1. Do you expect the Twins to make a legit free agent splash this offseason, like spending over $10 million per year on a player, and should they?
Kras: It is tough to say what management will do moving into next season. They obviously need to do something to help improve the team rotation and bullpen. Seeing how ownership has rarely spent big in free agency I would have to see it to believe it. I don’t see them pulling in a guy like Yu Darvish or Jake Arrieta. It would seem more likely that they go after a Tyler Chatwood or Alex Cobb type, someone who won’t demand as much from the checkbook. Realistically the move for this team, as tough as it would be, is to wait one more year before spending big. After this coming season plays out Joe Mauer’s contract is up and there are far more attractive names that should be hitting the free agent market. There will be lots of good bullpen help available, Cody Allen, Jeurys Familia, Zach Britton, and Andrew Miller just to name a few, are all guys that as of now figure to be free agents. I’m not saying they shouldn’t make a move to improve this club this year but waiting to spend big money might be the more beneficial thing to do moving forward.
Nate Leer: It’s really hard to predict how this management group will address free agency this year. This team seems to be ahead of schedule to be a contender and that makes it tempting to go all in for free agent pitching. However, I hope they tread carefully in the free agent market particularly for starting pitching. I think it is always smart to take a quantity over (perceived) quality approach for relief pitching and I think this management team is smart enough to take the approach of signing several relievers for cheaper and letting the cream rise to the top in the bullpen. Starting pitching is tougher because even marginally talented pitchers get paid huge. The Twins need to be sure not to make mistakes like they did with Ricky Nolasco, Phil Hughes and others by overpaying mid level guys then being stuck with bad contracts if they underperform. I think we will get a good feel for where management thinks this team really is on the rebuilding timeline based on if and how much money they spend this offseason.
2. Did Case Keenum show enough to be labeled the starting QB for the Vikings the rest of the way?
Kras: I think Keenum showed enough that he should be the starter, next week. I don’t think it’s much of a mystery that Keenum is one bad performance away from taking a back seat to the Teddy Bridgewater Show. Personally, I believe Keenum has been serviceable at QB for the Vikes but he hasn’t shown that he can take over a game late and take a victory. That said, we don’t know if Teddy is that guy either. The week ahead will be interesting with the L.A. Rams coming to town. The Rams D has proven to be solid this year. With 19 takeaways for the Rams on the season already, Keenum better be making sure that he makes accurate reads down field. If he comes out and turns the ball over twice early, we could possibly see Teddy right then. To sum it up, Keenum is far from a lock to be the QB of the future for the Vikes.
Nate Leer: No way. Even if we just take the great numbers Keenum put up on Sunday at face value and say he is the clear cut starter going forward, there is so much season left that anything can happen. Keenum definitely earned another start or 2 but his performance was aided by the Washington D not being able to capitalize on mistakes. I watched Keenum throw 3 balls that easily could have been intercepted besides the 2 INTs he did throw. Those throws and decisions could have changed the game completely. However, sometimes it is better to be lucky than good and Keenum has been relatively lucky to this point. There is no need to rush in Teddy although I would like to see him get some reps to knock the rust off. Let’s see how Keenum performs against a better Rams D this week before we determine the next steps in the Vikes QB quandary.
3. Do you see the Timberwolves running out of gas later in the season because of the number of minute the starting lineup play on a game by game basis?
Nate Leer: Probably not. The team is deep enough to back off on minutes for the starting 5 or give them nights off. Thibs has shown he is capable of letting the reserves have the court for stretches and the group of PG Tyus Jones, SG Jamal Crawford, SF Shabazz Muhammad, PF Nemanja Bjelica and C Giorgui Dieng is a quality group. We will see if Think is willing to consistently rest his starters but I think (hope?) he is smart enough to realize the value in not overworking his stars. This team will make the playoffs so a notch or 2 better seeding is not worth the best players having dead legs come April.
Kras: I would hope a bunch of guys under the age of 30 would not run out of gas. I think Nate Leer makes a good point with this team’s depth and being able to back the starters off of the 40 minute mark. We will see if coach Tom Thibodeau believes in and values his depth in that way. Jimmy Butler is the only T-Pup in the top 10 in the NBA in minutes per game this season. Andrew Wiggins ranks 12th in minutes per game to this point while Karl Anthony-Towns sits at 30th. It is early yet but that is not too bad, in my opinion. If these 3 guys all end up in the top 10 we may have a problem at that point. Thibs seems to be managing minutes well to this point.
1. Which team do you think has had the more impressive start to the season, the Boston Celtics or the Houston Rockets?
Kras: I pick the Houston Rockets. With much respect to what the Celtics have done, I will argue for James Harden and his ability to continue to play at an elite level. Averaging over 30 points and 10 assists, he has picked up right where he left off last season. Maybe it has helped his numbers to some degree, but Harden has been able to do his damage without help from injured PG Chris Paul. P.J. Tucker has been an excellent addition for this Rockets club. He is not always big on the stat sheet but his ability to play a little D and take away opposing scorers is something the Rockets have needed for some time. It is tough in the West so we will see if they can sustain their leading ways.
Nate Leer: I think Boston is the choice here considering they lost their 2nd best player in the first game of the season. When Gordon Hayward went down, the Celts lost their legitimate Finals possibility. However, Kyrie Irving has driven this team to an excellent start that has many rethinking doom and gloom predictions after Hayward’s injury. I still don’t think the Celtics are real threats to the Cavs in the East but this hot start shows toughness and talent that makes me respect the team and its leaders.
2. With the college basketball season starting to gear up, which team do you have as your pick to win the BIG 10 Conference?
Kras: I am going to go homer on the bit and pick the Minnesota Golden Gophers. Not that I think they will be the best team throughout the year but I do believe they will have enough depth and talent to match up against any other team in the BIG 10. The further development of C Reggie Lynch will be key to the success of the season. G Nate Mason, F Jordan Murphy, and G Dupree McBrayer will be the veterans that help anchor this team. Add to that G’s Amir Coffey, Isaiah Washington, and Jamir Harris and this team has the potential to be sneaky good. I don’t think they will surprise a lot of teams with their talent and they might be set up to compete with the top tier teams in the conference and make a run at Michigan State. GO Gophs!
Nate Leer: I would love to agree with Kras. I have only seen a Big 10 Championship 1 time from the Gophs and they say that didn’t actually happen. Nothing is better than a Golden Gopher run but there is no way I am picking against coach Tom Izzo and the Spartans. Izzo always seems to get his teams to overachieve and that would mean a Big 10 Championship, high NCAA seed and deep run this year. I am a bit leery of all the early accolades for Michigan State but I believe in their coach and talent makes them the clear cut favorite in the Big 10.
3. Who are the best available position player and pitcher on the MLB free agent market this year?
Kras: For me, the position player I feel brings the most talent to a team is J.D. Martinez. Coming off of a 45 HR, season he is sure to get paid this offseason but whoever the buyer, they should be getting a very solid OF who can hit the long ball. HRs matter, no matter how many strikeouts a player has. As far as the best pitcher available, I am going to put SP Jake Arrieta on a bounce back season with his new team, whoever that is. Jake is coming off a down season in which he had 18 wins and a 3.53 ERA, by far his worst numbers in the past 3 seasons.
Nate Leer: I think Kras hit a homerun with his pick of Martinez as the best bat available. The word is he wants 7 years, $200+ million and something like that could happen if enough GMs agree with Kras as well. Martinez would look good on several teams with money to spend including the Red Sox, Rangers, returning to the Diamondbacks or even the Tigers. His skillset and career trajectory look a lot like Nelson Cruz and he could produce well into his 30s. That indicates he could be an effective offensive force all the way through this contract but will need to be playing the majority of his games at DH sooner than later. The best available P essentially comes down to 2 guys: Arrieta and Yu Darvish. Those 2 are very similar; same age, similar build, points of extreme dominance and struggles during their careers, etc. Since Kras made the argument for Arrieta, I will go the other way. The word on Yu is that his struggles this year were largely a result of him tipping his pitches. If a new organization can fix that, he would be in line for several dominant years. Yu is a couple years removed from Tommy John surgery and all indications are that his arm is 100% healthy. I could see the Dodgers resigning him and, if he lands in the right place, he could be a free agent SP who actually lives up to a monster contract.