though, is how much seeding matters to a Cavaliers team that had been No. 1 since Nov. 2017. Or, on a larger a scale, how much it matters to LeBron James, who has made the NBA Finals for six consecutive seasons while only having the top seed twice.

The Jazz are quite good, and will likely hit 50 wins. But they are no better than the fourth-best team in the West, and that’s where expectations pegged them in the preseason. It’s not fair to discount the work Snyder has done to get the Jazz over the hump from intriguing upstart to legit challenger, but that’s what we have to do given what other coaches have pulled off. Snyder is hurt by so many of us recognizing that Utah could be awesome.

I, fan of a contending NHL team, really enjoyed watching the NHL players play in the Olympics until I saw John Tavares get injured last time and miss the rest of the season.

2017 NFL Rookie of the Year race: E.J. Manuel, Marquise Goodwin impress in Week 11

Back in April, the Buffalo Bills turned in their card and made E.J. Manuel the first quarterback taken in the 2017 NFL Draft. They also made him the future of the franchise and started designing an offense to fit his strengths.

While an injury briefly derailed Buffalo’s plan, Manuel has shown more flashes than many expected from him in making the transition from Florida State’s offense. While Geno Smith, Matt Barkley and Mike Glennon got all of the attention during the college football season, Manuel has NFL quarterback most worthy of praise.

He and his fellow rookie wide receiver headline the Week 11 rookie report.

There is serious debate everywhere as to whether Doc Rivers is actually a good coach. I would argue in the affirmative, but … no, he’s not the Coach of the Year with the Clippers hanging on to the No. 5 seed for dear life.

One of these coaches will make the playoffs. Malone’s reputation as a defensive master is clearly misplaced, and it took him too long to devote his life to the siren song of Nikola Jokic.

Stotts followed up a shockingly good season with Portland with a shockingly mediocre campaign. He’s still a good coach, but falling this short of expectations disqualifies you for Coach of the Year.