1. Of the few move the Minnesota Twins have made so far, do you think any of them will make an impact in 2017?
Kras: A catcher who can frame pitches well and a pitcher who will compete for a spot on the worst rotation in baseball isn’t exactly impressive. However, you must to start somewhere. Getting RHP Justin Haley and C Jason Castro is a good start considering those are both positions that need major improvements. It sounds like Haley will at least compete for a spot this spring and Castro will be the primary catcher going into the 2017 season. Neither guy will get anyone too excited but with new management in place, it is worth noting what they are up to.
Nate Leer: I do not think Haley will have much of an impact. He looks to me to be more of a long reliever who eats up innings in a blowout. Hopefully he develops into more than that. I do think the Castro signing is underrated. The Twins have gotten almost no power from the catching position the last few years and this guy can help with that. Plus he is a good defender and pitch framer. Maybe he even rebounds in the contact department and recaptures some of the batting average he showed early in his career.
2. If Adrian Peterson can come back, should the Vikings bring him back and use him even if he is just a decoy?
Kras: Umm, yes. If AP can come back, the Vikings should get him on the field. I’m not sure what he will be able to do, but assuming he is healthy and the knee holds up, he might have something left to give. More importantly, he would get immediate attention from an opposing D. The threat of AP might be enough to bring an extra defender up into the box and with the O-line playing better as of late, Sam Bradford might be able to operate with a little bit time.
JJ Bens: If the Vikings decide to bring Peterson back only as a decoy, I think that is the wrong move coming up on a offseason where they need him to restructure his contract. What happens if he takes a cheap shot at the knees like Harry Douglas delivered this weekend? At that point his Hall of Fame career would be over just to use him as a decoy.
Nate Leer: I think JJ Bens makes a solid point about the risk of AP suffering a significant injury which would make it harder to move on from him in the offseason. However, if the team is in the hunt for the playoffs, they have to get him on the field. He has to help the run game at least in short yardage situations. plus, just the threat of an all-time great like AP being on the field should help the O.
3. Is the new AD getting the job done or are these just one-offs primed for regression?
Kras: I believe Mark Coyle has done a pretty good job. Maybe not bringing immediate success to all the programs but at least a good job limiting the negative stories that come out of the U of M. The women’s volleyball team is on a Final Four run right now, men’s basketball is off to a good start, and even the men’s hockey team has started to rebound a bit after some poor seasons. The football team has a bowl game coming yet after their 8-4 season with a head coach who still has some questions surrounding him. All in all, Coyle has the athletics at the U of M stabilized, and that alone should be considered a victory right now. Or maybe not considering the recent slate of football suspensions…
Nate Leer: It is early but I am hopeful this guy has the department moving in the right direction. The real test is how he handles coaching for the most high profile sports. He has a decision to make on whether to re-up football coach Tracy Claeys. Deciding whether Claeys is the right person for that most important job will be a telling challenge for Coyle. He NEEDS to get it right!
1. Was Lamar Jackson your pick to be the winner of the Heisman Trophy?
Kras: My personal pick would have been Jabrill Peppers because of the versatility he brings to the team, on both sides of the ball. I know that is far from the deciding factor in who will win the award but I did think his ability to be on the field as often as he was cannot be overlooked, especially if he is having an impact. That aside, I am fine with Lamar Jackson winning the Heisman. He is an incredible athlete, one of the best in college football. To go along with that, he is also the youngest recipient of the award and would be a likely candidate to add another one to the shelf.
JJ Bens: Yes, I had a feeling he would win the award after the first 2 games he played this year. I can’t remember the number of TD’s he scored in that 2 game span but I had a feeling it wasn’t going to end week 3 or any other week. Anyone who watched him play can see he is an electric player and should be fun to watch at the next level.
2. Which NFL team outside the playoff standings will make it in before the season is over?
Kras: The way the Green Bay Packers have played the past couple of weeks, I think I would have to put my money on them. They are in the midst of a 3-game winning streak which has Aaron Rodgers looking as good as ever, even while dealing with a hamstring injury. It wasn’t that long ago that head coach Mike McCarthy was on the hot seat with this team and now they are right in the thick of the playoff race. The Packers have the Bears, Vikings, and Lions remaining on their schedule and that sets up nicely for a team making a run at the playoffs.
Nate Leer: I think the Pack is a likely candidate to stay hot into the playoffs. Just having the elite QB makes them a threat to win out and carry it over into the postseason. Having a hot QB or a hot D is the surest way for an average team to make a run. That means another candidate to scare teams IF they get in is the Vikings. The NFC field looks pretty weak so if the Pack or Vikes make it into the playoffs, they could still pull off a couple “upsets” and make it interesting.
3. Which MLB team was the biggest winner of the winter meetings?
Kras: To me the winner is the Boston Red Sox. I think with the addition of Chris Sale, the Red Sox certainly got the most prized player to be moved so far. I’m not sure it matters much which color Sox Sale will wears but it will matter that he has a much better team around him and that should help him. Sale will be on a team that put up an MLB best 5.36 runs per game which will help him grab a few more wins. There was some obvious tension between Sale and the front office in Chicago and I think the move is ultimately good for all parties. The Red Sox get Sale, Sale gets to leave Chicago, and Chicago gets to start the rebuild with some good prospects in hand. The Red Sox had one of the better starting rotations in baseball last season and now they might have the best with their new addition.
JJ Bens: I would have to say the White Sox had the best winter meetings. They did have to give up Sale but they got a good haul for him. When I saw the Adam Eaton trade I was confused. I thought there had to be another team involved or something. That, however, was not the case. I believe they fleeced the Nationals in getting 2 outstanding pitching talents.