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ASHBURN, Va. — There was nothing spectacular that took place, just quarterback Alex Smith doing his job. That meant getting rid of the ball in time; that meant anticipating receivers’ cuts; and that meant no turnovers. There was one excellent deep ball for a long completion. But, overall, it was just Smith showing why the Washington Redskins traded for him.

This is his third team and yet another new offense. But he’s just here to do his part, and he’s not worried about more changes.

“Ball is ball,” he said.

The OTA sessions have allowed Smith and the Redskins’ offense to take another step in their progression, finally working against the defense. It’s helped reveal more of what the Redskins can expect.

“He’s got good command of the offense already,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said. “Great command in the huddle. He’s just getting a feel for the receivers, the players around him, how we call things, but I’m very pleased with his quick progression and learning. I knew that wouldn’t be an issue with as much as he’s played in a similar-style system. It’s just a matter of him getting used to the players around him.”
Alex Smith’s reputation is as a solid game manager. But at this time of the season, he likes to take his chances downfield. Nick Wass/AP Photo
Smith, entering his 14th season, understands how to make a transition to a new offense. He joked that his offense in Kansas City and his new one are “Latin-based languages. There are similarities, structure of the playbook, how we call things, but it’s not the same language.”

He didn’t come across like someone who was confused by the offense. Nor did he hesitate with his throws when he spotted his target.

“He’s very decisive,” Redskins receiver Paul Richardson said. “He’s not second-guessing and he’s trusting us to make it out of our break to meet the ball. He’s putting the ball in great spots with great timing. For it to be this early, we can only go up from here.”

Spring brings natural optimism, and for the Redskins it’s in part because of Smith. He did not tuck the ball and run during 7-on-7 work; in fact, he scrambled only one time before stopping at the line and hitting receiver Josh Doctson. There were crisp outs to slot receiver Jamison Crowder, though one of them was nearly picked by corner Orlando Scandrick.
Smith, coming off his best season throwing the deep ball, showed he’s willing to continue that trend. The Redskins signed the speedy Richardson in the offseason and the two connected on Wednesday. Smith twice threw to Richardson — he wasn’t wide open either time, but he still unloaded a pass. The first one resulted in what would have been a 45-yard completion.

Another ended with corner Quinton Dunbar breaking up the pass. Richardson wasn’t open, but Smith gave him a chance. At season’s end, Gruden said he wanted Kirk Cousins to show more trust in his receivers. Gruden said there were times in practice when Cousins checked down when “I’m like, just let it fly.” Smith let it fly — not every time, but on these particular plays.

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“Certainly this time of year, I think there’s something to be said about pushing it a little bit,” Smith said. “When we get to camp and real ball, you can kind of rein that in a little. I think this time of year, there’s something to be said about taking some chances down the field and taking some opportunities.”

On Wednesday, as in many games Smith plays, there were no interceptions. He hasn’t thrown more than eight picks in a season since 2010.
“He brings a game manager,” Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger said. “He definitely brings less turnovers, for sure. Only having five interceptions last year is something as a defender I love because I know I’m not going to be on the field the majority of the game. He’s a smart quarterback. He’s a leader and you can tell that, seeing how he leads the guys and throws the ball around. He’s going to help us win, for sure.”

Smith is not a demonstrative player. After plays he’d chat with a receiver or two about what had just happened or he’d stand alongside quarterbacks coach Kevin O’Connell. Smith was doing what he’s always done, whether that was in San Francisco, Kansas City or Washington.

“I know guys respect work ethic and they respect the guys that are invested and committed, and for me, it’s really just doing that,” he said. “Putting in the time, being myself, getting to know these guys.”

And he doesn’t expect a break just because it’s his first season in Washington.

“Nobody cares,” Smith said. “It’s not like in the fall, you guys are going to be like, ‘Ah, well, this is his first year here. We’ll give him a break.’ … Playing this long, you feel like you’ve got a good grasp on it. There has to be a sense of urgency.”

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Brandon Marshall has two things that were noticeably lacking in the Seattle Seahawks’ wide receiver corps before they agreed to terms with the six-time Pro Bowler on Tuesday: size at the top of the depth chart and experience on the back end of it.

He also has a 34-year-old body with 12 seasons of NFL wear and tear on it, including an ankle injury that limited him to five games and 18 catches last year with the New York Giants. That led them to release him last month with a failed-physical designation.

It’s no wonder that Seattle’s addition of Marshall appears to be on the lower end of the risk spectrum.
At 6-foot-4, Brandon Marshall gives Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson a big target. Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports
While the full details have yet to emerge, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports that Marshall’s one-year contract can be worth up to $2 million if incentives are reached. The minimum salary for a player who has been around as long as Marshall has is $1.015 million, so the signing bonus is apparently under $1 million. For context, the max value of $2 million is a fraction of the $11.5 million that Doug Baldwin makes on average, and it’s less than the $2.75 million the Seahawks will pay in 2018 to Jaron Brown, who is also in the mix to be one of their top three receivers.

Signing Brown (6-foot-3, 204 pounds) and Marshall (6-4, 230) gives Russell Wilson a pair of big targets to go along with Baldwin and Tyler Lockett, who are both 5-foot-10 and less than 200 pounds. Those additions came after Seattle brought in Terrelle Pryor Sr. (6-4) for a free-agent visit and reportedly had one scheduled with Jordy Nelson (6-3) before he signed with Oakland. It doesn’t seem like a coincidence that the Seahawks’ interest in big-bodied receivers comes after their passing game lost its biggest body when they let tight end Jimmy Graham — he of 10 red-zone touchdowns last season — leave for Green Bay.

Marshall becomes the 12th receiver on Seattle’s roster, though one could be waived to make room. Had they not signed Marshall or another available veteran, the Seahawks would have been counting on one or more of their unproven youngsters to contribute to the rotation in 2018. It’s a group that has plenty of potential but not much production to this point in their respective careers. In fact, the trio of Tanner McEvoy (14), Amara Darboh (eight) and Marcus Johnson (five) have combined for 27 receptions while the others behind Baldwin, Lockett, Brown and now Marshall — i.e. David Moore, Cyril Grayson Jr., Damore’ea Stringfellow, Keenan Reynolds and Caleb Scott — don’t have any.

Marshall, meanwhile, has six seasons of at least 100 receptions, the most in NFL history per ESPN Stats & Information research. He has topped 1,000 yards eight times, most recently in 2015, when he also finished in a tie for the league lead with 14 touchdown catches. His numbers dropped considerably in 2016 — 59 catches, 788 yards, three touchdowns — but Seattle’s offense would gladly take that type of production in 2018 if Marshall could replicate it.
At his age, Marshall doesn’t offer Seattle much long-term upside, and therein lies a drawback to signing him even at a rate that protects the team from any substantial financial risk. There are only so many game snaps and practice reps to go around, especially with the NFL’s collective bargaining agreement considerably reducing the amount of on-field work teams can do each offseason. Any time that Marshall gets in practice or games is time that one of Seattle’s younger receivers doesn’t get. That had to be a consideration, particularly with regards to Darboh (2017 third-round pick), Moore (’17 seventh-rounder) and Johnson (acquired from Philadelphia in the Michael Bennett trade).

But if one of those receivers plays well enough to beat out Marshall for the fifth or sixth roster spot — depending on how many Seattle keeps — it’ll be a good sign for the long-term future of the position. And if Marshall makes the team, it’ll mean he showed enough over the summer to convince the Seahawks that he still has something left in the tank.

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — The New England Patriots are in the fifth week of their voluntary offseason program, and for the first time this decade, quarterback Tom Brady hasn’t been a participant.

It is part of the “less is more” philosophy Brady detailed two weeks ago at the Milken Institute Global Conference, saying family considerations are part of his decision while explaining, “I’m really trying to fill my tank up so that when I do go back, I’ll actually be, in my mind, a better teammate because I’ll be really rejuvenated.”
Few doubt Tom Brady is keeping himself in top shape, which is why he’s getting the benefit of the doubt while missing voluntary workouts. Fred Kfoury III/Icon Sportswire
To Brady’s former teammate Matt Chatham (2000-2005), who now works as an analyst for the New England Sports Network, the approach makes sense even if he might have questioned it as a younger player.

“It’s not even a question of preparing your body, but psychologically, Tom is in uncharted waters,” Chatham said. “The hardest part for older players — and my last season I was 31 — is the routine. It gets really f—ing old. It doesn’t mean you don’t love to train, and don’t love to push yourself, and don’t want to stay on top, but I think it comes to a point, ‘Would the team be one day or one week sharper, or whatever, if Tom was there for every day of voluntary [work]?’ Yeah, probably. But what’s the return on that investment? You maybe get a more tired guy in November and December. Do you get a guy that starts to wear down? You don’t want that to happen.

“Tom lives in a different universe than everybody else because he’s done something different than any player has [at age 40].”

Former Patriots quarterback and sports-radio host Scott Zolak, who has been the color analyst on Patriots radio broadcasts since 2012, acknowledges that point. He’s one of Brady’s biggest boosters.

At the same time, Zolak pointed out, “Everyone keeps stressing ‘this is voluntary, this is voluntary,’ so this is excused. I’m a guy that fought it forever, and if I’m not around, I’m not seen and I’m not heard. Bill Parcells used to say that. But they like gym rats. I’ve never heard the offseason program, with this organization, be talked about as ‘voluntary’ as much as I have these last two months or so. I know it says voluntary, but there has always been an expectation that you do whatever you can to be there.”

And therein lies a significant part of what makes Brady’s absence notable to some people who have been closely connected to the Patriots’ program in Bill Belichick’s 19 years as head coach.

Whereas some teams have sporadic attendance for their voluntary program, the Patriots traditionally have had closer to full attendance on an annual basis. Brady’s presence at voluntary workouts, when he would often win a preferred front-row parking spot for exemplary performance, has had a tone-setting impact on his teammates.

“The workout part of it isn’t a big deal, because you know Tom is working out hard … but if he doesn’t show up for the OTA/minicamp part of it, that’s probably more of an issue because then guys aren’t taking reps [with him].”
Rob Ninkovich,
former Patriots linebacker
To highlight that point, consider remarks made by owner Robert Kraft in 2010, when Brady was absent for the first week of the voluntary program before showing up.

“If you’re asking me if I’d prefer he be here the whole offseason, yes,” Kraft said at the time. “To me, he’s the most unique, special leader and player in the NFL. They are voluntary. He has a family. Look at your lives, you’ve all changed; so it’s priorities. There’s no doubt in my mind he’s working out hard.

“Would we be better as a team if he was in Foxborough every day between now and the start of training camp? Absolutely. Does it work for him? I don’t know. I think he’s balancing a lot of things. I hope he spends as much time as he can in Foxborough and I believe he will.”

This past Friday, offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels echoed some of those thoughts.

“Obviously, this is a voluntary part of our year. We don’t have any control over that part of it. As coaches, selfishly, we always want them all here, because that’s when we have the most fun and you enjoy working with them all,” McDaniels said. “But I totally understand those things happen, it’s happened here before, [and] I have no doubt that he’s doing what he thinks is right for him and his family, and I completely respect that. I know he’ll be ready to go, and I know he’ll be in good shape and good condition, and I’m sure he’s working really hard.”

That’s precisely why Chatham and former Patriots linebacker Rob Ninkovich (2009-2016) don’t view Brady’s decision to stay away as a big deal. Brady’s children are now 10, 8 and 5.

“Would you really, in your heart of hearts — after knowing this guy for 18 years — think there would be any concern with the level he would show up were he not under your care? That really has to be the fundamental question you ask if you care if someone comes to voluntary [workouts] or not,” Chatham said. “With Tom, I think you’re so far past that, you might be doing more harm having him there than not. It can just be mental fatigue over the course of the year.”

“I think the Tom thing is a little overblown,” added Ninkovich, who has maintained a residence in Massachusetts, and thus is aware of how it has become a hot topic of conversation on sports talk radio. “The workout part of it isn’t a big deal, because you know Tom is working out hard, and his specific workout [with trainer Alex Guerrero] that is going to help him play at a high level as a 41-year-old quarterback.

“So I don’t look into it at all, but if he doesn’t show up for the OTA/minicamp part of it, that’s probably more of an issue because then guys aren’t taking reps [with him]. You’d have Brian Hoyer taking all the first-team reps [at quarterback] and that’s not an ideal situation that you’d want going into training camp.”

The OTA/minicamp part of the voluntary offseason program, which lasts one month, begins next week. The mandatory minicamp as part of Phase 3 is June 5-7.

Up to this point, the Patriots have had two weeks of Phase 1 (limited to strength and conditioning work) and are currently in the third week of Phase 2 (only individual drills allowed, with all coaches on the field).

Of the upcoming third phase, Zolak said, “The way the league is now, with limited practice time, the OTAs and throwing activities are extremely important. Especially to them.”
So if Brady doesn’t show up at that point, it would cause Zolak to wonder if there is something more behind Brady’s offseason approach. Zolak remembers how Brady came back from a four-game NFL suspension in 2016 with a vengeance, and perhaps there is a similar storm brewing within him after his trainer, Guerrero, had his access restricted at Gillette Stadium by Belichick last year.
“He was devastated and so hurt by that suspension [in 2016], which he viewed as a knock on his character and the way he played the game, and totally unjustified. He came out like gangbusters, so it could be that mentality from him this offseason — that I’m so upset with something but I’m going to totally internalize it and channel it to make me the best when I’m back out there,” Zolak said, theorizing.

Regardless, Zolak emphasized that by the time the Patriots arrive for training camp in late July, he expects everyone to be operating off the same script. That includes tight end Rob Gronkowski, who also has stayed away from the voluntary offseason program this year.

Chatham is also aligned with that viewpoint as it relates to Brady not being present at voluntary workouts.

“There are a lot of younger players, and there were probably moments when I thought it, where it’s, ‘Come on, I have to go through this, you have to go through it too.’ But the older you get, the more experience you have, you realize that is kind of a silly attitude to have,” he said. “You grow out of that really fast. And I’m talking about Tom, who is two times past that point. He’s so far beyond the scale that if there is a person who is offended by it, I would love to hear their perspective and the validity of their argument.”

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Dodgers starter Hyun-Jin Ryu left in the second inning of last night’s game with a groin strain. It’s not the sort of thing you usually think too hard about when you read the game story. “Oh, that’s a shame,” you might think, and “hmm, I suspect a trip to the disabled list is in order,” if you’re thinking a bit more deeply.

Ryu’s situation is far more serious, it seems. Check this out:
Pedro Moura

@pedromoura
Hyun-Jin Ryu will be out until the second half, Dave Roberts said.

1:36 AM – May 4, 2018
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Pedro Moura

@pedromoura
Hyun-Jin Ryu’s groin muscle tore off the bone. Dave Roberts described it as traumatic and “pretty dramatic.” So.

1:42 AM – May 4, 2018
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Ryu has been the Dodgers’ best starter so far this year, going 3-0 and putting up an ERA of 2.12 in six starts on the young season. Now he’ll miss months, joining a star-studded Dodgers disabled list which currently calls Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Yasiel Puig, Rich Hill, Logan Forsythe and Julio Urias members.

Ouch. For a number of reasons, ouch.

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The Orlando Magic have fired coach Frank Vogel, the team announced Thursday.

Vogel was 54-110 in two seasons with the Magic.

Orlando’s front office of president Jeff Weltman and general manager John Hammond, who were hired in May 2017, will begin a search immediately for a new head coach.

“We would like to thank Frank for his contributions to the Orlando Magic,” Weltman said in a statement. “We appreciate the sacrifices he made as head coach and certainly wish him and his family well going forward.”
Frank Vogel is out as Magic coach after two seasons in which he couldn’t bring Orlando back to the playoffs. Fernando Medina/NBAE/Getty Images
Orlando will move on to its fifth coach since firing Stan Van Gundy after the 2011-12 season. A six-season playoff streak ended after Van Gundy’s departure that season, and the Magic haven’t made the postseason since — the longest drought in franchise history.

The Magic can sell an ownership group willing to commit resources to the roster and staff payroll, a respected new front office, young players including rookie Jonathan Isaac and Aaron Gordon, and a market that has supported the Magic through several frustrating and lean years.

The Magic’s search could include such candidates as Toronto Raptors assistant coach Nick Nurse, San Antonio Spurs assistants James Borrego and Ime Udoka, Portland Trail Blazers assistant David Vanterpool, Utah Jazz assistant Igor Kokoskov and Raptors 905 G League coach Jerry Stackhouse, league sources said.

Vogel previously coached the Indiana Pacers from 2011 to 2016, going 250-181 and taking the team to the playoffs five times.

The Magic have an 8.8 percent chance of receiving the No. 1 overall pick in June’s NBA draft after finishing 2017-18 with the fifth-worst record in the league.

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NEW YORK — With one All-Star out injured and another banished to the locker room, the Detroit Pistons pulled it together to preserve their slim playoff hopes for at least another day.

Reggie Jackson scored 29 points, Stanley Johnson had 17 and the Pistons beat the Brooklyn Nets 108-96 on Sunday night.

“Sometimes you have to figure out a way to win,” said Anthony Tolliver, a nine-year veteran who has played on nine different teams, this his second stint with Detroit. “Whenever things are not going your way or you have some guys go out, be it by injury or whatever you just have to figure out a way to win.”

Detroit, playing its third straight game without injured forward Blake Griffin, avoided elimination from postseason contention for at least one game. Griffin, acquired Jan. 30 from the Los Angeles Clippers, suffered a bone bruise in his right ankle during last Monday’s win over the Lakers.

Ish Smith had 17 points, all in the first half, and Andre Drummond added 13 points and 14 rebounds for the Pistons before being ejected in the third quarter. Detroit has won five straight for the third time this season.

“Our defense was good. Both teams were on fumes going down the stretch,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “We were just walking the ball up the floor. We had nothing, but we just grinded it out. So, it’s a good win.”

The Pistons are four games behind Miami — which holds the eighth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference — with five games remaining for each team. The Pistons have not made the postseason since 2016, when they got swept by the Cleveland Cavaliers in the first round.

Brooklyn was led by reserve Joe Harris and Jarrett Allen, who each had 15 points.

Detroit started off the second half with a 14-point advantage and saw it increase to 20 on Drummond’s alley-oop dunk with 3:56 left in the third quarter.

The Pistons then missed six straight shots as the Nets took off on a 12-0 run that bridged the end of the third quarter — which included a minor shoving match between Drummond and Brooklyn forward Quincy Acy in which both got ejected with 18.6 seconds left- and the opening minutes of the fourth.

Drummond exited the visitor’s locker room before the media was allowed in, but Acy wasn’t too pleased with the All-Star center’s antics after both players battled for a loose ball after a missed attempt by Smith.

Drummond swung his right elbow as both players got tangled up. Acy stepped toward him, and Drummond shoved the reserve forward back with his left arm. Referee David Guthrie stepped in to intervene but was pushed away by a furious Acy.

“What, you think I swung on purpose?,” said Acy. “There was a lot of people around me.”

After DeMarre Carroll capped the run with 3-pointer to make it 83-75 with 10:45 to go in the final period, Luke Kennard ended a streak of seven straight misses for the Pistons to make it 85-75. Jackson then made a pair of baskets that extended Detroit’s lead 89-78.

The Nets managed to make a seven-point game on Caris LeVert’s 3-pointer with 3:56 left in regulation, but Pistons used an 8-2 spurt highlighted by Anthony Tolliver’s 3-point shot from the wing to increase the lead 101-89 and put the game out of reach.

NEW YORK STATE OF MIND

The Pistons went 2-0 to conclude their brief weekend visit to the Big Apple. Detroit held on for a 115-109 victory over the New York Knicks at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night. The Pistons also beat Brooklyn earlier this season at Barclays Center.

TIP-INS
Pistons: Tolliver had 10 points and 12 rebounds. . Reserve forward Eric Moreland played almost the entire fourth quarter with Drummond out of the game and picked up 6 of his 10 rebounds during that stretch along with two blocked shots.

Nets: The fell to 13-25 at Barclays Center this season and just have one more game at home, April 9 against Chicago. Brooklyn went 13-28 at home last season and 14-27 during the 2015-16 season after making the playoffs during their first three years at Barclays Center after moving from New Jersey.

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TAMPA, Fla. — New Tampa Bay Buccaneers kicker Chandler Catanzaro is the Bucs’ eighth kicker in six seasons, but their struggles at the position — including swinging and missing badly with second-round draft pick Roberto Aguayo in 2016 — aren’t looming over his head like an imminent storm.

“I’m pretty aware [of the Bucs struggles],” said Catanzaro, 27, now in his fifth season. “Being a kicker, we’re in a pretty tight knit, close…almost fraternity. So we’re definitely aware but I wasn’t here during that time so I’m kind of looking forward to doing my thing this season. I’m really excited for the opportunity and very thankful.”

2018 NFL free agency
Kirk Cousins. Jimmy Graham. Andrew Norwell. This class is already wild. Here’s everything to know.

The Bucs believed in Catanzaro enough to reward him with a three-year contract worth $9.75 million, including $3.75 million guaranteed. By comparison, the Bucs’ last kicker Patrick Murray was on a one-year deal worth $540,000 with no guaranteed money. Nick Folk, a 10-year veteran before he got to Tampa, was on a one-year deal worth $1.75 million with $750,000 guaranteed.

“I promise you — it’s hard to believe — but I put more pressure on myself than anybody ever can or will, to succeed and to kick well and to do my best and to reach my potential,” Catanzaro said. “I hold myself to a very high standard, higher than anybody has ever or will ever hold me to. So that’s enough for me.

“I’m just focused on doing my best in my process and my routine. I rely on my routine so outside circumstances don’t really affect me as much. I’m very reliant on my process, routine, preparation. I work very hard at what I do. I watch a lot of film. I work hard in the weight room. So I’m focused on more of those things, and we’ll let the results take care of themselves.”

The Bucs were 3-7 in one-score games last year. Five of their 11 losses came in games with a three-point margin or in overtime. In Week 5 against the New England Patriots, Folk missed three field goals, and the Bucs lost 19-14. The Bucs also had three missed extra points last year, while Catanzaro didn’t miss any with the Jets.

“The extra points, that was a big thing for me last year,” Catanzaro said. “I think repping it more in practice and treating it like a 33-yard field goal instead of having that label as an extra point, I think that was big for me. I went 29-for-29. I’m definitely happy with the way that went. I’m excited to keep that going here.”
Catanzaro has made 84.6 percent of his career field goals in games decided by one score or less. By comparison, since 2013, Bucs kickers have made 77.1 percent of their field goals in games decided by seven points or fewer, second-to-last in the league in front of only the Cincinnati Bengals.

He also has long-range ability, something the Bucs have lacked the past two seasons, going just 37.5 percent of field goals from 50-plus, third-worst in the league. Since 2016, Catanzaro’s made 62.5 percent of his field goals from 50-plus yards. That includes a 57-yard field goal last season in a 17-14 win over the Cleveland Browns. In 2016, he drilled a 60-yard field goal in a loss to the Buffalo Bills, as well as making kicks from 54 and 56 yards. Those kicks did wonders for his confidence.

“I have kind of gotten more comfortable from that long range,” Catanzaro said. “The weather is good here, it’s pretty warm, so it should be conducive to pretty long kicks. We’ll see. Bottom line is, whenever a coach sends me out there, I expect to score. I hold myself to a very high standard. Whenever I get on the field, I’m expecting myself to score points for the team and help.”

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The outfield trio of Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich combined to hit 114 home runs and drive in 337 runs for the Marlins last season. The Marlins thanked them for their contributions by trading all three of them in separate trades to the Yankees, Cardinals, and Brewers, respectively. The club also sent second baseman Dee Gordon to the Marlins.

The word “fire sale” is strongly associated with the Marlins to this day despite new ownership – Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter — having taken over. The club opened the 2017 campaign with a payroll north of $115 million and ended the season around $155 million. According to Cot’s Contracts, the Marlins are poised to open the 2018 season below $90 million in obligations.

In the Stanton trade, the Marlins acquired prospects Jorge Guzman and Jose Devers as well as Starlin Castro from the Yankees. MLB Pipeline rates Guzman as the No. 4 prospect in the Marlins’ system now, and Devers at No. 25. Ozuna brought back from the Cardinals Magneuris Sierra, Daniel Castano, Zac Gallen, and Sandy Alcantara. Alcantara is now No. 3 in the Marlins’ system followed by Sierra at No. 7, and Gallen at No. 14. From the Brewers, Yelich returned to the Marlins Lewis Brinson (No. 1), Monte Harrison (No. 2), Isan Diaz (No. 8), and Jordan Yamamoto (No. 23). Gordon brought to Miami from Seattle Nick Neidert (No. 10), Christopher Torres (No. 18), and Robert Dugger. The club also sent reliever A.J. Ramos to the Mets for Merandy Gonzalez (No. 16) and Ricardo Cespedes. While many thought the Marlins could’ve done better, especially in the Stanton trade, the farm system has been replenished in a big way.

Both FanGraphs and Baseball Prospectus are projecting the Marlins to be the worst team in the National League, pegging the club at 64 and 66 wins, respectively. As we go through the roster position by position, it will be easy to see why the club isn’t likely to crack 70 wins.

Dan Straily will likely get the nod to start on Opening Day for the Marlins, leading a rotation that will also include Jose Urena and some combination of Adam Conley, Justin Nicolino, Dillon Peters, Jarlin Garcia, Chris O’Grady, and Odrisamer Despaigne. Straily is a perfectly fine starter, owning a 4.25 ERA across 633 1/3 innings in the majors, but he’s not the type of pitcher one often thinks about starting on Opening Day, especially when the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Madison Bumgarner, and Max Scherzer also get those honors. It speaks to the quality of the Marlins’ rotation.

Urena’s spot in the rotation is pretty much guaranteed after he compiled a 3.82 ERA across 28 starts and six relief appearances last year, fanning 113 batters in 169 2/3 innings. His defense-independent stats don’t scream “upside” but he’s as close to solid as the Marlins are going to get right now without bringing in a free agent.

Garcia could find his way into the rotation. Though he posted a meager 4.73 ERA in 53 1/3 innings of relief last year, the Marlins like him as a starter. The lefty started during most of his minor league career. Conley, Nicolino, and Despaigne represent low-upside retreads, but the Marlins may simply value their ability to eat innings more than anything else.

With Ramos gone, Brad Ziegler will return to the closer’s role for the Fish. The sidewinding right-hander had been relatively consistent over his career until last season. He finished with a 4.79 ERA and a paltry 26/16 K/BB ratio in 47 innings. Ziegler, of course, lives and dies based on his ability to induce ground balls rather than missing bats. The Marlins are likely hoping Ziegler rebounds to have a great first half so he can be traded to a contender. In that event, or if he struggles, Kyle Barraclough or Drew Steckenrider would likely be promoted to the closer’s role.

Barraclough has been terrific for the Marlins in 163 innings of relief work over the last three seasons despite a rather high walk rate at 14.5 percent. He fans hitters often (31.7%) with a mid-90’s fastball and slider combination. Steckenrider made his big league debut last year, fanning 54 and walking 18 with a 2.34 ERA in 34 2/3 innings of relief, showcasing similar upside as Barraclough.

The bullpen will be rounded out by Junichi Tazawa, Nick Wittgren, and likely some of the aforementioned rotation candidates that didn’t make the cut.

J.T. Realmuto will handle things behind the plate. He ranked among the league’s best catchers last year, batting .278/.332/.451 with 17 home runs and 65 RBI in 532 plate appearances. Baseball Reference credited him with 3.6 Wins Above Replacement. Unsurprisingly, the Marlins have received plenty of trade interest in Realmuto throughout the offseason, so it wouldn’t be surprising if he were dealt by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. Tomas Telis would get bumped up into a starting role if Realmuto is traded or gets injured followed by Bryan Holaday and Chad Wallach.

At first base, Justin Bour will return. Last year, he hit .289/.366/.536 with 25 home runs and 83 RBI in 429 PA. Assuming he can stay healthy and productive, he’ll get regular playing time all year. The Marlins may also be inclined to trade him if the right offer comes along.

Veteran Starlin Castro will handle things at second base after spending the last two years in the Bronx. A four-time All-Star, Castro hit .300 last season with 16 home runs and 63 RBI in 473 PA. His defense has always left something to be desired but he’s overall a serviceable player. Stop me if you’ve heard this one before, but the Marlins may be enticed to trade him by the end of July.

Shortstop J.T. Riddle is still on the mend after undergoing surgery to repair a torn labrum in his shoulder last summer. Miguel Rojas will handle the position until Riddle is ready to go. In his first season in the big leagues, Riddle cobbled together a disappointing .637 OPS across 247 PA. Rojas had a solid .736 OPS.

Martin Prado, poised to begin his 13th major league season at the age of 34, will be the club’s every day third baseman. He missed time last season due to knee and hamstring injuries, undergoing surgery to repair his knee. It’s still not known if he’ll be ready by Opening Day, in which case Brian Anderson would likely handle the position in his stead. In 2016, Prado played in 153 games and batted .305. He’s not too far separated from being healthy and productive. If he has a bounce-back season, Prado is yet another player who could be dealt to a contender this summer.

The Marlins’ new-look outfield now features Derek Dietrich in left and Cameron Maybin in center. Dietrich is no stranger to the outfield, but he’s primarily been an infielder during his career. In other words, he’s not the most ideal candidate to handle the position, but the Marlins are just looking for placeholders. Dietrich has a solid bat, having compiled a .759 OPS across his five-year career, but the standard for offense is higher in left field than it is at second base. Dietrich is likely to end up closer to replacement level as a result of the position change, not that it matters to a team expected to struggle to reach 70 wins. The Marlins may choose to platoon Dietrich with Scott Van Slyke.

Maybin, 30, makes his return to the Marlins. He was traded by the Tigers to the Marlins back in 2007 in the Miguel Cabrera/Dontrelle Willis deal. Maybin found himself on the world champion Astros last season when they selected him off waivers from the Angels on August 31. Overall, he hit a meager .228 with 10 home runs.

Brinson may be playing his way onto the Marlins’ Opening Day roster. In 22 at-bats, the 23-year-old has nine hits including five doubles and a home run. Sierra may also find himself in the Miami outfield sooner rather than later.

The Marlins overall are going to be hard to watch this season. Jeter and Sherman took a roster that was only a couple of rotation arms away from being competitive and stripped it down for parts. It may now be several years before the Marlins are competitive again. At the very least, though, the minor league system has been replenished. But at this point, Marlins fans may be tired of having to look forward.

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INDIANAPOLIS — Colts general manager Chis Ballard showed up for a news conference Wednesday — just not the one he expected.

Instead of introducing Josh McDaniels as the team’s new head coach, Ballard stood in front of reporters trying to explain why New England’s longtime offensive co-ordinator reneged on a deal he initially accepted.
But if Ballard’s disgust about losing his top choice wasn’t clear from the occasional glare or the strong pitch in his voice, he left no doubt with one parting shot.

“The rivalry is back on,” he said before leaving.

Conducting a coaching search in February isn’t what Ballard or Indy envisioned when Chuck Pagano was fired just hours after Indy completed a 4-12 season on Dec. 31.

Exactly 24 hours after announcing McDaniels’ hiring on the team’s Twitter account and roughly 16 hours after he called back to tell Ballard he was out, the search begins anew for the jilted Colts.

Their other finalist, Mike Vrabel, has already taken the Tennessee job. Another top-tier candidate, Mike Nagy, has already been hired in Chicago. Baylor coach Matt Rhule, who also interviewed for the job, is back on campus getting ready for spring football. And it’s unclear where the Colts may turn next.

“We have a list of candidates, I’ve had them from the get-go,” Ballard said. “There are other guys we wanted to interview, but because of the playoffs, we weren’t able to.

“We’ll move forward with them and we will get the right leader for the Indianapolis Colts — one that believes what we believe and wants to go where we want to go. I’m very confident in this.”

Ballard didn’t name names, of course, nor did he provide a timetable.

Oddly, the timing could present Indy with a unique opportunity to pick off a candidate who might emerge as a top candidate on next year’s coaching carousel.

Several possibilities exist including Philadelphia Eagles offensive co-ordinator Frank Reich, who was part of a Super Bowl victory over the Patriots with a backup quarterback.

The good news for Indy is that the only coaching vacancy still looks pretty attractive — if Andrew Luck is healthy.

Indy still has Pro Bowl receiver T.Y. Hilton, Pro Bowl tight end Jack Doyle, a revamped defence that showed major improvement as last season went along, the No. 3 pick in the draft and about $80 million to spend in free agency.

Luck, meanwhile, continues to be the big question as he rehabs from last January’s surgery for a partially torn labrum in his throwing shoulder.

Some believe McDaniels’ sudden change of heart was related to doubts about Luck’s health.

Ballard didn’t bother asking McDaniels why he made the decision.

On Wednesday, though, he attempted to alleviate lingering concerns about Luck while acknowledging the franchise quarterback still hasn’t thrown a football since returning from Europe late last year.

“At this point, we feel very strongly that Andrew is in a good place. He doesn’t need surgery,” Ballard said. “I have not gotten that from the two doctors that he’s seen here after the season. His strength is good. He’s working on his throwing motion and he’s working on his arm speed right now. He has not picked up a football, but he is throwing balls, working on arm speed.

“He’s going to do everything right to get himself ready to play and I’m very confident, he’s very confident, that he’s going to come back and prove a lot of people wrong,” Ballard added.

McDaniels decision didn’t just leave the Colts in the lurch.

Three assistant coaches — Matt Eberflus, Mike Phair and Dave DeGuglielmo — had already been hired in Indy.

While Ballard said he likes all three and will honour their contracts by keeping them on the next coach’s staff, others strongly criticized McDaniels from walking away from them.

“Haven’t read the article but I can tell you there is NO excuse big enough to justify this,” Dungy wrote on Twitter in response to a story that indicated McDaniels stayed with the Pats because he was more comfortable with the team.

“It’s one thing to go back on your word to an organization. But having assistant coaches leave jobs to go with you then leave them out to dry is indefensible.”

But as the news conference continued, Ballard said people say no to job offers every day, he wished McDaniels well at the end of Tuesday night’s brief call and that his primary concern now is finding someone who wants the job.

“To me, it’s about being right,” Ballard said. “You’ve got to be right. It doesn’t matter if you’re the first out of the box and everybody praises you or you are the last one to make the hire. We want to be right.”

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — The Panthers will not be punished for their handling of Cam Newton’s injury during a playoff loss to the New Orleans Saints on Jan. 7.

The NFL and the Players Association announced Wednesday that Carolina’s medical staff correctly followed concussion protocol guidelines. The league released a statement Wednesday saying it reviewed game footage and medical reports, as well as statements and interviews with Newton and coach Ron Rivera, before making its determination that “there was no protocol violation.”
After walking off the field with a second-half eye injury, Newton stumbled to the ground near the sideline when asked by trainers to take a knee.

The league said they believe that stumble was caused by a previous knee injury.

The NFL said the league’s 2015 MVP had an MRI on Jan. 8 that “confirmed ligament and cartilage damage and very extensive swelling in the knee.”

Panthers interim general manager Marty Hurney told The Associated Press on Wednesday that Newton will not need surgery on the knee.

Newton sat out one play, but returned on the next offensive series and finished the game.

Hurney said on Jan. 8 that Newton intentionally took a knee because he was told to by the team’s training staff so Carolina could get an official timeout, thus allowing backup quarterback Derek Anderson a little more time to warm up on the sideline.

Anderson came in for one third-down play and threw an incompletion.

“He took a hit,” Hurney said of Newton. “But when he walked off and he told the trainers he got poked in the eye, then they did take him into the tent and checked him for a concussion, which he did not have. And it was really getting poked in the eye.”

Up for debate in the investigation was whether Newton should have been taken to the locker room for evaluations.

The league and the players union changed its concussion protocol in December after Texans quarterback Tom Savage returned to the field after having a concussion that left the quarterback’s hands shaking following a hit.

The changes to the protocol include the requirement of a locker room concussion evaluation for all players “demonstrating gross or sustained vertical instability (e.g., stumbling or falling to the ground when trying to stand.)”

Newton did not visit the locker room.

Newton said after the team’s loss to the Saints that “it wasn’t my head. It was my eye. My helmet had come down low enough over my eyelid and it got pressed by the player’s stomach.”

“Our review of all of the facts do not support a claim of inappropriate medical care,” the NFL Players Association said in a statement. “Mr. Newton was immediately evaluated for a concussion and cleared by the team physician and unaffiliated neurotrauma consultant.”

The Seattle Seahawks were fined $100,000 in Week 10 after the league and union determined they failed to apply the concussion protocol properly after quarterback Russell Wilson took a blow to the head against the Arizona Cardinals.