Five American League teams have better won-lost records than the Cleveland Indians. With almost two-thirds of the 2018 season completed, the Indians rank 29th of 30 teams in bullpen ERA. Bradley Zimmer, who was supposed to be the Indians’ center fielder this season, just had major shoulder surgery and is out for the rest of this year. And with just eight days remaining before the trade deadline and clubs scrambling to plug holes, the Indians might rank among the most cash-poor teams in baseball, with little financial flexibility.
But with all of that said, the Indians might be better positioned for the stretch drive and October than any contender in baseball, with some enviable advantages that could make them very dangerous.
Because Cleveland inhabits the AL Central, baseball’s worst division, it is already in a commanding position to reach the postseason while avoiding the one-game wild-card playoff. The Yankees can’t say that, nor can the Red Sox or the Astros. The Indians’ lead over the Minnesota Twins is 9½ games, and rival executives believe the Twins will become sellers in the next eight days. According to FanGraphs, the Indians’ chances for reaching the postseason stand at 99.6 percent.
Every decision made by the front office and manager Terry Francona over the next nine weeks can be viewed through this prism of certainty. If the hard-grinding Jose Ramirez needs an extra day to rest a nagging injury — or two days, or six days, or two weeks — the Indians will have the space to make that happen. Corey Kluber‘s work ethic is renowned, but the Indians can save him from himself by limiting his workload, by skipping a start or two, by pulling him an inning or two earlier than they normally would.
Other contenders may have to push exhausted relievers through August and September, using them on back-to-back days repeatedly. Francona, now operating a bullpen fortified by last week’s trade for relievers Brad Hand and Adam Cimber, won’t really have to push any of his relievers on any given day, other than to prep them for situations that could arise in October.
The Yankees continue to search for a major rotation piece, the Red Sox seek a high-end reliever and maybe a second baseman, and the Astros need a closer. The Indians’ front office already has executed the heaviest lifting of its trade deadline work through last week’s trade, and now it can focus on fine-tuning the roster by adding pieces that are more easily acquired than what New York, Boston or Houston seeks.
The Indians could use a right-handed hitting outfielder, but as was demonstrated last winter, cheap outfield options are generally plentiful. Maybe the Giants will become sellers and look to cash in Andrew McCutchen before he becomes a free agent. Maybe the Marlins move Cameron Maybin. The Reds have a surplus of outfielders from which they could deal, and reportedly, the Indians expressed interest in Adam Duvall. Maybe Carlos Gomez will get hot and become a trade option. Whatever, however: The Indians can wait for a solution to emerge — and they’ll have choices in this spot, inevitably.
They could add a third baseman and shift Ramirez to second base, something they did late last season. Maybe that’s why they have talked to the Mets about Asdrubal Cabrera, a switch-hitter and former Indian who can hit for power and generate good at-bats. Maybe they’ll take a run at Mike Moustakas, while asking the Royals to pay Moustakas’ salary in return for Cleveland forking over a better prospect. Maybe the Indians will wait for more alternatives to develop in the August waiver period.
And one more thing, about the waiver process: Because of the Indians’ won-lost record, they will likely be the waivers gatekeepers in the AL. For now, it appears Boston, Houston, the Yankees, Seattle and Oakland will all rank behind Cleveland in the waivers pecking order — giving the Indians the first shot to consider each player who passes through. The Indians could use this position to try to add, or they could use it to try to block the other contenders: If the Indians place a claim on a player ahead of the Astros, Red Sox and Yankees, the Indians will prevent that player from ever reaching the AL’s superpower teams.
The Red Sox and Yankees might each win 20 more games than Cleveland this year in the regular season, and yet the Indians could possess these enormous competitive advantages late in the season.
According to the group’s website, Boo2Bullying seeks “to eradicate bullying, intolerance and discrimination by educating schools and parents about accepting diversity and giving young people the tools to connect with and positively impact those around them.”
Incognito was suspended for bullying Dolphins teammate Jonathan Martin in 2013, but said he has since learned to grow from his mistakes.
“I’ve said some things in the past that I thought were edgy and funny, but really hurt people’s feelings,” Incognito said in one of the videos. “Even though these were people I cared about and considered friends, I said things to them that affected them. Likewise, I’ve had things said to me that have affected me, the big, tough football guy.
“I apologize for the things I’ve said. It’s a learning process. Life is a journey.”
Incognito, 35, has had a whirlwind of an offseason. After starting all 16 games for the Bills last season, he announced his retirement in April but resumed training in June with the hope that he can still play his 12th NFL season.
He also spent three days on an involuntary psychiatric hold for his role in an altercation at a Florida gym in May after previously receiving treatment for mental health issues in 2014.
Who are the best and worst teams heading into the 2018-19 season?
Our panel — a group of more than 40 reporters, insiders and editors — is looking ahead to next season with a new edition of NBA Power Rankings.
Note: These rankings take into account additional potential player movement. Voters were asked to pick the better team heading into next season in a series of head-to-head matchups featuring thousands of votes. Conference rankings are noted next to each team.
After letting the Lakers have a day to soak in their LeBron James win, the champs set the NBA world on fire with their Thanos-like move by adding DeMarcus Cousins to their gauntlet of All-Stars, making their Death Lineup even more terrifying if the big man can return healthy from an Achilles injury. Golden State — which also added Jonas Jerebko and drafted tough two-way forward Jacob Evans — can afford to wait for Cousins, who should inject the Warriors with a jolt of motivation and excitement down the stretch of a fifth run to the Finals. — Ohm Youngmisuk
2. Boston Celtics (1) 2017-18 record:55-27 Result:L, East finals Previous rank: No. 4
The Celtics had one of the more snooze-worthy summers in the NBA, electing to simply bring back the same core from last season by re-signing defensive tone-setters Aron Baynes and Marcus Smart. And yet the Celtics will still emerge as one of the offseason winners because, with LeBron James heading west, and with Kyrie Irving and Gordon Hayward set to return from injury, Boston is the early favorite in the East. As Hayward told ESPN last week: “I’m confident that we’ve got everything we need to make the run at the whole thing.” — Chris Forsberg
It has been a weird summer for the team that was maybe a hamstring away from an NBA title. Daryl Morey & Co. have earned the right for us all to assume they know what they’re doing, but letting Trevor Ariza and Luc Mbah a Moute go feel like significant losses — especially if the recovery is based around signing Carmelo Anthony, who was very direct in telling the Thunder he wasn’t interested in coming off the bench. They still need to resolve Clint Capela‘s situation, but assuming that gets settled, the Rockets will begin the season looking for production in unexpected places. That’s something they do better than just about anyone. –– Royce Young
Philadelphia didn’t make the big splash its fan base might have hoped for — either on the court (no LeBron, Paul George or Kawhi) or in the front office. And, yet, much like Boston, the 76ers are still well positioned to be a conference front-runner with only minor tweaks. The Sixers brought back JJ Redick, traded for Wilson Chandler and added a pair of first-rounders in Zhaire Smith and Landry Shamet. Joel Embiid will certainly believe his team is the East favorite — Forsberg
5. Toronto Raptors (3) 2017-18 record:59-23 Result:L, East semis Previous rank: No. 7
Even with LeBron James out of the East, the Raptors probably needed to shake things up beyond a coaching change. They imported Kawhi Leonard and will endure the risks associated in hopes of overcoming their playoff bugaboo. Danny Green will help as well, but the Raptors’ priority has to be showing Leonard that The Six can be just as good of a home as La La Land. — Forsberg
It’s not technically an addition, but re-signing Paul George really should count as one. The Thunder keeping George is their biggest moment ever in free agency, and it provides the franchise some much-needed stability. Sam Presti and the front office can finally evaluate the team on a long-term path, instead of rolling year into year with an eye on an unknown future. There might be an element of addition by subtraction with Melo, but Dennis Schroder fills a lot of needs. The Thunder have had an extremely successful summer, though we’ve said that about them before. Now, they’ve got to win some games. — Young
7. Utah Jazz (4) 2017-18 record:48-34 Result:L, West semis Previous rank: No. 5
What has made the Jazz summer a success has been the simplicity. They added Grayson Allen; they lost Jonas Jerebko. That’s it. There was no homegrown star departure, no roster overhaul in an attempted recovery. The Jazz can rely on one of the most coveted words in the NBA: continuity. Get everyone healthy, let the youngsters spend the summer getting better and roll into the season as a true Western Conference threat. — Young
Taking the chance on Isaiah Thomas is worth it with the low-risk elements involved — the money is low, the commitment is short. And Thomas has a lot to prove as he searches for that Brink’s truck somewhere over the horizon. The losses of Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler could sting more than some think, but the Nuggets have a young core that’s growing and should be able to absorb, and maybe even grow, from their losses. –– Young
9. Los Angeles Lakers (6) 2017-18 record:35-47 Result: Missed playoffs Previous rank: No. 13
Magic Johnson got his man LeBron James and then the Lakers proceeded to construct a curious supporting cast. It features tough veterans with playoff experience that they believe will give James multiple versatile options who can make plays and defend. Rajon Rondo, Lance Stephenson, JaVale McGee and Michael Beasley all bring a variety of talents but also an interesting mixture of strong and even quirky personalities. The Lakers added three players to their young, growing core in the draft. Lonzo Ball (torn left meniscus) underwent arthroscopic knee surgery and the Lakers’ hope is to have him ready for the season. — Youngmisuk
The Blazers don’t have a lot of ways to improve their roster because of a landlocked cap sheet, but the additions of Nik Stauskas and Seth Curry bolster the shooting depth of an already solid perimeter team. Shabazz Napier had a breakout season filling in for Damian Lillard and Ed Davis is a consistent energy player, but their losses can be quickly filled by other in-house options. The Blazers appeared to take a big step forward last season before a first-round face plant, and with the conservative offseason approach it looks as if the front office is betting on the finish being a fluke. — Young
Victor Oladipo elevated his game to a new level last season, almost knocking LeBron and the Cavs out in the first round. Now the All-Star guard has to raise his level even higher while hoping he can take the rest of the young core along with him for the ride. Tyreke Evans should be able to help immediately, and rookie Aaron Holiday showed some nice flashes of promise in his summer league debut. With Oladipo and Myles Turner leading the way, the young Pacers group is poised to show that it belongs near the top of a revamped East. — Nick Friedell
The Pelicans essentially swapped out DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo for Elfrid Payton and Julius Randle. New Orleans recovered well after Cousins took a low-money deal to join the very (super) team that bounced the Pelicans from the conference semifinals last season. Still, the lingering question is whether New Orleans has enough to make strides in a beefed-up West. Anthony Davis gives them every opportunity to keep things interesting. — Forsberg
Key additions: Elfrid Payton, Tony Carr and Julius Randle
Key subtractions: DeMarcus Cousins and Rajon Rondo
13. San Antonio Spurs (9) 2017-18 record: 47-35 Result:L, West Round 1 Previous rank: No. 6
The Summer of Kawhi finally came to an end, delivering DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl to San Antonio in return (plus a protected first-round draft pick). The Spurs have had a major offseason of change. San Antonio managed to lose two former Finals MVPs in Leonard and Tony Parker. The Spurs also lost Swiss Army knife Kyle Anderson to Memphis. DeRozan and LaMarcus Aldridge are now running the show for this team that refused to rebuild, and look for rookie Lonnie Walker IV to potentially make an impact for Gregg Popovich. — Youngmisuk
Key additions: Lonnie Walker IV, Chimezie Metu, Marco Belinelli, Dante Cunningham, DeMar DeRozan and Jakob Poeltl
Key subtractions: Tony Parker, Kawhi Leonard, Danny Green and Kyle Anderson
14. Washington Wizards (5) 2017-18 record:43-39 Result:L, East Round 1 Previous rank: No. 16
With no cap space to speak of this summer, the Wizards brought John Wall, Bradley Beal and the rest of the band back together for at least one more run. Swapping out Dwight Howard for Marcin Gortat might push Washington a few steps ahead of where it finished last season in the East. But it’s difficult to see how the All-Star backcourt and the rest of the Wizards take a major leap forward this season, even with LeBron in Los Angeles. Trading Gortat for Austin Rivers gives Scott Brooks a strong third guard and allows him to play some smaller lineups. But the big question is how Howard — an eight-time NBA All-Star who has changed teams four times in nearly three years — can mesh with the Washington backcourt. — Ian Begley
The Wolves are still very young, but it strangely feels as if there’s some arbitrary clock ticking on them. There are rumblings of some roster strife, but they are coming off a landmark playoff appearance and a successful regular season that would’ve been even better without Jimmy Butler’s injury. There wasn’t much room to add outside of the draft, and assuming they lose Jamal Crawford, an already thin bench will be thinner. But this season is about the young core taking another step. –– Young
Can Mike Budenholzer’s offensive system help the Bucks get to where they want to go? The veteran coach inherits a young group that was not able to live up to expectations last season. Giannis Antetokounmpo is one of the best young stars in the game, but aside from Khris Middleton, the rest of the roster remains largely a question mark. Point guard Eric Bledsoe had some nice moments but didn’t show enough consistency. Will Ersan Ilyasova and Brook Lopez provide enough of a stabilizing presence to bring out the best for a group that is high on potential but short on results? — Friedell
RIP Lob City, as DeAndre Jordan became the last Clipper of Doc Rivers’ former Big Three to depart. Jordan joined Dallas — for real this time — in free agency and now with Blake Griffin (Detroit) and Chris Paul (Houston) gone, the Clippers begin retooling with Marcin Gortat, Mike Scott and defensive forward Luc Mbah a Moute adding depth. Plus, they have the two big lottery additions: Kentucky’s Shai Gilgeous-Alexander and Boston College’s Jerome Robinson. The Clippers are high on SGA. — Youngmisuk
Key additions: Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Jerome Robinson, Mike Scott, Luc Mbah a Moute and Marcin Gortat
Key subtractions: DeAndre Jordan and Austin Rivers
Memphis is optimistic that with a healthy Marc Gasol and Mike Conley back in the fold, it can return to playoff prominence after a long season full of tanking. Rookie Jaren Jackson Jr. should be able to help space the floor and pay immediate dividends, and Kyle Anderson and Garrett Temple should give this proud franchise an immediate boost as well. The key for the Grizzlies will be avoiding the injuries that crushed them last season. After having the interim tag removed from his title, coach J.B. Bickerstaff has the intriguing task of trying to mix a young core with an old one. — Friedell
The Mavericks spent the past four weeks setting things up for next July, when they’ll have Luka Doncic, Dennis Smith Jr. and — potentially — $50 million in cap space to sell free agents. Yes, Marc Cuban & Co. figure to be active next summer. In between now and then, Cuban says he expects Dallas to compete for the playoffs in the loaded Western Conference. Signing veteran center DeAndre Jordan to a one-year, $23 million deal should help the Mavs toward that goal. But that anti-tanking approach could cost Dallas its draft pick next June. If the Mavs’ pick falls outside of the top five, it will go to Atlanta as part of the Doncic-Trae Young deal. — Begley
Miami didn’t have any easy avenues to upgrade its roster this offseason. The Heat had no cap space and were never going to find a strong trade market for center Hassan Whiteside So it made sense for Miami to bring back most of the roster from a team that won 44 games last season. The Heat should get back a healthy Dion Waiters this season and, maybe, Dwyane Wade if he decides to play one more season at age 36. It seems unlikely, but you’d think that the Heat would jump in these power rankings if Carmelo Anthony decided to play in South Beach instead of Houston. — Begley
The Hornets made several transactions since our last power rankings, but do any of them push the club forward in the East? That seems unlikely. Sure, Tony Parker gives new head coach James Borrego a solid backup behind Kemba Walker. And Bismack Biyombo should be a suitable backup center behind Cody Zeller. The addition of Miles Bridges might eventually push either Marvin Williams or Michael Kidd-Gilchrist out of the starting lineup. But none of these new faces seem likely to increase Charlotte’s chances of moving into the top tier of the up-for-grabs East. That means Walker, a 2019 free agent, should have plenty to think about next summer. — Begley
Detroit swung for the playoffs and missed last season after dealing for Blake Griffin. The Pistons’ hope is that new coach Dwane Casey will set a positive tone for a group that comes into a new season after a healthy summer. The biggest question remaining: Can Casey find a way for All-Star center Andre Drummond and Griffin to thrive in a league that has made long-range shooting more important than ever? The group never found enough of a rhythm without injured point guard Reggie Jackson last season — if he stays healthy this time around the Pistons should be headed back to the postseason. — Friedell
The Cavs enter a new era without LeBron James — one which is not expected to generate a lot of wins. Kevin Love gets another chance to be the face of a franchise and should relish more opportunities on the floor, but this group lost its identity when James left for Los Angeles and will struggle as it enters another rebuild. The positive is that rookie Collin Sexton impressed on the defensive end in summer league and Cleveland still has plenty of time to deal some of its veterans for future assets. — Friedell
The reward for having the worst record in basketball came this summer in the drafting of top overall pick Deandre Ayton, who averaged 14.5 points and 10.5 rebounds in four games at summer league. The Suns traded for rookie Mikal Bridges in the draft and surprised many by landing Trevor Ariza in free agency in hopes of upgrading their defense. They also traded for another young big with potential in Richaun Holmes. But their biggest move of the summer was signing franchise guard Devin Booker to a five-year, $158-million extension. The West is crowded, but it looks as if the Suns are trying to win now. — Youngmisuk
The Bulls hope they’ll be able to score lots of points — but will they be able to defend? After signing Jabari Parker for $20 million next season and locking in Zach LaVine for $78 million over the next four, the Bulls have an interesting young core in place alongside Lauri Markkanen and rookie Wendell Carter Jr., but it remains unclear if they have a core that can win lots of games this season. There will be a great deal of pressure on fourth-year coach Fred Hoiberg and his staff to find ways to make this group jell and succeed on the defensive end. — Friedell
The Magic took a few positive steps in what figures to be a long and arduous rebuild this summer by signing Aaron Gordon to a reasonable contract and drafting Mohamed Bamba. If things go as planned for Orlando and new head coach Steve Clifford, then Bamba (a potentially elite defender), Gordon and Jonathan Isaac will form one of the top young frontcourts in the NBA. Orlando is at least one year away from competing for the playoffs, so it can afford to give Jerian Grant an opportunity to earn minutes in the backcourt. The next long-term project for Orlando? Finding a point guard who can make life easier for the aforementioned front line. — Begley
27. New York Knicks (13) 2017-18 record:29-53 Result:Missed playoffs Previous rank: No. 24
First-year coach David Fizdale will bring fresh energy to New York. First-round pick Kevin Knox showed at summer league that he should make an immediate impact. But the goal of the 2018-19 Knicks is simple: get Kristaps Porzingis back to full health and hope to show enough positives that big-name free agents are willing to take New York’s money next summer. — Forsberg
The Nets did a bunch of wheeling and dealing this summer, but their most celebratory moment of the offseason came when Cleveland utilized the final first-round draft pick relinquished to Boston in the Kevin Garnett/Paul Pierce deal in 2013. Brooklyn’s summer moves might not translate to immediate wins — though the additions of Jared Dudley and Kenneth Faried could help a young roster — but the Nets have positioned themselves to have ample cap space in 2019, and general manager Sean Marks has fully replenished the team’s supply of future draft picks. — Forsberg
The Kings passed on Luka Doncic and drafted Marvin Bagley III with the hope of the Duke big man providing an offensive impact inside immediately. Bagley joins a crowded roster full of 25-and-under talent with potential that the Kings hope to develop. Sacramento added to that group by trading for Ben McLemore and Deyonta Davis. And Sacramento was able to sign two free agents despite both coming to verbal agreements with other teams earlier in free agency in Yogi Ferrell and Nemanja Bjelica. Something else for the Kings to be excited about: Harry Giles averaged 10.8 points and 7.0 rebounds in summer league after sitting out last season. — Youngmisuk
Key additions: Marvin Bagley III, Ben McLemore, Deyonta Davis, Nemanja Bjelica and Yogi Ferrell
The Hawks might not win many games this season, but they are well-positioned to rebuild. By trading Dennis Schroder to the Thunder, the Hawks freed more minutes for Trae Young and nearly $50 million in 2019 cap space next summer. The club also might have three first-round picks in the 2019 draft — their own, Cleveland’s (top-10-protected) and Dallas’s (top-five-protected). That’s a good place for the Hawks and first-year head coach Lloyd Pierce to begin climbing back up in the East. — Begley
With the resumption of action after All-Star Week, there’s already some major movement in the Power Rankings. But not among the game’s elite, where the Astros and Red Sox are still splitting the first-place votes, with Houston still holding a one-vote advantage. The Yankees are locked in as the best team behind them, but the Cubs and Dodgers look like they’re getting stronger and ready to perhaps put a National League team or two into the front three in the weeks to come.
Real movement came lower down in the top 10, where the Braves and A’s climbed up to push out the Mariners and Diamondbacks. The Braves made the single biggest gain of the week, moving up five slots in the rankings. The A’s and Cardinals made the next-largest move, each gaining three places over their rankings at the break.
The biggest decline was suffered by the D-backs, who tumbled five spots as they stumble through their latest bad patch, but they weren’t the only team whose fortunes are on the wane. The Brewers, Angels, Rays and Padres all dropped by three spots, reflecting how narrow the margin is between teams at every point of the pack.
This week, our panel of voters is composed of David Schoenfield, Eric Karabell, Tim Kurkjian, Bradford Doolittle and Sarah Langs.
Last season the Astros won 101 games and their first World Series title, earning Best Team honors at the ESPYs on Wednesday. This season Houston entered the second half on pace to win over 100 games again; no team has had back-to-back 100-win seasons since the Cardinals in 2004-05, and no American League team has done it since the Yankees from 2002 to ’04. — Jacob Nitzberg, ESPN Stats & Information
Record: 70-31 Week 15 ranking: 2
As we look toward the trade deadline, the Red Sox could stand to improve at second base, catcher and in the rotation. Boston second basemen have a .644 OPS this season, which ranks 25th in the majors. Catcher has been even worse: a .597 OPS, which ranks 27th, and a .226 batting average. Overall, Red Sox starting pitchers rank well, but if we break it down, Red Sox starters not named Chris Sale or Eduardo Rodriguez have a 4.35 ERA this season. That’s not necessarily a number a team would want to rely on for a third starter and beyond in the postseason. — Sarah Langs, ESPN Stats & Information
Record: 63-34 Week 15 ranking: 3
Starting pitching should remain a focus for the Yankees at the trade deadline. Luis Severino is having a Cy Young-level season, with a 2.31 ERA. But beyond that, New York’s rotation hasn’t been quite on the same level. All other Yankees starters have combined for a 4.58 ERA. CC Sabathia is the only other starter to make 10 or more starts for them with an ERA under 4.00 this year. And for all of the team’s power, one position that hasn’t had much to show for it is first base. Yankees first basemen have a .690 OPS, which ranks 26th in the majors, ahead of only the Orioles, Angels, Mets and Royals. — Langs
Record: 58-40 Week 15 ranking: 4
With the trade deadline approaching, the Cubs don’t have many needs. There’s a reason they have the NL’s best record and best run differential. Where Chicago will need help is in the bullpen, simply to help deal with the lack of innings the team has gotten from the rotation. At the break, Cubs starters ranked 20th in MLB in innings per start. While recent playoffs have downplayed the importance of rotation innings, they still matter in the regular season. — Kenneth Woolums, ESPN Stats & Information
Record: 55-44 Week 15 ranking: 5
The Dodgers already boast one of the best offenses in the NL, second only to the Cubs in wOBA, but they owed a lot of that to surprises like Max Muncy and Matt Kemp. Maybe those two keep it up down the stretch, maybe they don’t, but penciling in Manny Machado every day should more than cover for any regression. With a stack of rehabbing pitchers due back soon, outside of jamming the phone lines to make life difficult for their rivals, the Dodgers might be able to sit out the rest of the trade deadline. — Christina Kahrl, ESPN.com
Record: 54-44 Week 15 ranking: 6
Trading for a pair of Padres relievers might answer the Indians’ biggest need at the deadline, but the cost was steep, and they still have other areas of concern. Indians outfielders have put up a combined .698 OPS, easily the worst of any contender and 25th in MLB. With Bradley Zimmer out for the year and Lonnie Chisenhall out until at least September, the Tribe should be shopping for outfield help. — Kahrl
Record: 53-43 Week 15 ranking: 12
Some teams have clear needs. Take the Braves, who entered the second half with a 4.24 bullpen ERA, 19th in MLB. The only team in playoff position with a worse bullpen ERA entering the second half was the Indians, who addressed that by trading for Brad Hand and Adam Cimber. A shutdown reliever could really help Atlanta, which ranked 23rd in bullpen ERA when the team had a lead entering the second half. — Woolums
Record: 57-43 Week 15 ranking: 11
Getting Jeurys Familia from the Mets for loose change is a great start, but the A’s are the rare contender who might need to trade for not just one but multiple starting pitchers. A bid for October might work with Trevor Cahill or Edwin Jackson or Brett Anderson or Frankie Montas as the No. 5 starter, but that’s four of Oakland’s front five right now. Could Familia be part of a move to the A’s adoption of the Rays’ “opener” strategy? — Kahrl
Record: 55-43 Week 15 ranking: 9
The Phillies were rumored to be one of the top two teams to finish as runners-up for Machado, along with the Brewers. Now they’ll look elsewhere to bolster their infield and relief pitching. Phillies shortstops are hitting just .236, which ranks 27th in the majors; their .630 OPS ranks 28th. That’s where Machado would’ve helped, given that his defense at SS hasn’t been Gold Glove caliber. As for that bullpen, their 4.02 ERA ranks 17th in the majors. — Langs
Record: 56-45 Week 15 ranking: 7
The Brewers finished the first half on a six-game losing streak, their longest of the season, to push them 2½ games out of first place. The second half won’t make things any easier — 25 of Milwaukee’s first 28 games to open the second half, including its first 17, are against teams that finished the first half at or above .500. — Nitzberg
Record: 60-40 Week 15 ranking: 10
For the Mariners, the question remains: How long can they continue to win close games and rely on what many people in baseball might call luck? They have the most saves of any team in the majors — which means they’ve won the most games that have come down to save situations. And they’ve won 26 one-run games, five more than any other team. They have a .684 winning percentage in one-run games, which is second in the majors behind the Phillies. Their starters’ ERA ranks 15th in the majors. Perhaps that’s worth bolstering in anticipation of the luck running out? — Langs
Record: 53-46 Week 15 ranking: 13
The Dodgers might have Machado, but they don’t have the hottest-hitting shortstop since June 1 — the Rockies do. Trevor Story has posted a 1.035 OPS in that time to rank among MLB’s top 10. And with sabermetric whipping boy Ian Desmond cranking out a .957 OPS in that span as well, Colorado’s offense is getting help from more than just usual suspects Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon. With the Rockies on a 15-4 run, they’re right back in the hunt for a playoff slot. — Kahrl
Record: 54-46 Week 15 ranking: 8
There might not be a J.D. Martinez trade to make this year to shore up the offense and help the Snakes escape their latest slide in the standings. They have to hope that A.J. Pollock keeps raking since his return from the disabled list, but they could also use a snap back for Jake Lamb‘s bat — he has put up just a .677 OPS since returning from the DL in May. — Kahrl
Record: 50-49 Week 15 ranking: 17
What a streak it was for Matt Carpenter. He had a span of 12 consecutive hits all going for extra bases, the longest such streak by a Cardinals hitter since 1900. He broke a tie with Mark McGwire when he recorded extra-base hit No. 12. He has generated that large quantity of extra-base hits thanks to six straight games with a home run, two games shy of tying the MLB record held by Dale Long, Don Mattingly and Ken Griffey Jr. What’s more impressive is he extended the streak to six straight in a game he entered on a double switch. The Elias Sports Bureau tells us that’s the longest home run streak to be extended in a game in which the player did not start. — Langs
Record: 49-49 Week 15 ranking: 14
Bryce Harper‘s .214 batting average was the worst in the first half for any position player to start an All-Star Game since Terry Steinbach in 1988, according to Elias research. Steinbach capped that poor first half by winning All-Star Game MVP, while Harper went 0-for-2 with two strikeouts in the All-Star Game. But Harper got his moment under the lights Monday, becoming the third player to win the Home Run Derby in his home ballpark, joining Todd Frazier in 2015 and Ryne Sandberg in 1990. Will that be enough to propel him to a strong second half in his contract year? — Langs
Record: 51-50 Week 15 ranking: 18
Saturday night’s Giants-A’s matchup is likely to be remembered as “The Chair Game,” but it’s worth noting a streak that came to an end long before the ninth inning. Madison Bumgarner failed to complete five innings in a regular-season start for the first time since April 11, 2015 — a stretch of 89 straight starts. That streak was the longest active one in the majors entering Saturday, according to Elias. It was also the longest such streak by a Giants pitcher since the mound was moved to its current distance in 1893, also courtesy of Elias research. — Langs
Record: 51-49 Week 15 ranking: 19
The Pirates don’t have any significant free agents coming up at the end of the season. They also don’t have much money committed to next year’s roster, so they might be quiet at the trade deadline. Ivan Nova might be the team’s most valuable bargaining chip, as he’s thrown 458⅔ innings since the start of 2016 with a 4.18 ERA and carries a $9.2 million salary for 2019. — Woolums
Record: 50-50 Week 15 ranking: 15
The Angels have a .517 win percentage since Mike Trout‘s first full season in 2012, and while that is eighth-best in MLB in that time, Trout has been to the playoffs once and hasn’t won a playoff game. If the Angels want that to change in the next few seasons, they’re going to have to make serious adjustments to a roster that will see Ian Kinsler, Garrett Richards, Jim Johnson and others hit free agency this offseason. — Woolums
Record: 50-49 Week 15 ranking: 16
Entering the weekend, the Rays were closer to the playoffs than the Angels despite their roster collectively costing around what the Angels pay Trout and Albert Pujols combined. The Rays may be better than just about any organization at building a competitive roster out of seemingly nothing, which will make how they handle Chris Archer and Wilson Ramos all the more interesting. Tampa Bay is committed to maximizing its return for Archer, who at this point is more a cost-effective No. 3 starter than a top-of-the rotation arm. — Woolums
Record: 44-53 Week 15 ranking: 20
From the start of the 2016 to the 2018 All-Star Break, the only second basemen with a higher OPS than Brian Dozier‘s .841 are Daniel Murphy and Jose Altuve. Second basemen with a higher ISO than his .239? None. Better home-run percentage than his 5.1? None. This is an elite bat at the position who put up second-half OPS marks of .990 and .985 the past two seasons. Dozier could be a sneaky Machado-level acquisition. — Woolums
Record: 46-52 Week 15 ranking: 22
Thirteen games out of the wild-card race? Woe Canada, time to start breaking down the roster for parts, but set your expectations low. J.A. Happ isn’t a front-three starter for many contenders, and Josh Donaldson is still hurt and also won’t command a huge return as a two-month rental. Seunghwan Oh might yield something — he’s affordable, controllable through 2021 and holding right-handed hitters to a .463 OPS. Deadline forecast: lots of Grade C prospects. — Kahrl
Record: 43-56 Week 15 ranking: 21
While the Reds could deal key players and get a lot at the deadline, it might make sense for them to hold onto their core and actually try to win in the next couple years. After an abysmal 3-15 start under Bryan Price, the team enters the week 40-41 under Jim Riggleman. If they wanted to spend the money, the Reds might be a few pitchers away from being able to compete in the NL Central. — Woolums
Record: 42-58 Week 15 ranking: 23
For the Rangers, the trade deadline is about selling. Three years after he was dealt after his no-hitter for the Phillies at Wrigley Field, Cole Hamels ‘ name is cropping up in trade rumors again. That year, he had a 3.64 ERA through 20 starts at the time he was traded. This season, he has a 4.36 ERA through 19 starts. Of course, he was 31 then; now he’s 34. Another name that could attract interest is reliever Keone Kela, who has a 3.18 ERA for the Rangers and is 23-of-23 in save opportunities this year. — Langs
The Mets are sellers this year, and we’ve already seen them trade Familia — for not much return, in the form of two lower-level minor leaguers and international bonus-pool money. Does the willingness to trade Familia mean that other, potentially more valuable pieces will be on the move, too? It’s a very different move for the Mets organization to trade Familia compared to Noah Syndergaard or Jacob deGrom, whose names have been wrapped up in rumors for the past few months. Familia’s seven-year Mets career ends with a 2.66 career ERA with 123 saves, including a 51-save All-Star season in 2016. — Langs
Record: 43-58 Week 15 ranking: 27
Will they or won’t they? The Fish don’t have to trade J.T. Realmuto, and it should take a huge deal to get the catcher away from the Marlins, but he would provide an answer for any contender behind the plate through 2020. However, not every contender might prioritize catching over its other needs at the deadline — will the Red Sox, Brewers or Diamondbacks be willing to pay the price in prospects? — Kahrl
Record: 41-61 Week 15 ranking: 24
The Padres have the hardest strength of schedule in the NL in the second half, with an opponents’ win percentage of .528, and they’ll have to navigate the rest of the season without two of their top relievers after trading Hand and Cimber to the Indians. However, they should be excited about the future after receiving catcher Francisco Mejia, No. 5 on Keith Law’s midseason prospect rankings, in return. With Mejia, the Padres have three of the top six prospects on Law’s list. — Nitzberg
Record: 34-64 Week 15 ranking: 28
Even for a team in the midst of a rebuild, there isn’t much about the White Sox’s 33-62 record in the first half that can be considered a success. Their .348 win percentage in the first half was the third-worst before the break in franchise history, and worst since 1948. That said, there is optimism for the second half, as we could potentially get a glimpse of Eloy Jimenez (No. 3 on Keith Law’s midseason prospect rankings) and Michael Kopech (No. 9). — Nitzberg
Record: 30-68 Week 15 ranking: 29
The Royals struggled in the first half, allowing the most runs in the league (530) while also scoring the fewest (337). They are the fifth team to do so at the break and first since the 1988 Orioles, who lost 107 games. The Royals’ negative-193 run differential at the All-Star break was the worst in franchise history and tied for the sixth-worst by any team since the first All-Star game in 1933. — Nitzberg
Record: 28-72 Week 15 ranking: 30
How low can the Orioles go? Baltimore was already on pace for 46 wins entering the second half before trading Machado to Los Angeles for a package headlined by outfield prospect Yusniel Diaz (No. 49 on Keith Law’s midseason prospect rankings). Thanks to being in the stacked AL East, the Orioles entered the second half with the hardest remaining schedule in the majors, with a combined opponents’ winning percentage of .536. — Nitzberg
Jackson was selected by Baltimore with the No. 32 overall pick in April’s draft and is slated to serve as Joe Flacco’s backup in his inaugural season.
In the 10 years Flacco has been the starter, this draft is the first time the Ravens have selected a quarterback in the first round. Naturally, speculation that Jackson would unseat Flacco quickly circulated, though it has been stated Flacco will maintain the starting role going into training camp.
The team opened training camp this weekend, and Mornhinweg noted Flacco was taking elite form already.
“It looks like he’s moving and grooving better than he has in several years,” Mornhinweg added.
The Ravens are set to open the regular season Sept. 9 against the Bills.
Denmark’s Magnus Cort Nielsen claimed a blackboard victory on the Tour de France when he prevailed in a three-man sprint at the end of a long breakaway in the 15th stage on Sunday.
The Astana rider was the overwhelming favourite as a sprint specialist in the finale and he duly delivered, comfortably beating Spain’s Ion Izagirre and Dutchman Bauke Mollema, who were second and third, respectively.
Briton Geraint Thomas retained the overall lead after a 181.5-km hilly ride from Millau through the vineyards of Minervois, Corbieres and Cabardes in Southwestern France.
He leads Team Sky team-mate and defending champion Chris Froome by 1:39 and Dutchman Tom Dumoulin by 1:50 before Monday’s rest day as the race heads to the Pyrenees.
A 29-man breakaway took shape early on, and — after they had built an advantage of more than 10 minutes to make sure the win would be decided between them — the fireworks started.
Tour debutants Fabien Grellier and Julien Bernard, the son of Jean-Francois, third overall in the 1987 race, attacked with 70 kilometres left.
But Poland’s Rafal Majka, who has three Tour stage wins to his name, jumped away from the group and chased the duo down, whizzing past them to reach the top of the Pic de Nore, a 12.3-km climb at an average gradient of 6.3 per cent, in first position.
He had a 30-second lead, but with a flat, crosswind-exposed stretch leading to the line, his chances were slim and he was caught by a group of seven chasers.
France’s Lilian Calmejane, in his home region, had no team-mate in the group unlike Cort Nielsen, Mollema and Izagirre. He was isolated when things heated up and had to concede defeat, breaking down in tears after crossing the line in seventh place, 34 seconds off the pace.
The peloton crossed the line 13:11 behind with no incident being reported. France’s Romain Bardet, fifth overall, attacked in the descent from the Pic de Nore and went off the road, in a desperate attempt to unsettle his rivals.
Liverpool forward Taiwo Awoniyi is set to return to Belgium for his fourth loan spell, Goal understands.
After penning a new five-year deal at Anfield this summer, the Nigeria youth international was excluded from the Reds’ 29-man squad for their US tour and could join either Anderlecht, Club Brugge or Standard Liege temporarily for the upcoming campaign.
Newly-promoted Turkish Super Lig outfit Ankaragucu have held talks with Nigeria international Emmanuel Emenike over a potential transfer, according to Fanatik .
The Yellow-Navy are set to bolster their ranks for the challenge in the Turkish top-flight with the former Fenerbahce goal poacher who endured a difficult spell at Olympiacos and Las Palmas last season.
Brighton sign Percy Tau
Brighton and Hove Albion have signed Percy Tau on four-year deal from Mamelodi Sundowns.
The South Africa interntional will be loan out for the upcoming campaign in an effort to have experience of European football.
Swansea City are looking to gain £12 million from the sale or loan of Jordan Ayew and Andre Ayew this summer, Football Ghana claims.
The Swans are ready to release the Ghanaian duo who are part of their top earners as they look to free up wages for life in the Championship.
Liverpool and Celtic have been linked with Jordan while Besiktas and Newcastle United chase Andre.
Napoli close to €15m Sabaly deal
Napoli have reached an agreement with Bordeaux to sign their €15m-rated Senegalese defender Youssouf Sabaly, Gazzetta dello Sports reports.
Sabaly was a key member of Aliou Cisse’s squad at the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia and he is expected to join his compatriot Kalidou Koulibaly at Stadio San Paolo this summer.
The Partenopei are requesting for a discount as the 25-year-old is currently nursing a minor problem with the medial collateral ligament in his knee.
Sporting CP want Slimani return
Sporting CP are looking to bring Islam Slimani back to Portugal after enduring a difficult spell at Leicester City, the Sun reports.
Slimani has managed just eight Premier League goals for the Foxes since his arrival on a club record fee in August 2016.
The Algeria international spent the second part of 2017-18 season on loan at Newcastle United, however, Sporting are interested in bringing the forward back to Lisbon following the departure of a significant number of their first-team players.
Kasimpasa target Junior Ajayi
Al Ahly forward Junior Ajayi has emerged as a potential signing for Kasimpasa should Mahmoud Trezeguet leave this summer, according to KingFut .
The Egyptian winger has been heavily linked with several European clubs including Galatasaray, Inter Milan and Parma.
However, a move away from the Turkish top-flight club would see the Apaches turn to the Nigeria international who scored seven goals and provided 10 assists in the Egyptian Premier League last season.
With the flick of a pen, Saquon Barkley became one of the NFL’s top-paid running backs before ever taking an NFL snap. That’s the result of being the No. 2 overall pick out of Penn State.
The New York Giants signed Barkley on Sunday to a four-year, $31.2 million rookie contract, according to a source. First-round rookie contracts are guaranteed. The deal also immediately pays out $15 million, a significant chunk negotiated by his Roc Nation agent Kim Miale. It’s believed that the immediate payout is the largest in at least five years, since the rookie wage scale was changed in 2013.
Barkley is the first of the top four picks in this year’s NFL draft to sign his rookie contract. No. 1 overall pick Cleveland Browns quarterback Baker Mayfield remains unsigned.
Barkley signed his deal on the day when Giants rookies were scheduled to report for the start of training camp. Rookies and select veterans take the field for their first practice of the summer on Monday.
Barkley immediately becomes one of the NFL’s top-paid running backs at an average of almost $8 million per season. Only Le’Veon Bell (on the franchise tag), Devonta Freeman and LeSean McCoy average more.
With compensation of over $21 million this year, Barkley will be the league’s highest-paid running back for 2018.
Barkley, 21, already bought his parents a house in his hometown of Whitehall, Pennsylvania, since being drafted. This fulfilled a longtime promise. He used endorsement money negotiated for that purchase.
It goes along with Barkley’s desire to follow in the footsteps of Oakland Raiders running back Marshawn Lynch and New England Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski, who have famously decided to live on their endorsement money instead of their NFL earnings.
The $15 million pocketed upon Barkley’s signing with the Giants can instead be saved or invested.
“Once I realized when I declared for the NFL draft and kind of realized where I was going to be drafted, that was something I was like, ‘You know what? Kind of want to follow the Marshawn Lynch method. I don’t want to touch that,'” Barkley said on the red carpet for the CC Sabathia and Friends Celebrity Softball Game in June. “I want to invest it, put it in the right people’s hands and learn as I continue to make investments. And just live off the endorsement deals.”
Barkley already has deals with Nike, Pepsi and Panini America. He now has one with the Giants, too, and his concentration can turn exclusively to football.
Barkley is being counted on heavily to make an immediate impact. His presence at the first practice of camp Monday means that all the Giants rookies will be on the field for the workout.
The Giants also signed fifth-round defensive tackle RJ McIntosh on Sunday. McIntosh will begin training camp on the active/non-football illness list. The Miami product missed all of this spring because of an undisclosed illness that warranted a procedure last month.
On a record-setting day by Seattle guard Sue Bird, the Atlanta Dream had a statement game after the most fascinating week of what has been an amazing WNBA season.
And, no, that’s not hyperbole.
Bird played in her 500th career game Sunday to set the WNBA record for regular-season games played in an 87-74 loss to the Dream, who have won seven in a row and at 15-9 are in second place behind 18-7 Seattle. And while Bird has seen it all in her 16 WNBA seasons — she has also appeared in 39 postseason games — it’s safe to say that even she has not seen a week quite like this one.
On Tuesday, Dallas’ Liz Cambage had a 53-point, 10-rebound, 5-block performance that gave her the WNBA’s single-game scoring record. Two days later, she had 35 points and 17 rebounds, setting the mark for the highest two-game scoring output in league history.
Also on Tuesday, Atlanta’s Tiffany Hayes launched a shot from well beyond half court to give the Dream an 86-83 victory at Connecticut.
The 22 All-Stars were announced that day, and neither Hayes nor Chicago’s Courtney Vandersloot were among the nine guards selected. But they made their presence known. Hayes didn’t just hit that big shot; she averaged 18 points in the Dream’s victories over the Sun, Liberty and Storm. She’s the leading scorer (17.4 PPG) for the league’s hottest team, but — unfortunately — the most egregious All-Star snub.
Meanwhile, Vandersloot on Friday had the first triple-double (13 points, 10 rebounds, 15 assists) in Sky history, and just missed tying Ticha Penicheiro for the single-game assist record of 16. Also on Sunday, Shekinna Stricklen tied a WNBA single-game record with eight 3-pointers in the Sun’s win over the Wings.
Speaking of records, technical fouls have been flying left and right lately at what feels like a record pace.
Dallas coach Fred Williams was ejected twice this past week. Diana Taurasi — no stranger to technicals, admittedly — was ejected in the second quarter of Phoenix’s 80-75 loss to Minnesota on Saturday. The Mercury still pushed it right to the end, as the Lynx needed a monster game from Maya Moore, who had 38 points.
Even Bird got a recent technical in a July 14 victory over the Wings. We haven’t witnessed that often in what has been a Hall of Fame career for the Long Island native and former UConn star. But it shows her passion for the game is still there as much as ever. And as she becomes the all-time leader in games played, passing DeLisha Milton-Jones, it’s important to remember why Bird is still in a Storm uniform: loyalty, and her belief in herself and the organization.
In 2014, the Storm went 12-22, missed the playoffs for the first time in 11 years, and lost coach Brian Agler, who took over in Los Angeles. Bird was facing free agency after the 2015 season, and plenty of teams would have been interested in her. But even before the lottery that gave Seattle the No. 1 selection in the 2015 draft, Bird made up her mind to ride it out with the Storm.
Seattle got Notre Dame standout guard Jewell Loyd with the top pick in 2015 but still missed the playoffs that season. Yet Bird didn’t change her mind; she signed a contract extension in February 2016, saw another No. 1 pick — Breanna Stewart — come to the Storm in April of that year, and helped Seattle return to the playoffs.
Seattle has lost in the first-round game in the playoffs both in 2016 and ’17, but Bird’s belief in the Storm has been rewarded. Despite Sunday’s loss, Seattle is in the driver’s seat to get a bye into the semifinals. The Storm face a tough challenge in having six of their remaining nine regular-season games on the road. But in Bird, Seattle has a leader to help guide the team through that, too.
She is averaging 10.0 points and 7.1 assists, second in the league to Vandersloot’s 8.0. Bird is an All-Star for a record 11th time.
And when you take into account the high level of play in the WNBA — exemplified no better than in the past week — it says even more about the fact that Bird has remained such a vital player on the league-leading team.
She committed fully to fitness and diet standards a few years back. At 37, she’s a role model for anyone in the WNBA — or NBA, for that matter — about how to add more high-level seasons to your career.
Along with that, she has been a revered spokeswoman for the Storm and the league. She has mentored countless other players. She has won two titles, and has hopes for another.
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