1. Does the addition of Lance Lynn give to Twins the best rotation in the A.L.?
Nate Leer: The wins do not have a true #1 starter, unless or until Jose Berrios takes a big step forward, so it is hard to say they have the best rotation in the league. That said, it might be the deepest. They have 4 SPs that are #2 or #3 types and about a half dozen others that are capable of being solid back end of the rotation guys with several of those having significant upside as well. On paper, the Twins 5th starter would likely be Kyle Gibson. They will be without Santana for a stretch to start the season but will likely not need a 5th starter for most of that time. After the top 5, the Twins have veteran depth in Phil Hughes and lefty Adalberto Mejia. Mejia was alright at times last year and Hughes used to be really good. Either would be starting for a lot of teams. The Twins also have 2 prospects who are pretty much ready in Stephen Gonsalves and Fernando Romero. Romero seems to be closer but Gonsalves might have more upside. Either way, both could help the big club a lot this year. Virtually no teams have the luxury of being literally 10 deep in their rotation options. That unparalleled depth should serve them well in the regular season but the lack of elite SPs at the top will hurt them if they do make the playoffs.
Kras: I will have to see some results on the field before I get excited and start claiming they are the best. They don’t even have a top 5 pitcher in the AL on their roster. The Twins have managed to add incredible depth to a rotation that has been bad over the last handful of years. Being able to add Lance Lynn further helps by bumping guys like Kyle Gibson and Adalberto Mejia down in the rotation and will hopefully take some pressure off them if or when they do get a chance to pitch. The Twins have made some awesome progress with the starting staff this season all while not breaking the bank on a potential ace.
2. Is QB Kirk Cousins 3 year deal for $84 million fully guaranteed a good or bad deal for the Vikings?
Nate Leer: This is an interesting case study because there are pros and cons for the team with a contract structured this way. If Cousins isn’t as good as they hoped, they can be out from under the contract in a relatively short amount of time. That is preferable to a longer term deal that could handcuff them for 5 or 6 years. On the flip side, there are some very real problems. First of all, if Cousins is good to great, the team could find itself in a real bad place at the end of the deal. With no leverage beyond the 3rd year, Cousins could command even more money per year going forward and the Vikes would either have to pay up or move on to a lesser option. That would be a tough position to be in. The other big drawback is the significant, immediate impact on the salary cap. It sounds like the Vikes feel they will have enough money over the next few years to keep who they want and sign help as needed. If that is the case, this could be a happy day for Vikes fans!
Kras: I think it’s a good deal for the Vikes in that it is only a 3 year deal. However, I am not a fan of the money. $84 million guaranteed is crazy money for a guy that has not proven all that much. Cousins has been consistent and put up some solid numbers over the past few seasons but, again, it has not amounted to much in the way of team success. If this contract ends with the Vikes losing some keys pieces and no Lombardi Trophy, there will be no GM Rick Spielman I’m afraid. The same can likely be said about HC Mike Zimmer at that point as well. I think it is too big of a gamble on a guy that hasn’t done any more than Case Keenum.
3. Does the addition of Derrick Rose help or hurt the Wolves playoff chances?
Nate Leer: I actually don’t think it makes much of a difference one way or the other. Rose is at best a decent 6th man and it is doubtful he is a better one than Jamal Crawford. He could help the team some in the short term with Jimmy Butler out but I don’t see him getting many minutes once Jimmy’s back. The team is learning to rely on C Karl Anthony-Towns for O and that makes Rose even less of a factor. While this team is certainly not guaranteed a playoff spot, their schedule down the stretch gets much easier. They should have no problem going .500 the rest of the way with or without Rose and that will almost certainly get them in the playoffs.
Kras: I think Nate Leer is right. Rose does not bring anything relevant to this team. I am as big a D-Rose fan as there is but I can’t see an overwhelming value in him at this point. He may be able to come off the bench and play 5-10 minutes when needed and maybe score 10 points. Even though he has had the knee problems, he can still slash to the basket well enough to drop a few buckets a night. The biggest thing with Rose joining the team would be him taking minutes from PG Tyus Jones. Jones has played pretty well this season and is a great change of pace when needed. Rose is only on board for the rest of this season and I don’t see him lasting on this team much longer than that.
1. Do all the moves the Browns have made over the last week make them a more legit team? Can they think playoffs?
Kras: I believe the Browns have improved with the moves they made. Adding QB Tyrod Taylor alone is a great improvement but they were also able to add some weapons around him right away. Adding WR Jarvis Landry and RB Carlos Hyde will be improvements. The loss of LT Joe Thomas to retirement isn’t ideal but it is not the end of the world. They were going to have to start to look for his replacement soon anyway. Overall I do believe the Browns have become a better team already and with some high picks in the 1st round of the draft, they look to be even better. As for the playoffs, I’ll have to see some play on the field before I start to think that.
Nate Leer: Yes it definitely does and they should be thinking playoffs. I would not make them a favorite to be in the postseason but they certainly seem to have a legit shot for the first time in years. Taylor just led a team to the playoffs and the Browns O looks like it will have more weapons especially if they add more offensive talent in the draft. The Browns also have young talent on D and could add to it significantly in the draft. This team could make a big jump this year as it appears they are finally being run well.
2. Who was the biggest NFL free agent to sign in the opening days?
Kras: I think the biggest move in the opening days has to be Kirk Cousins to the Vikes. There are many factors with this move, the first of which is the guaranteed money in the contract. It is the first of its kind and it’s a ridiculous amount of money. The second thing about this signing that I will be interested to watch is the employment situation of HC Mike Zimmer and GM Rick Spielman. If the Vikes are winning and making NFC Championship games and a Super Bowl or 2 over the course of this deal, all will be well. However, if the Vikes regress to more of an average team and are losing wildcard games or not even making the playoffs, I fear heads will roll. Regardless of who made the final decision, the Vikes moved on from a guy who led them to a 13-3 record and who by all accounts would have commanded less money to return in Case Keenum. To me, all these factors signal a last stand for Rick and Mike. There is too much money involved in this deal for anything less than a Super Bowl appearance to be acceptable.
Nate Leer: Kras is right that the Cousins signing was the biggest move of the free agent frenzy. After him, several significant WRs moved around and those moves will have an impact on next season. Sammy Watkins going to the Chiefs sets up a boom or bust scenario for that O with young QB Patrick Mahomes and his cannon arm. 2 other young QBs got former elite WRs top help their development. The Raiders got Derek Carr a new toy with Jordy Nelson and the Bears added Allen Robinson to help Mitch Trubisky develop. It will be interesting to see if these playmakers are able to integrate well into their new settings and how much they can improve those Os.
3. Who is your pick to win the NCAA tournament?
Kras: Given the limited number of BIG 10 teams that were invited to the dance I will give some love to the Michigan State Spartans. This is not much of a bold statement given their track record and the success of HC Tom Izzo. Izzo seems to be able to get his teams to play their best basketball of the season when the calendar hits March. The Spartans have 2 solid players in F Nick Ward and G Cassius Winston and a real gem in G Miles Bridges. I like the Spartans to make a run again this year but I do worry that their overall lack of size may come into play and may be the reason for a tournament exit.
Nate Leer: I have Kansas winning it all. They are another team with an elite coach that can get hot at the right time. I was also big on Arizona but that dream ended early and hard. As always, the Big Dance is somewhat of a crapshoot so it will be interesting to see who emerges this year.