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TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Two-time Pro Bowl defensive tackle Gerald McCoy stood in a corner of the locker room sizing up the challenge the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face opening the season against Cam Newton and the defending NFC South champion Carolina Panthers.

The Bucs haven’t made the playoffs since 2007, a drought that’s prompted three coaching changes in five years, including the hiring of Lovie Smith last winter.

The Panthers, meanwhile, won 12 games to match a franchise record, with an improved Newton re-establishing himself as one of the NFL’s up-and-coming stars.

Carolina dominated Tampa Bay twice along the way, and McCoy hasn’t forgotten.

“Right now our identity is we’re a 4-12 team. Until we change that, that’s who we are,” McCoy said. “Until somebody changes who Carolina is, they’re the division champs.”

The task begins Sunday.

The notion of going from worst to first in the NFC South isn’t farfetched. It’s happened six times since the division was formed in 2002, and the Bucs, Panthers, Falcons and Saints have all finished first three times.

Interestingly, no team has won titles in consecutive years.

“I think everybody has been talking about that, and we obviously know about it,” Carolina linebacker Luke Kuechly, the 2013 NFL defensive player of the year, said.

Not that the Panthers fancy themselves as history buffs.

“Our goal is the same as it is every year, and that’s to go out and win the division. I don’t think it really matters if we’re supposed to win or if we’re not supposed to win. … The mindset is to go out there and win the division,” Kuechly added. “I think that’s all 32 teams’ goal. … All of the talk outside of the team, and all of the other stuff is just talk.”

With Newton leading the way, the Panthers swept the season series a year ago by a combined 58-19. The young quarterback threw for two touchdowns and ran for one in each game.

“He got comfortable. He’s not a guy you want to get comfortable,” McCoy said. “He’s one of the best escape artists we have in this league. If you give him too much time, he’ll kill you with his feet or his arm. We’ve got to be all over him.”

Newton had ankle surgery during the offseason and has been slowed the past two weeks by a rib injury he’s said will not stop him from playing.

“I’m being optimistic about this whole thing, and I have no other choice but to feel that way,” Newton said. “I don’t want to ever put this team or myself in jeopardy that I’m just stressing to hurry up and get out there and I’m not able to be what makes me me.”

In their debut under Smith, the Bucs have been challenged on defense to outplay Carolina’s highly regarded unit. The Panthers led the league with 60 sacks and ranked second in total defense in 2013.

Under Smith, who coached the Bears from 2004-12, the Bucs have switched to a version of the Tampa-2 scheme they popularized during a decade of success under Tony Dungy and Jon Gruden.

With McCoy anchoring the defensive line, and linebacker Lavonte David making play after play, Smith feels he has the makings of another dominant unit.

“Potential is nothing, you can say anybody has potential. Everybody has got potential to do something,” McCoy said. “It’s about getting it done.”

Things to watch when the Panthers and Buccaneers open the season:

THE BIG UNKNOWN: Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis said the toughest part of preparing for the Bucs’ offense is not knowing what to expect. Tampa Bay has a new offensive coordinator in Jeff Tedford, a former coach at Cal who has never called plays at the NFL level.

BUT WHO’S CALLING PLAYS SUNDAY?: Tedford underwent an unspecified medical procedure last month, and the Bucs have not confirmed he will work Sunday’s game. In his absence, the rest of the offensive staff collaborated on the game plan. Quarterbacks coach Marcus Arroyo will relay play calls if Tedford is out.

NEW QB: Career backup Josh McCown will start a season opener for the first time since 2007. He’s coming off his best year as a pro, throwing for 13 touchdowns versus one interception while filling in for an injured Jay Cutler in Chicago. The Bucs are counting on him to help turn around an offense that ranked 30th in scoring and last in passing and total yardage in 2013.

STARTING SLOW: The Panthers have not won a season opener since 2008. Carolina opened at Tampa Bay two years ago, losing 16-10.

Carolina has opened the last three seasons 1-5, 1-6 and 1-3 under coach Ron Rivera.

DEFENSIVE SHOWDOWN: Don’t be surprised to see a defensive showdown. The Panthers ranked only behind Seattle on defense last season, and Smith boasted “we feel like we will be one of the best defenses in the league this year.” Smith and Rivera have strong defensive backgrounds, and the Panthers coach served as Bears defensive coordinator under Smith.

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. — Watching the Nashville Predators play in the Stanley Cup Final without him hasn’t been easy on center Ryan Johansen. He would much rather be playing than healing from a serious leg injury.

Seeing how well his teammates have been playing makes being an observer just a bit more manageable.

“It’s been a lot easier than I thought,” Johansen said Thursday in his first news conference since last month’s injury. “The identity and the character of our team, how we’re built, it’s been pretty easy to watch because, I mean, these guys, every time they’re on the ice, they throw everything they’ve got. They’re not going to stop for anything.”


Preds won’t let Johansen injury derail quest
The Predators say they won’t allow top scorer Ryan Johansen’s playoff-ending injury stop their quest for the team’s first berth in the Stanley Cup finals.
Johansen suffered acute compartment syndrome during a 3-2 overtime loss to Anaheim on May 18, requiring emergency surgery. The injury, which involves fluid or blood swelling inside a muscle, can lead to serious complications and potentially even the loss of a limb.

The 24-year-old center hadn’t missed a game since being traded to the Predators on Jan. 6, 2016, and he led the Predators with 13 points in 14 playoff games before he was hurt.

Now he has missed four playoff games with an injury that will keep him out until next season. Johansen said he’s been inspired watching teammates like Frederick Gaudreau, Pontus Aberg and Austin Watson play well against the Penguins.

“As a teammate, it gives me chills right now,” Johansen said. “Those guys worked so hard for their opportunities, worked their whole lives for the opportunities, and they’re making the best of it.”

Johansen said he was hurt when Anaheim defenseman Josh Manson’s knee hit his left thigh. The center knew immediately he would feel that in the morning. But he could barely stand in overtime.

“It got pretty bad pretty quick,” Johansen said.

He left the ice, took off his gear and went to visit the trainers for what everyone thought was a bad cramp. They tried ice and stretching. By the time Johansen finished showering, he could barely stand.

“My leg, it just felt like it was about to explode. It kept getting worse,” Johansen said.

Since he can’t play, Johansen is trying to tap his experience having played in the Eastern Conference with Columbus and give any tips that he can about Pittsburgh to centers like Colton Sissons.

“I feel I can help them out,” Johansen said. “A few little things.”

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The Miami Heat, Chris Bosh and the players’ association have tentatively agreed to a resolution that would allow all parties to move on, sources told ESPN on Wednesday.

Bosh, 33, hasn’t played since February 2016 because of blood clot issues. He has remained on the Heat roster as the sides have worked through complex medical and legal issues in this delicate and unique situation.

The agreement hasn’t been finalized as Bosh and his family, agents and lawyers are still reviewing documents.

Both the South Florida Sun-Sentinel and the Miami Herald reported that the sides were in talks Tuesday. It’s a process that has played out since last fall, when Heat team doctors declined to clear Bosh to take part in training camp following blood test results.

Bosh is guaranteed $52 million over the next two seasons, though a significant portion of that is covered by insurance. But he has remained on the Heat’s salary cap, limiting their ability to replace him. This agreement is expected to remove Bosh from the cap and allow the Heat to move on with their team.

The Heat will end up with between $14 million and $37 million in cap room, depending on player options, team options and waivers decisions.

Part of the reason this process has been so drawn out is the sides are caught between two collective bargaining agreements with differing rules on players with potentially life-threatening medical conditions. The new CBA, which takes effect July 1, has new policies for evaluating player health, partially because of Bosh’s situation.

Bosh has said in several interviews that he still hopes to find a treatment plan that would allow him to return to the floor in the future. Under the current rules, if he were to return and play more than 25 games for another team, his salary cap hit would return to the Heat’s books and they would potentially face luxury tax penalties.

Working that out was part of the motivation from the Heat’s side during the discussions.

Under the new CBA, a panel of doctors selected by the league and the association would determine whether a player with a potentially life-threatening medical condition would be cleared to play.

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ATLANTA — Ryan Howard doesn’t want to retire from baseball.

He may not have a choice.

The former National League MVP was released from his minor league contract Monday by the Atlanta Braves after he struggled at Triple-A Gwinnett, a major blow to the 37-year-old slugger’s hopes of carrying on with another team after a long career with the Philadelphia Phillies.

Less than a week after Howard insisted “there’s more in the tank,” the Braves decided otherwise. He lasted only 11 games with the G-Braves, hitting .184 with one homer and five RBIs.

The Braves were hoping Howard could bolster an anemic bench and serve as designated hitter in interleague games. But his options were limited, since he could only play first base and Atlanta already has Freddie Freeman.


Ex-Phillie Howard focused on big league return
Ryan Howard was once one of baseball’s most feared sluggers, an MVP and World Series champion, the toast of Philadelphia. So what’s he doing in the suburbs of Atlanta, a minor leaguer at age 37?
Going a different direction, the Braves completed a deal with Minnesota for utility player Danny Santana. The Twins received left-handed reliever Kevin Chapman and cash.

Howard was once among baseball’s most feared hitters. In 2006, his first full season as Philadelphia’s starting first baseman, he put together one of the greatest stat lines in baseball history: 58 homers, 149 RBIs, a .313 average and an MVP award.

The Phillies would go on to win five straight NL East titles, a stretch that included two trips to the World Series and a championship in 2008. Howard averaged 41 homers and 129 RBIs during that run, finishing in the top 10 of the MVP voting every season.

But his career was forever altered on the last play of the 2011 division series against the St. Louis Cardinals, when he tore his Achilles tendon running out a grounder for the final out of a 1-0 loss.

He hasn’t been the same since.

Plagued by one injury after another, Howard’s production plummeted the last five seasons. In 2016, he showed flashes of power with 25 homers but batted a career-worst .196, prompting the Phillies to decline a $25 million option for this season. He was honored by the team before its final home game but insisted that he had no plans to retire.

Howard made it clear last week that he still believes he can contribute.

“If you walk away, don’t walk away with something still left in the tank,” he said. “Then you’re wondering like, `Man, what could I have done?’ When I’m done playing, I want to leave it all out on the field.”

Howard was even willing to go to the minors, taking a fraction of the salary he once made and with no guarantees that the Braves would bring him up to the majors.

“Once you leave the minor leagues, you want to not come back,” Howard said. “But it’s the path that I’m on, the journey that I’m on.”

That journey may have ended, especially since he missed all of spring training before the Braves finally called. There’s clearly not a lot of interest in an aging slugger with a cumulative .226 average over the past five years.

The Braves decided Santana was a better option for the bench. The 26-year-old has spent parts of four seasons in the big leagues, hitting .276 with 10 homers, 76 RBIs and 41 stolen bases. This season with the Twins, he’s hitting .200 with one homer in 13 games.

Chapman was claimed off waivers by the Braves late in spring training after spending parts of the last four seasons with the Houston Astros. Control has always been an issue for the lefty, who had a 7.71 ERA in nine games at Gwinnett after failing to earn a spot on Atlanta’s big league roster.

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There’s another new Star Wars trailer out, which is kind of crazy to me, but I’m trying to stay out of the way so people can enjoy their thing. Star Wars is not my thing, but I have things of my own, and I’m not here to be disrespectful of your things, just as I wouldn’t want you to be disrespectful of mine. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you and all that.

Anyway, I tweeted this today …

An honest, legit, non-trolling question: How many more consecutive years of Star Wars promotion and release cycles am I looking at?

— Dan Hanzus (@DanHanzus) April 14, 2017
The collective response from the masses: There is the forthcoming Star Wars release in December, followed by a Han Solo-focused spinoff in 2018, with more “Episode” sequels to follow in 2019 and 2020. The Brooklyn Nets will have lottery picks again before we stop seeing Star Wars movies hitting theaters every Christmas. And given the nature of Disney’s investment in Star Wars — they purchased the property from Lucasfilm for a cool $4 billion in 2012 — the franchise could be set up for a Brett Favre-like ironman streak in our nation’s first-run cinemas.

So let’s have a little fun. What will happen first: A year without a new Star Wars release? Or a year without Tom Brady as the New England Patriots’ starting quarterback? (Oh, this constitutes a flimsy connection of pop culture and sports? Listen buddy, you try writing for the NFL’s official site during a brutally quiet Friday afternoon in mid-April. LET’S GET TO IT!)

Brady signed a two-year, $41 million contract extension with the Pats last March. The deal runs through the 2019 season. As noted above, Star Wars is locked into sequels through 2020. ADVANTAGE: STAR WARS

Brady had the greatest age-39 season for a quarterback in NFL history, putting up MVP numbers despite his wacky four-game suspension. He went 14-1 as New England’s starter, capped by the assassination of the Atlanta Falcons’ hopes and dreams in Super Bowl LI. Brady merchandise, meanwhile, is remarkably hot on both the legitimate and underground markets. Rogue One: A Star Wars Story and Star Wars: The Force Awakens — the two most recent entries in the Star Wars canon — have grossed $1.5 billion in box office alone. My God. ADVANTAGE: PUSH

Brady has become a health fanatic in recent years, a man firm in the belief that a regimented diet (his banned list includes: sugar, white flour, nightshade fruits and veggies, MSG, iodized salt, coffee, fungi and dairy) will significantly retard the aging process. He couples these intense dietary habits with a furious workout regimen designed to keep him strong, agile and limber. Star Wars captured the imagination of Gen Xers long ago, and the legendary franchise has made major advances in their recruitment of millennials thanks to the success of recent installments. The result is a built-in mega audience that makes the Star Wars franchise the unsinkable ship Titanic only thought it was. ADVANTAGE: STAR WARS

Tom Brady has Bill Belichick. Star Wars has George Lucas. Belichick has never left Brady’s side, and the coach/all-encompassing organizational czar seems to be getting better at his job as he ages. (Have you been tracking this Patriots offseason? It feels like a checkers/chess situation.) Lucas helmed the meteoric rise of Star Wars but seemed to lose the plot as the years went by, putting us through that turgid turn-of-the-millennium trilogy before giving up his baby to Disney in exchange for all the money. Like, all of it. ADVANTAGE: TOM BRADY

Brady fired a screaming spiral into the face of Father Time last year, and he’ll enter 2017 behind steady and familiar offensive line and his best collection of playmakers since his 50-touchdown season in 2007. Brady will be 40 come Week 1, but we’ll reiterate here that he was as good as ever last season. We are pretty much in unprecedented territory for an NFL standout who doesn’t kick for a living. No wonder the Patriots seem conflicted about dealing Jimmy Garoppolo. The biggest threat for Star Wars is public exhaustion, though business is unlikely to suffer until the product shows signs of slippage. Of course, the likelihood of that happening is higher when you’re cranking out sequels like you’re the Saw franchise. ADVANTAGE: TOM BRADY

This is close, but Brady takes it. We think he’s dead serious about playing another five years, which means Disney would have to pump out seven Star Wars movies in seven years just to keep pace. And it’s only at this point that I realize it should never take 800 words to come to the conclusion that Tom Brady wins. The Force will always be with him.

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The New York Jets have identified their replacement for Darrelle Revis.

The Jets are expected to finalize a deal with former Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported, via a source informed of the situation.

Dallas will be in the market for secondary help in next month’s cornerback-laden draft after losing both Claiborne and Brandon Carr in free agency.

Claiborne was ranked No. 44 overall in Around The NFL’s list of the Top 101 free agents.

With Revis out of the picture, the former LSU star should slot in opposite Buster Skrine in the starting lineup.

Although Claiborne is coming off perhaps his finest season since being drafted No. 6 overall in 2012, it’s telling that he played just seven games before going down with a serious groin injury that sidelined him until the postseason. He has played more than 11 games just once in five NFL seasons.

The Jets still have a lot of renovating to pull off if they’re going to back up coach Todd Bowles’ dubious contention that this is not a rebuilding campaign.

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Michigan State is 17-4 on Senior Day under Tom Izzo. Senior guard Denzel Valentine netted 27 points last season against Ohio State, tying for the most by a Spartan senior on Senior Day under Coach Izzo, matching the 27 points Travis Trice scored vs. Purdue in 2015. On his Senior Day in 2000, Mateen Cleaves established a Big Ten record with 20 assists in a 114-63 victory over Michigan. Paul Davis grabbed 14 rebounds vs. Illinois on his senior day in 2006.

4. Breslin Advantage
Michigan State is 378-58 (.867) at home all-time since Breslin Center opened in 1989, including 197-44 (.817) in Big Ten play. Under Tom Izzo, the Spartans are 304-43 (.876) at Breslin, including a 156-31 (.834) conference record.

5. Spartans On Target
Michigan State ranks third in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.476) and second in 3-point field-goal percentage (.381). The Spartans are even better in conference games, shooting .477 from the field to lead the Big Ten and .387 from 3-point range to rank third.

MSU vs. Wisconsin Notes
Series History
Michigan State leads the all-time series with Wisconsin, 76-64, including a 47-14 advantage in games played in East Lansing. The home team has won 18 of the last 20 games played on a college campus, with the lone exceptions being MSU’s wins in Madison in 2012 and 2013. Tom Izzo is 25-20 in his career against Wisconsin.

Coach Gard
Greg Gard (Wisconsin-Platteville, `95) is 37-14 in his second season as a collegiate head coach at Wisconsin. He took over the Badger program on Dec. 15, 2015, following Bo Ryan’s retirement, and guided UW to the 2016 Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament. Gard joined Ryan’s staff at Wisconsin-Platteville in 1993, and spent the next 23 seasons with Ryan at UW-Platteville, UW-Milwaukee and Wisconsin.

The Last Meeting
Michigan State scored the game’s first five points and never looked back in a 69-57 win over Wisconsin on Feb. 18, 2016. Less than seven minutes into the contest the Spartan lead was already in double figures at 14-3. Wisconsin scored five straight points, but a quick 9-2 run pushed the margin up to 13 points at 23-10. The Spartans led by as many as 16 points in the first half, but the Badgers closed on a 7-0 run to give MSU a 32-23 lead at the break. UW scored the first basket of the second half, but an 8-0 Spartan run early in the second half gave MSU a comfortable margin it would not give up, leading by as many as 22 late in the period. MSU’s defense held the Badgers to 33.9 percent shooting. Denzel Valentine led the Spartans with 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds, while Bryn Forbes added 17 points. Ethan Happ paced Wisconsin with 18 points and Bronson Koenig added 12.

Badger Notes
Wisconsin freshman D’Mitrik Trice is the brother of former Spartan Travis Trice (2011-15). The elder Trice finished his career with 1,135 points and earned East Regional Most Outstanding Player honors during Michigan State’s run to the 2015 Final Four. The Badgers bring an experienced group to East Lansing, with four seniors in the potential starting lineup. In addition to the Badgers’ experience, sophomore Ethan Happ leads the team in points (14.4), rebounds (8.9) and assists (2.9) and is making a push to become an All-American. Wisconsin owns the best scoring defense in the Big Ten, allowing just 61.3 ppg and is second in the conference with a +11.8 scoring margin.

Spartan Basketball Notes
Spartan Depth
Eight healthy Spartans average more than 17 minutes per game, while 10 average more than eight minutes per game (Does not include Eron Harris who is out for the year with a knee injury). Seven different players have led Michigan State in scoring in a single game. The depth has helped MSU’s reserves outscore the opponent’s bench in 24 of 28 contests, as MSU gets 29.1 points per game off the bench. Michigan State has used nine different starting lineups this season. According to, MSU leads the nation with non-starters playing 45.2 percent of the team’s minutes.

Too Many Turnovers
After averaging fewer than 12 turnovers in each of the last three seasons, this year’s Spartan squad is averaging 14.6 per contest. MSU is 14-5 when committing 15 or fewer turnovers and 3-6 when committing more. In Big Ten play, MSU is averaging 14.5 turnovers (13.6 in victory, 16.0 in defeat). MSU is 7-1 when having fewer turnovers than its opponent, and 10-0 when it has an advantage in points off turnovers.

Spartan Defense
Michigan State has held opponents under 40 percent shooting from the field in each of the last five seasons, including finishing second in the nation in field-goal percentage defense in 2012 (.379) and 2016 (.382). The strong defensive effort has carried over to 2016-17, as 15 opponents have been held under 40 percent, as MSU boasts a field-goal percentage defense of .407, including holding Big Ten opponents to a .423 field-goal percentage. In Big Ten victories, Spartans are holding opponents to .372, compared to .503 in defeat. MSU has held its opponent under 50 percent shooting in 26 of 28 games this season, failing to do so at Michigan and at Purdue.

Winston Lends A Hand
Freshman point guard Cassius Winston ranks second in the Big Ten with 5.4 assists per contest, and is tied for fifth with a 2.3 assist-to-turnover ratio. According to, Winston leads the nation in Assist Rate (assists divided by the field goals made by the player’s teammates while he is on the court) (49.9). With 151 assists on the season, he already ranks second all-time among Spartan freshmen, trailing just Earvin “Magic” Johnson (222), and having recently passed Mateen Cleaves (146), and Scott Skiles (146). The 2016 Michigan Mr. Basketball winner is fourth on the team in scoring (7.0 ppg) and has scored in double figures in three of the last seven games, after doing it just three times in his first 21 games. Winston also tallied nine assists vs. Ohio State (Feb. 14), the most in a Big Ten game by a Spartan this season. In the last game against Nebraska, he totaled eight assists and zero turnovers.

Knee Injuries
Eron Harris suffered a significant right knee injury against Purdue (Feb. 18) that will require surgery. He becomes the third Spartan senior to suffer a season-ending knee injury this season. Ben Carter (left knee) and Gavin Schilling (right knee) sustained their injuries prior to the first game of the season.

MSU’s Freshman Class
Michigan State’s freshman class of Miles Bridges, Joshua Langford, Nick Ward and Cassius Winston is the most productive freshman class of the Tom Izzo era, as the quartet averages a combined 42.9 points, 18.3 rebounds and 91.8 minutes, with each one starting at least five contests. Against Iowa, they each scored in double figures, marking the first time four Spartan freshmen scored in double figures in the same game under Tom Izzo. Against Nebraska, the quartet combined for a season-high 64 points, as Bridges (20 points) and Ward (20 points), became the first freshman duo to score 20 or more points at MSU since Jay Vincent and Magic Johnson did it on Jan. 5, 1978 against Minnesota. Bridges and Langford were McDonald’s All-Americans, Winston joined Bridges as Jordan Brand All-Americans and all four players were ranked in the Top 40 in the nation. The 2001-02 Spartan freshmen of Alan Anderson, Chris Hill, Kelvin Torbert and Aaron Alexander combined to average 77.4 minutes and 26.5 points, both of which previously ranked first in the Izzo era.

NBA All-Star
Draymond Green was a reserve on the NBA All-Star West team for the second-straight season. The 2012 NABC National Player of the Year is the seventh Spartan to make an All-Star Team, joining Johnny Green, Ralph Simpson (ABA), Magic Johnson, Kevin Willis, Steve Smith and Zach Randolph. Through Feb. 23, Green is averaging 10.2 points, 8.2 rebounds and 7.3 assists for the Golden State Warriors. In a Feb. 10 contest vs. Memphis, Green became the first player in NBA history to record a triple-double while scoring fewer than 10 points. In 2015, Green donated $3.1 million to MSU Athletics, which will be used in the construction of the Draymond Green Strength and Conditioning Center in the ongoing Breslin Center renovations, and towards an endowment for the basketball program.

Rejection By Ward
Despite standing just 6-foot-8, Nick Ward is proving to be a defensive presence as a shot blocker. He ranks third in the Big Ten in total blocks (48) and is tied for third in blocks per game (1.7). The 48 blocks are already the second most ever by a Spartan freshman, trailing only Deyonta Davis’ freshman season record of 64, established just last season. He blocked six shots against Northeastern (12/18), tying the Spartan freshman single-game record and matching the second most ever by a Spartan in a single game. In conference games, he ranks tied for sixth in the Big Ten in blocks (1.5 bpg).

Ward’s Emergence
The least heralded member of Michigan State’s freshman class, Nick Ward is proving to be an impact player. He ranks second on the team in scoring (13.1 ppg) and second in rebounding (5.9), while ranking fourth in the conference in field-goal percentage in conference games (.573) and fourth overall (.589). He’s lost 30-plus pounds since arriving on MSU’s campus in June. His per 40-minute averages of 27.2 points and 12.2 rebounds lead the Spartans among members of the core playing group. He’s scored six or more points in every game this season and has posted double-figure points in 18 of the last 22 games, averaging 14.0 ppg over that same span. In the seven games that Miles Bridges missed, Ward averaged 17.1 points and 8.3 rebounds. He’s a three-time Big Ten Freshman of the Week honoree, earning the accolade on Dec. 5, Dec. 26 and Jan. 2. According to, Ward ranks second in the nation in fouls drawn per 40 minutes (8.9).

Big Ten Freshmen Of The Week
Michigan State has captured the Big Ten Freshman of the Week honor eight times in the 15 weeks it has been presented. Miles Bridges (Nov. 14, Nov. 28, Jan. 16, Jan. 30, Feb. 20) leads the conference with five weekly honors, while Nick Ward (Dec. 5, Dec. 26, Jan. 2) has been honored three times. Bridges also was honored as the Wayman Tisdale National Freshman of the Week by the USBWA and CBS Sports on Jan. 30.

Spartans Share The Ball
Unselfishness is a trademark of all Tom Izzo teams. That has been especially true over the last three seasons as MSU has established a school record for assists in each of the last three years. Last season, MSU tallied a school record 719 assists, good for the 22nd-best total in NCAA history. MSU’s nation’s-best assist average of 20.5 was the 23rd-best average in NCAA history. The Spartans recorded an assist on a nation’s-best 71.3 percent of their field goals. This year, the Spartans are averaging 17.5 assists in 2016-17, ranking eighth in the nation, recording an assist on 67.4 percent of their field goals, which is the second-best mark in the nation.

A Senior Steps Up
Senior Alvin Ellis III has played the best basketball of his career as MSU has opened conference play. In Big Ten play, Ellis is averaging 8.9 points and 3.9 rebounds, ranking third on the team in scoring and third in rebounding. The Spartans are 4-1 in Big Ten games this season in which he scores in double figures. He scored a career-best 20 points, including two game-winning free throws, in a one-point overtime victory at Minnesota. He followed with a team-best 16 points at Northwestern, adding a career-best eight rebounds. It marked the first time in his career that Ellis has led MSU in scoring, and the first time in his career that he’s scored in double figures in back-to-back contests. Ellis led the team in scoring in a win over Ohio State, as he hit a career-best six 3-pointers, five of which came in the first half.

Izzo Second In Wins At A Big Ten School
With 541 career wins, Tom Izzo has passed Gene Keady (512 wins) for second-most victories at a Big Ten school, trailing only Bob Knight (661 wins). Izzo is also third all-time with 255 Big Ten wins, trailing just Knight (353 wins) and Keady (265 wins).

Big Ten Success
Michigan State has won 13 regular-season Big Ten Championships since joining the league prior to the 1950-51 season. The Spartans’ first-ever league game was at Northwestern, where MSU claimed a 67-62 victory on Jan. 6, 1951. All-time, MSU is 613-478 (.562) in league play, including 255-118 (.684) under Tom Izzo, who ranks third in league history with 255 conference wins. Izzo has guided MSU to seven of its 13 league crowns. Since Izzo’s first season (1995-96), MSU has a Big Ten-best record of 255-118, 12 games better than second-place Wisconsin (243-130).

Bridges Makes An Immediate Impact
Miles Bridges is having one of the most productive freshman seasons in Michigan State history. Bridges’ scoring average of 16.3 points per game trails only Magic Johnson’s 17.0 ppg in 1977-78 as the best ever for a Spartan freshman. Only Greg Kelser (9.6 rpg, 1975-76) posted a better rebounding average than Bridges’ current 8.3 average.

Nairn’s Homecoming Provides A Spark
Lourawls “Tum Tum” Nairn Jr. ranks second in the Big Ten with a 3.3 assist-to-turnover ratio, while ranking tied for ninth in the conference in assists (3.8). The junior point guard had a very productive homecoming during MSU’s play in the Battle 4 Atlantis. A native of Nassau, Nairn had arguably his best three-game stretch as a Spartan, matching or setting a career high in each game. He tied a career high in points with 13 points vs. St. John’s, and set new career highs in rebounding (6) vs. Baylor and assists (12) vs. Wichita State. He also hit 4-of-6 3-pointers, after entering the tournament with seven threes in his first 71 career games. He matched his career high with 13 points in a comeback win at Minnesota, including 11 in the second half and overtime, while also scoring 13 points vs. Penn State.

It’s All About Boardwork
Being forced to play with a smaller frontcourt due to injury, rebounding has not been the staple it normally is for Michigan State. Through 28 games, MSU has a +2.9 rebound margin, out-rebounding the opponent in 16 contests. In the Tom Izzo era, MSU has out-rebounded 580 of 756 opponents (.767), posting a 458-122 (.790) mark in those games. The Spartans have led the nation in rebounding in five of the last 17 seasons (2000, 2001, 2009, 2010, 2016), ranking in the Top 10 10 times and the Top 25 on 13 occasions. MSU has led the Big Ten in rebounding margin in conference games in 13 of the last 19 years and in 14 of 21 seasons under Izzo.

From Beyond the Arc
The 2015-16 Spartans led the nation in 3-point field goal percentage (.434) and made a school record 321 3-pointers. This year’s Spartan squad must replace Bryn Forbes (112) and Denzel Valentine (104) who combined for 216 3-pointers last season. MSU is shooting .381 from behind the arc this year, ranking second in the Big Ten, as Eron Harris (.387, 43-111), Miles Bridges (.408, 40-98), Alvin Ellis III (.411, 37-90) and Matt McQuaid (.337, 31-92) lead the team in made 3-pointers. Joshua Langford (.412, 14th) and Ellis (.411, 15th) rank among the Big Ten leaders in 3-point field-goal percentage. In Big Ten play, the Spartans are shooting .387 from 3-point range, ranking third in the conference.

Hall of Famer Tom Izzo
Now in his 22nd season at Michigan State, Hall of Fame coach Tom Izzo has built the Spartans into one of the elite programs in the nation. MSU is the only school in the country to win 27 or more games in each of the last five seasons. The Spartans’ 19 straight NCAA Tournaments are a Big Ten record, the third-longest active streak in the nation and the fourth-longest active streak of all time. He’s been able to accomplish this while playing more ranked teams than anyone else since 1998. Michigan State has appeared in a nation’s best seven Final Fours in the last 18 seasons. Izzo’s seven Final Four trips are tied for fifth most in NCAA history. Izzo was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame on Sept. 9.

The Nation’s Toughest November
MSU’s game at Duke (11/29) marked the final game in what was arguably the toughest opening month in college basketball history, certainly Spartan history. With games against No. 2 Kentucky, No. 10 Arizona and No. 20 Baylor (rankings at date of game), No. 5 Duke was the fourth ranked opponent MSU played in November alone. The Spartans had never faced three Top 10 opponents in November until this season, and had never played four Top 20 non-conference opponents in a single month during the regular season. Not only did the Spartans play a diabolical slate of opponents, they faced a brutal travel schedule to open the season. Beginning with a flight to Hawaii on November 8 and ending with the return flight from Duke on Nov. 29, the Spartans traveled more than 13,600 miles in 22 days, including additional trips to New York City and the Bahamas. Five opponents from November are currently ranked in the Associated Press Top 25 (Feb. 20), including No. 4 Arizona, No. 9 Baylor, No. 10 Duke, No. 11 Kentucky and No. 25 Wichita State.

Izzo Receives Dean Smith Award
As announced by the USBWA in October, Tom Izzo is the recipient of the 2016 Dean Smith Award. The award goes to an individual in college basketball who embodies the spirit and values of the late North Carolina coaching great. Izzo is the second person to receive the Dean Smith Award. The USBWA established the award last year and selected former Georgetown coach John Thompson as the first recipient. Among the qualities in a coach that the award is based on are honesty and integrity, being a part of players’ lives during and after college, abiding by NCAA rules, involvement in charities and the community, standing up for social issues and causes and having a reputation for treating people with respect.

Spartans In The NBA
Michigan State had a Big Ten-best eight players on NBA opening day rosters, including Denzel Valentine (Bulls), Gary Harris (Nuggets), Deyonta Davis (Grizzlies), Bryn Forbes (Spurs), Draymond Green (Warriors), Adreian Payne (Timberwolves), Zach Randolph (Grizzlies) and Alan Anderson (Clippers).

Playing The Best
Since the 1997-98 season, the year of Michigan State’s first of 19 straight trips to the NCAA Tournament, the Spartans have played 212 games against ranked opponents. That total ranks first among teams that have appeared in a Final Four since then. The Spartans are followed by North Carolina (200), Texas (190), Duke (188), Kentucky (182), Illinois (179) and Michigan (176).

Strength of Schedule
In total, the 2016-17 schedule features 15 teams that appeared in the 2016 postseason, including 11 opponents that played in the 2016 NCAA Tournament.

Kirk Cousins Michigan State NCAA College Jersey

Cousins getting paid: Former Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins may get franchised for a second year by the NFL’s Washington Redskins by Wednesday’s deadline. Reportedly the two sides cannot come to agreement on a long-term contract. If he is franchised, Cousins likely will get in the neighborhood of $22 million for next season, to go with the $19 million plus he received last year. Not bad for a quarterback who has never led his team to a playoff victory.

School looking for funds: Lansing Catholic High School is looking to raise another $1 million over the next two months to go with a private $1 million donation the school just received. If the funds are found, Catholic will immediately add a team building to its new football stadium along with permanent concessions and restroom facilities. And new natural grass fields will be added for softball, baseball and soccer, all in the original plans. Down the road – a new gymnasium, which the school says it desperately needs but comes after the pecking order of the outside upgrades.

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The Hot Stove season is underway, and we’re keeping you up to date with the latest free-agent news, trade buzz, rumors and more.

• Hot Stove Tracker
Nova has offers in hand
Right-hander Ivan Nova has received multiple offers for around three years and $36 million, his agent told MLB Network Radio on Sunday
Nova’s agent, Greg Genske, didn’t specify which teams have offered his client or if they’re waiting for a better deal.
Nova, who turns 30 in January, closed the season impressively after being traded from the Yankees to the Pirates. He was 5-2 with a 3.06 ERA in 11 starts for Pittsburgh, including three complete games. He was 12-8 with a 4.17 ERA in 32 games (26 starts) overall.
Nova is 58-41 with a 4.30 ERA in seven seasons with the Yankees and Pirates.
Both New York teams interested in Logan
The Mets and Yankees are two of a handful of teams interested in free-agent lefty Boone Logan, according to The New York Post.
Logan, 32, rebounded from two subpar years in Colorado to post a 3.69 ERA in 66 games for the Rockies this season.
Logan previously pitched for the Yankees from 2010-13, posting a 3.38 ERA with 202 strikeouts in 176 innings in that span.
Logan has a 4.45 career ERA in 11 seasons with the White Sox, Braves, Yankees and Rockies.
Logan ends 7th-inning threat
Logan ends 7th-inning threat
With runners on first and second base, Boone Logan strikes out Odubel Herrera swinging to preserve the lead and end the top of the 7th
Holland eyes turnaround with Pirates
Free-agent pitcher Derek Holland has expressed interest in signing with the Pirates, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, though the club has not extended a formal offer to the veteran left-hander.
Holland’s agent Michael Martini confirmed Saturday that Pittsburgh is “on our short list,” which makes sense given the way the Pirates (and specifically pitching coach Ray Searage) have been able to turn around the fortunes of veteran pitchers. Recent examples include A.J. Burnett, J.A. Happ and, most recently, Ivan Nova, who went 5-2 and saw his ERA drop nearly two full runs after he was traded to Pittsburgh by the Yankees at the 2016 Trade Deadline.
It’s unclear if the Pirates share a mutual interest in signing Holland, who has made only 35 starts over the last three seasons while battling various knee and shoulder injuries. The southpaw does share a connection with manager Clint Hurdle, who was the Rangers’ hitting coach in 2010 when Holland helped Texas reach the World Series.
Holland, who turned 30 in October, struggled to a 7-9 record and 4.95 ERA in 2016 — his highest rate since his 2009 rookie campaign — while starting only 20 games. His 38.3 percent ground-ball rate in ’16 was also a career low.
“We’d prefer a guaranteed spot,” Martini said, “but Derek is not afraid to compete for a job. We’ll see how the market develops, but we would be open to a one-year deal.”
Blue Jays reportedly interested in Pearce
The latest scoop out of Toronto indicates the Blue Jays are interested in free-agent infielder Steve Pearce, according to MLB Network’s Ken Rosenthal.
On the heels of signing designated hitter Kendrys Morales to a three-year, $33 million deal on Friday, the Blue Jays continue to proceed with the realistic notion that Edwin Encarnacion may not be back next year.
Encarnacion was offered a $17.2 million qualifying offer, but is expected to decline and earn a multi-year deal upwards of $100 million, if not more, should he hit the market.
Rosenthal indicated that Pearce, 33, would fit in Toronto as a right-handed platoon for Justin Smoak at first base. Over 10 seasons with five teams, Pearce has compiled a .254 average with 66 homers, 215 RBIs and a .774 OPS.
Mets check in on Bautista, Fowler; focus remains on Cespedes
While the Mets’ are still zeroed in on retaining Yoenis Cespedes, the club has engaged in preliminary talks regarding free-agent outfielders Jose Bautista and Dexter Fowler, according to the New York Post.
Mets general manager Sandy Alderson met with Cespedes’ agent, Brodie Van Wagenen, on Wednesday, per’s Anthony DiComo. The New York front office hopes to have the matter resolved one way or the other before the New Year.
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Anthony DiComo �� @AnthonyDiComo
A Silver Slugger for Yoenis Cespedes. Is a new Mets contract next?
8:59 AM – 11 Nov 2016
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“I have no idea what the market [for Cespedes] is,” Alderson said as the annual General Managers Meetings ended on Thursday morning. “The market will drive this. Both on timing and other aspects, I think.”
Should the Mets re-sign Cespedes, or add a right-handed-hitting outfielder like Bautista or Fowler (a switch-hitter), that could open the door for them to deal one of their lefty-hitting outfielders — Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Jay Bruce. Newsday reported that other clubs have called to inquire about the trio.
The Mets may face considerable competition to sign Cespedes. The Phillies, Yankees and Nationals are among the teams linked to the 31-year-old through the first few days of free agency.
Blue Jays interested in Reddick
The Blue Jays have shown interest in free-agent outfielder Josh Reddick, according to a report by’s Jon Paul Morosi on Friday.
However, the club won’t be able to determine its exact direction until after Bautista decides whether to accept Toronto’s qualifying offer or test the open market. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported Thursday that Bautista doesn’t plan to accept the offer.
The 29-year-old Reddick hit .281 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs in 115 games with the A’s and Dodgers in 2016. He was traded to Los Angeles at mid-season. He hit .308 in 26 at-bats in the playoffs.
Bautista, one of the faces of the Blue Jays along with Encarnacion, is coming off a down season in which he was hampered by injury. The 36-year-old hit .234 with 22 homers and 69 RBIs in 116 games.
Rangers not expected to pursue Rays starters
The Rangers want to add a starting pitcher, but it likely won’t be via a trade for one of the Rays’ starters — Chris Archer, Jake Odorizzi or Drew Smyly — according to a report by’s Ken Rosenthal.
The Rangers had extensive trade talks with the Rays in the summer, but no deal materialized. Those talks are not expected to pick back up over the offseason.
Texas’ prospect-laded trades for catcher Jonathan Lucroy and Cole Hamels at the past two Trade Deadlines have made the team more reluctant to part with their remaining young players, according to Rosenthal.
The Rangers also do not seem to be looking to heavily pursue top free-agent starters like Rich Hill, leaving them more likely to add a mid- to bottom-of-the-rotation type.
A’s open to trading Gray, Vogt, Doolittle
The A’s would be willing to trade some of their more established players this offseason, including right-hander Sonny Gray, catcher Stephen Vogt and lefty reliever Sean Doolittle, according to’s Ken Rosenthal.
Per Rosenthal’s report, Oakland isn’t actively shopping the trio — and they likely wouldn’t want to sell low on Gray, their ace, after a down year in 2016 — but the team is trying to rebuild around core young players like Sean Manaea and Jharel Cotton, so they are open to listening to offers.
The 27-year-old Gray and 32-year-old Vogt are under contractual control for the next three seasons. The 30-year-old Doolittle’s contract runs through 2018 with club options for 2019 and ’20.
Gray went 5-11 with a 5.69 ERA in an injury-plagued season, a year after finishing third in the American League Cy Young voting. Vogt, an All-Star in each of the past two seasons, hit .251 with 14 home runs and 56 RBIs. Doolittle had a 3.23 ERA and 45 strikeouts in 39 innings over 44 relief appearances, but missed all of July and August with a strained left shoulder.
Rangers shopping Profar
In their quest for starting pitching this winter, the Rangers could potentially offer Jurickson Profar up for trade.
Profar was the subject of much speculation prior to this summer’s Trade Deadline, and’s T.R. Sullivan reports that it has spilled over into the offseason.
The versatile infielder, who logged time at first, second, third, shortstop, left field and designated hitter, hit .239 with 35 runs scored, five home runs and 20 RBIs in 90 games for the Rangers last season, his first since 2013 after missing two years with a torn shoulder muscle.
Prior to the injury, Profar was rated as the No. 1 overall prospect in the Minor Leagues.
Cecil on M’s radar
The Mariners emerged as an early suitor for free-agent reliever Brett Cecil, according to MLB Network’s Jon Paul Morosi. Cecil would address a major need for Seattle as a left-handed reliever.’s Greg Johns notes that the Mariners won’t be pursuing Aroldis Chapman, who could draw a record deal for a closer this offseason, but will be active in exploring the next tier of left-handed relievers, which includes Boone Logan, Jerry Blevins and Javier Lopez.
“We have a couple other irons in the fire,” GM Jerry Dipoto said Tuesday. “We do feel that is one area in the free-agent market that is more robust than others.”
Cecil, 30, missed time with a triceps injury last season, posting a 3.93 ERA through 36 2/3 innings for the Blue Jays.
The Mariners already made one move to shore up their bullpen, claiming southpaw Dean Kiekhefer off waivers from the Cardinals last week. After Kiekhefer, however, Seattle has just three returning lefty relievers on the 40-man roster, each with limited experience in the big leagues: David Rollins, switch-pitcher Pat Venditte and Ariel Miranda, who could be in line for a rotation spot.
Dealing Dozier?
The Twins have received interest from multiple teams about the availability of second baseman Brian Dozier,’s Jon Paul Morosi reports. Dozier’s value is sky high following his record-breaking 2016 season. Dozier set an American League record for second basemen with 42 home runs this season, thanks to a torrid second half in which he hit 28 in 72 games.
The rebuilding Twins can likely yield a substantial prospect package for Dozier, who will be owed a team-friendly $15 million over the next two seasons. He is signed through 2018.
The Dodgers are known to be looking to upgrade at second base after Chase Utley’s production faded significantly down the stretch last season, and Morosi reports they are at least interested in Detroit’s Ian Kinsler. The Angels, Royals and Mets could be in the market for second base help, though New York would have to wait until Neil Walker accepted or declined the club’s qualifying offer.
Gauging trade interest in Dozier
Gauging trade interest in Dozier
The MLB Tonight crew breaks down the teams interested in acquiring Brian Dozier from the Twins this offseason
Miggy on the move? Really?
The biggest name to move this winter might not even be a free agent, as the Tigers are listening to offers on Miguel Cabrera, according to’s Jon Paul Morosi. Morosi cites the Astros as a team with interest in the two-time MVP, as they look to add finishing touches to their young, talented roster.
Cabrera, 33, is owed $212 million through 2023, with options in place that could keep him signed through 2025. The 11-time All-Star is still one of the best hitters in baseball; he hit .316/.393/.563 with 38 home runs and 109 RBIs in 2016.
For the Tigers to trade Cabrera while still contending, they’d have to receive quite a package in return.
Morosi on Miggy trade rumors
Morosi on Miggy trade rumors
Jon Paul Morosi joins MLB Tonight to discuss speculation that Miguel Cabrera could be dealt and whether the Astros are interested
O’s have their eye on Reddick
The Orioles are pursuing free agent Josh Reddick, according to’s Jon Paul Morosi. Reddick, 29, profiles as an athletic replacement for slugger Mark Trumbo, who the Orioles may lose in free agency. If signed, Reddick would take over right field in Baltimore, where Trumbo played 95 games last season, and probably push Joey Rickard and Hyun Soo Kim into a platoon in left.
Traded from the A’s to the Dodgers over the summer, Reddick struggled to drive the ball after landing in Los Angeles. He finished the season hitting a combined .281/.345/.405 with 10 home runs and 37 RBIs. Reddick hit 32 homers in 2012, but his 2016 home run, RBI and slugging totals marked his lowest since 2013.
The Orioles are well aware of what Reddick can do, though. His 1.167 career OPS at Camden Yards is his highest at any Major League park.
Giants meet with closers’ agents’s Jon Paul Morosi reports that San Francisco officials met with the representatives of free-agent closers Aroldis Chapman, Kenley Jansen and Mark Melancon this week, in an attempt to plug their considerable bullpen holes. The Giants blew 29 saves in 2016 and two more in their National League Division Series loss to the Cubs.
The Giants lacked a lockdown reliever all season, while Chapman, Jansen and Melancon combined for 130 saves in 143 chances.
The Giants will have to battle the rival Dodgers, who were close to acquiring Chapman from the Yankees in July, and know very well what Jansen is capable of. Expect Los Angeles to sign one of the big-name closers before it’s all said and done. The Giants, with their particular need, will likely try to sign one of the others.
Could McCutchen be traded?
It sounds funny, but the demand for Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen could be higher now than it’s ever been, with teams looking to acquire a superstar player for cheap following a down year.
McCutchen was almost traded in the summer to the Nationals, according to’s Ken Rosenthal, in a blockbuster that fell through before the Aug. 1 Trade Deadline.
The Pirates and Nationals were in talks at the time, and eventually completed the trade that sent Mark Melancon to Washington for Felipe Rivero and prospect Taylor Hearn. The Pirates wanted at least teenage outfielder Victor Robles, a top prospect, as part of a package in exchange for the 2013 National League Most Valuable Player.
At the time, McCutchen was in the middle of the worst season of his eight-year Major League career. After finishing in the top five of the NL MVP voting for four straight seasons, McCutchen saw his numbers drop across the board in 2016, both offensively and defensively.
Still, trading him would signal a total rebuild for a franchise that’s been to the playoffs three of the past four seasons. McCutchen is owed $14 million next season. Pittsburgh holds a $14.75 million club option for 2018 with a $1 million buyout.
Phillies targeting Cespedes or Bruce?
While the Phillies have been mentioned as a dark-horse candidate to sign Yoenis Cespedes, Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggests they’re a better fit for Jay Bruce, whom the Mets could trade. Sherman suggests Philadelphia would be more open to Bruce’s one-year, $13 million commitment for 2017 than locking themselves into a multiyear deal for a player like Cespedes.
“What we do now has to fit our broader organizational plan,” Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said. “We are looking for players that fit our timeline and narrative.”
The Mets are interested in bringing back Cespedes, but already have three corner outfielders for two spots. All three — Curtis Granderson, Michael Conforto and Bruce — are left-handed hitters.
The Phillies, meanwhile, have a ton of payroll flexibility, with just two signed players for 2017 and none at all for 2018.
Dodgers expected to make “dedicated pursuit” of Chapman
The Dodgers have long been interested in Aroldis Chapman and are expected to make a “dedicated pursuit” of the left-handed flamethrower, according to Andy McCullough of The Los Angeles Times.
The Dodgers were reportedly in trade talks with the Reds last offseason for Chapman before his domestic violence charges came to light.
Despite being suspended for the season’s first 30 games for violating MLB’s domestic violence policy, Chapman turned in another stellar season upon his return. He posted a 1.55 ERA and 36 saves in 59 games for the Yankees and World Series champion Cubs.
The Dodgers also maintain heavy interest in bringing back free-agent closer Kenley Jansen. It’s unclear how the team would deploy the two closers if they were to sign both.
Can McCann find home in Houston?
With the emergence of Gary Sanchez in New York, the Yankees could be incentivized to move catcher Brian McCann this winter. One suitor has already emerged as the Astros are reportedly interested in McCann, according to the New York Daily News.
McCann would address a need for Houston as both a left-handed bat and catcher. The Braves and Royals are also among the possible landing sites for the veteran backstop, per the New York Post.
McCann, 32, has three years remaining on the six-year deal he signed with the Yankees prior to the 2014 season. He has a no-trade clause in his contract, meaning the Yankees will need to get his approval in any trade.
The seven-time All-Star hit .242 with 20 home runs and 58 RBIs through 130 games with New York this year.
Red Sox interested in Holland
The Red Sox are one of many teams interested in Greg Holland, who missed last season recovering from Tommy John surgery and recently held a showcase attended by multiple teams.
Rob Bradford of tweeted Boston’s interest in Holland, a two-time All-Star who posted a 1.97 ERA and 125 saves from 2013-15.
Holland is 13 months post-surgery, so he should be ready for the start of Spring Training. His fastball was reportedly topping out at 90-91 mph at his showcase.
Holland works out for teams
Holland works out for teams
Greg Holland threw for several teams at Grand Canyon University as he hopes to make his comeback from Tommy John surgery
Myers, Padres to talk extension
The Padres are reportedly planning to discuss a contract extension with Wil Myers this week in an effort to avoid arbitration with the first baseman, general manager A.J. Preller said Wednesday at the General Managers Meetings.
Myers, 25, is entering his fifth season in the big leagues and third with the Padres, who acquired him in a three-team trade prior to the 2015 season. He’s up for arbitration for the first time this winter and is under team control until 2020.
In his first full, healthy season, Myers hit .259 with 28 home runs and 94 RBIs in 157 games for San Diego this year, earning his first trip to the All-Star Game.
Hellickson reportedly leaning toward free agency
Right-hander Jeremy Hellickson, to whom the Phillies made a $17.2 million qualifying offer on Monday to ensure a Draft pick in return if he signs elsewhere, is leaning toward testing the open market, according to MLB Network contributor Jon Heyman.
The 29-year-old Hellickson went 12-10 with a 3.71 ERA in 32 starts for Philadelphia in 2016, his seventh Major League season. He struck out 154 batters and walked 45 in a career-high-tying 189 innings.
In a relatively weak starting pitching market this offseason, led by former A’s and Dodgers left-hander Rich Hill, Hellickson may be able to secure a long-term contract that, while featuring a smaller annual salary than the one-year/$17.2 million qualifying offer, would provide a larger overall guaranteed amount.
He has until Monday to accept or decline the qualifying offer.
Klentak on Hellickson
Klentak on Hellickson
Phillies vice president and general manager Matt Klentak discusses his outlook after extending a qualifying offer to Jeremy Hellickson
Twins interested in Castro?
With Kurt Suzuki a free agent, the Twins have expressed preliminary interest in free-agent catcher Jason Castro, according to Mike Berardino of The St. Paul Pioneer Press.
Castro, 29, was an All-Star in 2013 with the Astros, hitting .276/.350/.485 with 18 home runs. He has regressed offensively since, however, and hit just .210/.307/.277 with 11 homers in 2016.
The lone catchers currently on the Twins’ roster are John Ryan Murphy and Juan Centeno.
Levine on plans for 2017
Levine on plans for 2017
Jon Morosi talks to new Twins general manager Thad Levine at the GM Meetings to discuss his plans for the team’s offseason
Dodgers looking to retain stars; add righty bats
The Dodgers’ two main goals this offseason are simple, according to MLB Network insider Jon Heyman: keep their stars and add right-handed bats.
That first figures to be expensive, even for the financially flush Dodgers. Los Angeles’ four key free agents are closer Kenley Jansen, third baseman Justin Turner, left-hander Rich Hill and second baseman Chase Utley.
The Dodgers offered qualifying offers to Jansen and Turner, who figure to generate plenty of interest. Hill, one of the game’s top pitchers when healthy, was not eligible to receive a qualifying after being traded midseason; Utley, who turns 38 in December, is well-regarded by the club.
Heyman reports there’s no priority between Jansen and Turner, while Hill is just one of several starters the Dodgers would like to add behind ace Clayton Kershaw.
Adding a right-handed batter likely would have to come via trade, unless L.A. makes a splash for top outfielder Yoenis Cespedes. The Dodgers’ best in-house options are Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke and Kiké Hernandez.
A trade for Brewers outfielder Ryan Braun, a Los Angeles-area native, has been rumored in the past – but hasn’t come as close as reported, notes Heyman – but that would go against the Dodgers’ stated hope of cutting payroll.
Astros “hot” for Beltran
Both Texas teams are interested in the services of Carlos Beltran, with the Astros joining the Rangers in pursuit of the veteran designated hitter/outfielder, according to Mark Feinsand of The New York Daily News.
Beltran, who turns 40 in April, hit .295 with 29 home runs and 93 RBIs with the Yankees and Rangers in 2016. Because he was traded midseason, he is not linked to Draft pick compensation.
Beltran famously spent half a season in Houston in 2004, hitting .258 with 23 homers and 53 RBIs before erupting in the postseason, hitting .435 with eight homers and 14 RBIs in 12 game.
Feinsand reports it’s unclear whether Beltran is seeking a one- or two-year deal.
Yankees reach out to Cespedes
The Yankees have emerged as possible suitors for free-agent outfielder Yoenis Cespedes this offseason.
The other New York club would seem to be an unlikely landing spot for Cespedes as the Yankees already have Aaron Judge and Aaron Hicks in right field, but MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reported they are at least considering Cespedes and have been in contact with CAA, which represents Cespedes as well as many other free agents.
“I’m open to anything. But as of right now, we’re going to let the kids take a shot,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said in Scottsdale, Ariz., per FanRag Sports. “Our current focus is to let the kids try to take the job.”
It’s still possible Cespedes remains in New York with the Mets, who extended a qualifying offer to him and second baseman Neil Walker. General manager Sandy Alderson said as much Tuesday at the annual General Managers Meetings.
“All things considered, we’d like to have him back, yes,” Alderson said, adding that the club has already spoken with Cespedes’ agent. “We expect to have more conversations with them in the next few days. … It all remains to be seen what direction it takes.”
The Nationals are also among the teams that have been linked to Cespedes, who was one of several top hitters to hit the open market when free agency began Tuesday morning.
The 31-year-old enjoyed a successful 2016 campaign, batting .280 with 31 homers for the Mets en route to his second All-Star selection.
Where will Cespedes play in ’17?
Where will Cespedes play in ’17?’s Richard Justice talks about Yoenis Cespedes opting out of his contract with the Mets to become a free agent
Dodgers shopping Kendrick
The Dodgers are reportedly exploring trade options for second baseman/left fielder Howie Kendrick, according to FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal.
The report names the Phillies and the Angels as potential trade partners. Kendrick spent the first nine years of his career with the Angels, who selected him in the 10th round of the 2002 Draft. He also has ties to Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak, who was the Angels’ assistant GM while Kendrick was in Anaheim.
Kendrick, 33, hit .274/.331/.387 with 17 homers through 263 games with the Dodgers the last two years. He has one year remaining on the deal he signed with Los Angeles last winter.
Giants “open-minded” about Turner
San Francisco is looking at all options to improve an offense that finished in the lower third of the National League in home runs, and that includes considering free-agent infielder and former Dodger Justin Turner, reports’s Jon Paul Morosi.
Turner, who turns 32 later this month, hit .275/.339/.493 with 27 home runs and 90 RBIs in 151 games this year. He received a qualifying offer from Los Angeles, which is expected to act aggressively in trying to retain him.
Morosi reports the Giants are “open-minded” regarding Turner, and the interest is understandable on many fronts.
Turner, a .282 career hitter, would fit perfectly into manager Bruce Bochy’s high-contact lineup while also providing much-needed pop. The Giants’ current third baseman is Eduardo Nunez, a .273 career hitter with just 34 career homers.
Adding Turner also would hurt the Giants’ biggest rival, while simply engaging in talks could at the very least bump up Turner’s eventual price.
Rays open to trading Longoria
The Rays will consider offers for longtime third baseman Evan Longoria, according to’s Jon Paul Morosi, and the Dodgers could be a possibility if they are unable to re-sign Justin Turner.
Longoria has spent his entire career with the Rays, who selected the California native No. 3 overall in the 2006 Draft out of Long Beach State. He is the organization’s all-time leader in home runs and RBIs and ranks second in hits.
Longoria, a three-time All-Star, is coming off a season in which he hit .273/.318/.521 with a career-high 36 home runs in 160 games.
Longoria famously signed a six-year, $17.5 million contract six days into his Major League career, a deal that was extended in 2012. His current contract has $94 million remaining through 2022 with a $13 million team option or $5 million buyout for 2023, and it does not include a no-trade clause, though he’ll gain 10-and-5 rights after the 2018 season.