Why the Nationals shouldn’t trade for Kris Bryant

With winter on the horizon, MLB free agency will soon be in full swing. Although given the financial strain of the pandemic, the big moves will be few and far between. Still, there are a handful of big names on the market that will alter the league landscape, and the NL East will be at the forefront of those shifts.

The Braves have already added pitcher Charlie Morton to their rotation. Morton helped bring the Tampa Bay Rays to the World Series in October, and will be a valuable veteran presence.

In addition, new Mets owner Steve Cohen has pledged to spend aggressively to build the team back into contenders, meaning some big names will be arriving to Flushing in the coming weeks.

Not only that, but the Phillies are at risk of losing catcher JT Realmuto, the best catcher in the game by a wide margin, and Bryce Harper really wants him back in Philly. If Realmuto walks, it could negatively affect the Phillies on and off the field.

Finally, the Marlins made the historical hire of Kim Ng as their general manager, and she could be looking to make a splash in her first year on the job. The bottom line is this will be a huge offseason for the NL East, and the Nationals will need to make a big move or two if they want any hope of getting back to the postseason in 2021.

While I’ve already discussed a few preliminary free agent targets last month, more names have been attached to the Nationals in recent weeks, notably two star infielders.

The Nats have reportedly been pursuing New York Yankees infielder DJ LeMahieu. The 2020 AL MVP Finalist is one of the best pure hitters in baseball, and one of the few Yankees that can actually stay healthy through a full season. He’s 32 years old, but would be a great fit in a Nats lineup that needs better bats. He’s primarily a second baseman, but he has experience at third and first, so the Nats could play him wherever they feel he’d fit best.

Unfortunately, it seems LeMahieu is more likely to re-sign with the Bronx Bombers, so the Nats will have to look elsewhere, despite Juan Soto’s interest in LeMahieu. Now, talks about trading for Cubs’ third baseman Kris Bryant have intensified.

I think going down that path would be a mistake.

Playing Carter Kieboom at third base was a failed experiment in 2020, and the Nats need better bats in the lineup to supplement Soto and Trea Turner. Enter Bryant, the 2016 NL MVP who played an instrumental role in ending the Cubs’ 108-year World series drought.

The Las Vegas native will turn 29 in January, and he will make around $18 million this year in his final season before hitting free agency. Since his meteoric rise in 2015-16, Bryant has been up and down; he had a solid year in 2017 before taking a step back in 2018. He returned to form in 2019 with 31 home runs, 77 RBI and a .282/.382/.521 slash line, which is the type of production the Nats would really benefit from.

2020 was a different story; Bryant played just 34 of a possible 60 games and hit just four home runs and 11 RBI. He struck out 40 times and hit a horrendous .206. Obviously the sample size was much smaller, and he did deal with injuries, but those numbers translate to about 18 home runs, 52 RBI and 176 strikeouts across 150 games. To put that into perspective, Bryant’s career-lows are 13 home runs and 52 RBI, and his career-high 199 strikeouts led the NL in 2015.

Not only that, but Bryant can also be a liability defensively. He finished with a .947 fielding percentage in 2019, the lowest among eligible major league third basemen that year. He has obviously proven he can play third base at an MVP level and hold down the fort on the hot corner, but if his offensive game continues to decline, his defensive performance could turn ugly fast.

Those are just a handful of basic stats that don’t paint the full picture, but clearly Bryant was not on the upswing in 2020. In such an abnormal year, his performance is less of a red flag than it would be in a full season, but it still isn’t encouraging. It is very possible Bryant resurges in 2021, especially if it’s in a new environment, but it’s no guarantee.

So Bryant isn’t as great as he was five years ago, but does Washington have any better alternatives? Thrusting Kieboom back at third won’t happen, at least not full time, and Asdrúbal Cabrera is 35 years old and a free agent. LeMahieu could theoretically play third if signed, or Starlin Castro could move to third while LeMahieu plays second, but none of that matters if LeMahieu doesn’t sign here.

I mentioned Justin Turner as a free agent choice last month, but his chances of signing in DC are even slimmer than LeMahieu’s at this point. Looking at all the options, Bryant would still be the best play at third by far. Despite the concerns, he’s a proven everyday third baseman, and unless his offensive numbers completely fall off a cliff like they did in 2020, then he would improve the lineup.

His experience in left field could also help the team throughout the season as a fill-in for any injuries or lineup shuffling. His $18 million salary is also less than Anthony Rendon’s $35 million average annual value (AAV) and Josh Donaldson’s $21 million, and both were on the Nationals’ radar a year ago. (Of course Rendon was already on the Nats, but they were looking to re-sign him.)

Looking at it purely from a personnel perspective, Bryant would be a figurative and literal home run acquisition for this team. However, there is more than one perspective when it comes to evaluating signings and trades, and the others suggest the Nats may want to pass on him.

Bryant’s contract status and the Nationals’ farm system put a major stink on a potential trade. Bryant’s $18 million sounds nice, but as a free agent next year with Scott Boras as his agent, Bryant will command much more. Granted, if his poor play from 2020 carries over to 2021, he likely won’t receive a huge salary bump, but then in that scenario, he wouldn’t be worth paying what he’d receive on the open market.

With Mike Rizzo’s track record with premium non-pitcher free agents, it’s likely Bryant could walk after just one season, which leads to the other problem: what it would take to bring him here.

Bryant is not a free agent, so he would have to be acquired by trade, which would require shipping out prospects. Washington’s farm system is depleted and low rated as is (no Nats prospects are ranked in the MLB Top 100 this year), and bringing in a player of Bryant’s caliber would require parting ways with high-level prospects.

The Nats are reportedly “determined” to keep their top two prospects, Jackson Rutledge and Cade Cavalli, but with other suitors in the trade market for Bryant’s services, a deal would require one or both of those pitchers to outbid the other teams.

Kieboom was an enticing piece a year ago, but he tanked all of his trade value this season. He still has hope of making it in the majors, but he needs more time. He is no longer a headlining prospect in a trade package.

With Max Scherzer’s getting up there in age, the Nats will need one or both of those guys to come in and succeed in order to keep the team competitive once Scherzer departs or retires. That’s still a few years away (if Scherzer re-signs in 2022), but shipping those guys away for one season of Bryant is not worth it.

Even if Bryant comes to Washington, re-signs the following year and stays in DC on a long-term contract, he will be 30 in 2022, and any contract that keeps him with the Nats will pay him big money well into his mid-to-late 30s.

The Nats will see Turner hit free agency in 2023, and Soto and Victor Robles will follow in 2025. Bryant’s contract would extend through all of that, and make it more difficult to retain one or more of those key players.

There’s no doubt Bryant would make the Nationals a better team in 2021, but at what cost? Worth giving up our top prospects in an already weak system? Worth trading for just one season of his service? Or instead, worth throwing a big contract at him at the risk of him declining even further? Worth losing one of Turner, Soto or Robles? I don’t think so.

The options at third base beyond Bryant are slim, but with everything they could lose, it’s in their best interest to explore the alternatives.

Cover Photo Credit: Lynne Sladky/AP

The Pohory-list: The 10 Best Names in DC Sports History (plus a bonus list)

The popular sketch comedy show, Key & Peele, ran from 2012-2015 on Comedy Central. The show starred Keegan-Michael Key and Jordan Peele in what became a classic show of the 2010s. One of their most classic sketches, “the East/West Bowl,” made fun of the crazy player names that come out of college football.

The sketch was inspired by longtime New York Jets offensive tackle, D’Brickashaw Ferguson, whose unique name prompted the comedy duo to come up with the wackiest names possible and present them in a similar style to the Sunday Night Football player introductions. The result was an all-time great sketch.

If you’re not familiar, please take the time to watch all three installments below (or at least the first one):

The first installment has nearly 54.5 million views at the time this post was published.
While the second one is not as strong as the first one (in my opinion), it still managed to churn out some all-time great player names.
The final installment was released prior to Super Bowl XLIX in 2015, and featured several real-life NFL players with interesting names, including D’Brickashaw Ferguson, the inspiration behind the sketch.

While it has been over five years since the last episode of Key & Peele aired, there are still plenty of interesting names that will be entering the college football world in the coming years, including Decoldest “ToEvaDoIt” Crawford and General Booty.

In the spirit of the Key & Peele East/West Bowl, I will be ranking the 10 most interesting names of Washington players all-time. Whether they played in DC for just one game or for 20 years, any player who has ever suited up for Washington qualifies.

Recent Capitals draft picks Hendrix Lapierre and Bear Hughes may one day be in the running for this list, but since they have yet to actually play for Washington (and they likely won’t for at least a few years), they do not qualify. This applies for all minor league players that never played with a Washington team despite being within the organization.

For most of the series we do here at The Wildcard, statistics, performance and overall impact are all major factors. Here, none of that matters. This is purely about the most uniquely named people to ever play in Washington.

10. Rod Breedlove, Washington Football LB (1960-64)

Photo Credit: Pinterest

There’s nothing crazy about the name Rod, but combining it with the last name ‘Breedlove’ is just mean. I can’t imagine the jokes he constantly had to suffer through, but the 1960s is probably the best time to have that name.

If he were around and playing today, he probably wouldn’t be able to log on to Twitter without seeing a joke about his name, and if he was in his prime in the 1970s and ’80s, he might have been in a different line of work that much better suits his name…

The best part about Breedlove is that for one season he was teammates with quarterback Dick Shiner. The 1964 Washington Football Team had Rod Breedlove and Dick Shiner on their roster; what a time to be alive.

9. Admiral Schofield, Washington Wizards PF (2019-20)

Photo Credit: Brandon Dill/Associated Press

The second-year forward was just recently traded to the Oklahoma City Thunder on Draft Day along with the 37th overall pick in exchange for the 53rd overall pick (which the Wizards used on Cassius Winston) and a 2024 second-rounder. Schofield didn’t make too much of an impact in his rookie season, averaging 3.0 points, 1.4 rebounds and 0.5 assists in 11.2 minutes per game, splitting time between the Wizards and the G-League’s Capital City Go-Go.

Stats aside, looking at his name, you’d think he was a World War II officer for the Royal Navy (he was even born in London). The best part is he actually has a brother named General.

Hopefully Admiral can take the next step forward and establish a solid NBA career in OKC, but after just one season in Washington, he made a great impact in the name department.

8. Errol Rausse, Washington Capitals LW (1979-82)

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Upon a quick Google search of the meaning behind the name “Errol,” I found “warrior,” “prince,” and “boar wolf,” among others. There aren’t too many Old English names that we see today, but I’d imagine Rausse was still in rare company back in the ’80s.

The Canadian forward played just 31 games at the NHL level, all with the Caps, and spent most of his professional career in the AHL with the Hershey Bears. Playing 24 games in 1979-80 at 20 years old, Rausse totaled a career-high eight points (6g, 2a).

Hockey names are tricky because there are a lot of European players who have names that are considered to be rare among North Americans, but are still common enough in their native countries. For Canadians, however, Rausse is certainly in the more obscure category.

7. Lastings Milledge, Washington Nationals OF (2008-09)

Photo Credit: Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images

Milledge was the everyday center fielder for the 2008 Nationals that finished 59-102. While the team was terrible, Milledge was actually relatively productive. His 14 home runs and 61 RBI led the team, and he hit decently with a .268 average.

A poor start in 2009 led to Milledge being optioned down to Triple-A ball, and by June he was traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates in a deal that brought in franchise legend Nyjer Morgan to Washington. He was out of Major League Baseball for good by 2011.

6. Fish Smithson, Washington Football S (2017)

Photo Credit: Baltimore Ravens

“Smithson” is a fairly tame last name, but it doesn’t matter. If your first name is “Fish,” you will make it on any name-related list. Unfortunately, the former Washington safety loses some points here because his birth name was Anthony; otherwise he’d be on the Mount Rushmore of DC sports player names.

Regardless, he is still listed on NFL rosters and databases as “Fish Smithson,” and that warrants recognition. What’s even better is he doesn’t know how to swim and received the nickname “Fish” from his grandmother because he was afraid of the animal.

The Baltimore native began his college career at Hartnell, a community college in Salinas, California. He transferred to Kansas his sophomore year in 2015, where he went on to lead the nation in solo tackles and earn Second Team All-Big 12. He posted a career-high four interceptions and two forced fumbles as a senior in 2016 and earned First Team All-Big 12.

He went undrafted in 2017, but appeared in two games for Washington, which remain his only two regular season NFL appearances to date.

5. Delbert Cowsette, Washington Football DT (2001-02)

Photo Credit: 247Sports/Getty

No this isn’t a farmhand from a Disney movie, this is a former NFL defensive tackle who spent two seasons in the NFL, both with Washington. He didn’t make any starts, but he never missed a game, recording two career sacks. He spent the rest of his playing days in and out of arena football.

The University of Maryland alum started coaching with the Terps in 2008, and has since served different roles throughout the collegiate and professional circuit. He’s currently back in College Park as a defensive line coach.

Cowsette himself is from Ohio, but his name just sounds like a friendly man from Mississippi who smokes some of the best ribs you ever tasted. Obscure comparison, yes, but I wish I could be a defensive linemen at Maryland because I would run through a brick wall for Coach Cowsette.

4. Coy Bacon, Washington Football DE (1978-81)

Photo Credit: Irontron Tribune

A three-time Pro Bowler defensive end, Lander Bacon spent his last four NFL seasons with Washington to wrap up his 14-year career. With the middle name “McCoy,” he went by “Coy Bacon,” giving him one of the greatest names in Washington sports history.

His name literally translates to “bashful pig meat,” but you could describe Bacon as anything but reserved on the football field. He began his career behind the Fearsome Foursome defensive line with the LA Rams, and soon after elevated to a starting role, where he made his first two All-Pro Second Teams in 1971 and ’72.

After a stint with the San Diego Chargers, he was traded to the Cincinnati Bengals, where in 1976 he posted a league-high 21.5 sacks, before the stat was officially recorded. Some sources claim he posted 26 sacks that season, which would best Michael Strahan’s current NFL record of 22.5 by an absurd margin. Either way, it’s widely agreed that Bacon finished with around 130 career sacks (unofficially), right around three Hall of Famers in Lawrence Taylor (132.5), Rickey Jackson (128) and Derrick Thomas (126.5).

Despite these incredible feats, Bacon was never named First Team All-Pro and was never even a semi-finalist for the Hall of Fame. Being in the Hall of Fame of player names isn’t much of a consolation, but he earns that spot nonetheless.

3. Terrmel Sledge, Washington Nationals OF (2005*)

Photo Credit: Nats Cards

Sledge holds two very important places in Nationals history despite playing just 20 games in the nation’s capital. He was the first player to hit a home run as a Washington National, and he was included in the trade that brought All-Star Alfonso Soriano to DC prior to the 2006 season.

Sledge began his career in 2004 with the Montreal Expos, where he had his best major league season by far. He was third on the team in both home runs (15) and RBI (62) and he slashed .269/.336/.462. He finished tied for sixth in NL Rookie of the Year voting (receiving just one vote), and he moved with the franchise for their inaugural season in DC. That first home run was his only big moment as a Nat, however. After playing 20 games, Sledge ruptured his hamstring on May 2 and was out for the season, and he was shipped away that offseason.

Let’s not get away from why he’s on this list and in the top three, though. His name sounds like it came straight out of the East/West Bowl. I wouldn’t be surprised if he was the long-lost cousin of Torque [construction noise] Lewith. It’s not everyday you meet a guy named Terrmel, and adding on the last name Sledge just makes it all more perfect.

2. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Washington Football S (2018)

Photo Credit: Mark Tenally/Associated Press

The former Pro Bowl safety had a pretty uneventful nine-game stint in Washington at the end of the 2018 season, but it was more than enough time to set himself up as one of the greatest names in DC history. Unlike most of the players on this list, the attention surrounding his name has been in the mainstream since he entered the league in 2014 with the Green Bay Packers.

In some ways, it’s become normalized, but that shouldn’t take away from the mystique of a man’s first name being a literal laughing sound (although his full first name is Ha’Sean). The fact that he is named Clinton-Dix and he played in Washington about 20 years after the Bill ClintonMonica Lewinsky scandal also adds an intense level of irony.

All references aside, Clinton-Dix has since went on to play for the Chicago Bears, and was later released from the Dallas Cowboys prior to this season. He clearly wasn’t much of a fit in Washington, but given Troy Apke’s performance at safety this season, it may not hurt to try and bring him back in for a redo. Regardless, he easily has one of the best names in city history.

1. God Shammgod, Washington Wizards PG (1997-98)

Photo Credit: Oakley and Allen

You’d be hard-pressed to find a name greater than this. This top slot isn’t even up for debate. The late-90s Providence star is considered one of the greatest ball-handlers in the history of basketball, and is the namesake for the famous “Shammgod” crossover.

Shammgod played basketball all over the world, and is currently a player development coach with the Dallas Mavericks, but he played just 20 career NBA games, all with the Wizards. He was drafted 45th overall in the 1997 NBA Draft and averaged 3.1 points, 1.8 assists and 0.4 steals in 7.3 minutes per game in his lone season.

His best game was on Apr. 9, 1998, where he played a career-high 23 minutes and posted career-highs in points (12) and rebounds (2) while adding on three assists (his career-high was seven). Despite having such a short NBA career, Shammgod continues to have an extreme impact on the basketball world, and it is an honor that his entire NBA career was spent in Washington.

Bonus Pohory-list: Top 10 Old-Timey Senators Nicknames

Ok I know what you’re thinking:

Wow, what a treat. Two lists in one post? Guess I know what I’ll be thankful for this Thanksgiving.

Yes, you’re welcome. Here’s some extra reading material to enjoy.

The reason I make these two separate lists is because when I say the best names in DC sports history, that obviously includes the Washington Senators. Thing is, back in the days of the original Senators, pretty much every player had a nickname, each one more ridiculous than the last.

Even though a few players on the list above went by their nicknames, I felt they were modern enough to be worthy of exception. If I included the many odd nicknames from the Senators, they would probably fill up most of the list and take away from the people with wilder birth names. So to compromise, here is a list of the 10 best nicknames from the Washington Senators:

10. General Crowder, pitcher (1926-27, 1930-35)

Alvin Crowder served in the army during World War I, but never reached General. His nickname was instead based on General Enoch Crowder (no relation), who served in that rank from 1911-1923.

This name isn’t completely out there and unprecedented, as we’ve already encountered General Booty and General Schofield in this article alone, but it warrants mention.

9. Dizzy Sutherland, pitcher (1949)

Howard Sutherland made just one major league appearance, making a start against the St. Louis Browns. He lasted just one inning; despite allowing just two hits, he walked six batters and allowed five earned runs for a career ERA of 45.00.

I couldn’t find anything on the origin of his nickname, but it probably had to do with having to keep track of all the guys he let on base. Coincidentally, he was born in Washington, played his only game in Washington and died in Washington.

8. Happy Townsend, pitcher (1902-05)

John Townsend couldn’t have been happy in 1904 when he led the majors with 26(!) losses and 19(!) wild pitches. I know it was a different era but jeez, get a grip John.

7. Chief Youngblood, pitcher (1922)

“Chief,” as you’ll see later in this list, was a common nickname in baseball. This name combination is just awesome, and is much cooler than his real name, Albert Youngblood.

He appeared in just two games and pitched 4.1 innings in the majors, allowing nine hits and seven earned runs to give himself a career 14.54 ERA. That ain’t it, Chief. (I cringed just typing that, but I’m leaving it so you can cringe too).

6. Hippo Vaughn, pitcher (1912)

James Vaughn played in the majors from 1908 to 1921, but only 12 games came in a Washington uniform. His nickname stems from his size (6’4″, 215 pounds).

For reference, Clayton Kershaw is 6’4″ and 225 pounds, which isn’t small by any means, but certainly not deserving of comparison to a hippo. This just epitomizes how much humans, especially athletes, have revolutionized over the past 100 years.

5. Jug Thesenga, pitcher (1944)

Arnold Thesenda was another pitcher with a short major league stint. He pitched just five games and 12.1 innings, allowing seven earned runs for a 5.11 ERA.

The nickname apparently came from the saying at the time that curveballs looked like jug handles, which seems oddly unspecific to Thesenga himself. I feel like pretty much all major league pitchers could throw curveballs, even back then. Given Thesenga’s track record, it didn’t seem like he was the best at throwing curveballs either, which makes the nickname extra confusing. Either way, Jug is a funny name.

4. Firpo Marberry, pitcher (1923-32, 1936)

Firpo. I don’t think that needs any explanation. His real name was Frederick, and he received his nickname due to his resemblance to Argentine boxer Luis Firpo, so… pretty obscure.

Marberry is the most accomplished player on this list though, as he led the majors in saves five times. He was a great bullpen arm in an era that didn’t have too many.

3. Boileryard Clarke, catcher/first baseman (1901-1904)

This one almost angers me. His real name was William. Nicknames should be simple and less complicated to say. Boileryard is just a mouthful.

He apparently got the name because he had a “terrible voice that could be heard all over the diamond.” Ok? Boileryard was the best they could come up with? At least it sounds like a name from the East/West Bowl.

2. Chief Hogsett, pitcher (1938)

As mentioned, Chief isn’t a rare nickname, but pairing it with Hogsett is a wild combination. Elon Hogsett is quite the name as well, but Chief adds a certain je ne sais quoi.

The name Hogsett almost sounds a little dirty; I feel like he’d be friends with Rod Breedlove, if not colleagues.

1. Coot Veal, shortstop (1961)

Orville Veal could be a distant ancestor of Coy Bacon, as his nickname pretty much translates to an “crazy old baby cow.” He received the name from his high school coach, and it managed to stick.

He spent one uneventful season with the second version of the Senators, but this absolutely bizarre name makes the top of this list easily. This could fit into the East/West Bowl sketch seamlessly.

Honorable Mention: George “Showboat” Fisher would have made this list, but he didn’t receive the nickname Showboat until 1930 with the St. Louis Cardinals, six years after he left the Senators that won the 1924 World Series.

Wizards snag Avdija, Winston in 2020 Draft

After a long wait, the 2020 NBA Draft finally took place last night, and the Washington Wizards used their ninth overall selection on Israeli superstar Deni Avdija. The 6’9″, 220-pound wing was projected by many experts to go in the top five, but he fell all the way to ninth for the Wizards to snatch up.

In my early evaluations of draft prospects back in April following the lottery, I actually put Avdija in the “avoid” section, citing the fact that he seemed like a fairly raw prospect, and his numbers were also not great, especially when it came to shooting.

Taking all of that into account, landing him ninth overall certainly looks like a bargain. With John Wall and Bradley Beal poised to lead the offense along with last year’s ninth overall pick Rui Hachimura, Avdija won’t be pressured into a primary offensive role to start off, but he still has the talent to contribute right away.

Avdija should serve as a boost defensively, especially off the ball, which is a welcome sign for the Wizards. The team had the worst defense in the league last season, and could use all the help they can get.

As I said in April, he could end up being one of the best players in this draft, or he could be just ‘meh.’ Now it’s up to how the franchise develops him, and how he can adjust to the NBA.

Avdija has experience as a guard and small forward, which the Wizards could really use. With Wall and Beal leading the back court, Hachimura and hopefully Davis Bertāns playing at the four and Thomas Bryant holding down the center spot, Avdija will get to rotate with Troy Brown Jr. at small forward.

If those guys can all mesh and play to their potential, there is every reason to expect the Wizards to get back into the playoffs next season, likely in the six- to eight-seed range. Obviously the upcoming free agency period could change the league landscape, but there aren’t really any franchise-altering players in this year’s class, assuming Anthony Davis runs it back with the Lakers, which is pretty much a done deal.

It’ll take a bonafide top five league-wide player to put the Wizards into legit championship contention, and while it doesn’t seem as if Avdija will reach that level, this franchise will be able to take a step forward.

In the second round, the Wizards used the 37th overall pick on Vit Krejci, a low-ranked point guard from the Czech Republic. He averaged 3.2 points in nine minutes per game last season with Casademont Zaragoza in the Spanish league. The 20-year-old is recovering from an ACL injury and likely won’t enter the league for a few years.

The pick was a bit puzzling considering Duke’s Tre Jones, Michigan State’s Cassius Winston and Arizona’s Nico Mannion were all still on the board and would all have a good chance to break in as a backup guard immediately. But then, the Wizards pretty much instantly traded Krejci away to the Oklahoma City Thunder in exchange for the 53rd overall pick and a future second-rounder.

With our luck, Krejci will turn into the next Luka Dončić, but I still like the player the Wizards took with the 53rd pick: the aforementioned Winston. Winston was a three-year starter at point guard in his four seasons at Michigan State, where he won Big Ten Player of the Year after leading the Spartans to the Final Four in 2019. He also was named Second Team All-American in each of his final two seasons.

The Wizards needed reserve guard help, and they get that in Winston, who at 22 years old is considered a low ceiling prospect, but should still be able to contribute as a reserve right away. After taking a big swing on Avdija, nabbing Winston late in the second round seems like a great compliment.

Second-round picks don’t usually hit big, and Winston likely won’t be any exception to that, but if he can come in and serve as a reliable guard off the bench to pour in some extra points and assists, that’s all you can ask for. He shot 44.8 percent from the field and 43.2 percent from three in his final season, which should give Washington some nice shooting depth. He’s a Michigan State legend who will hopefully be able to carve out a solid role in the NBA.

Immediate reaction: The Wizards walk away with two solid prospects with upside that fill positions of need. We obviously have to see how things materialize, but it looks like a good draft.

I just wish they could have drafted Arkansas’ Isaiah Joe as well. Selfishly, I would love to have a real NBA jersey that just says “Joe” on the back. I suppose I could still get one, but I’m not sure I want Philly gear in my closet. Guess I’ll have to wait until he’s on another team.

Cover Photo Credit: Antonio Calanni/Associated Press

Caps reveal new Reverse Retro jerseys

Adidas partnered with the NHL to create a new series of jerseys for all 31 NHL teams. The new alternate jerseys take a spin on a retro jersey from the franchise’s past. The Capitals have their classic late-90s era “Screaming Eagle” sweater, although now the color scheme is red, white and blue as opposed to the original blue, black and gold.

The immediate reception online is mixed. Some are already emptying their pockets while others are revolted by the combination of the old logo and new color scheme. For an alternate jersey to be worn on occasion, I think it works.

I personally hated the blue, black and gold color scheme and nearly all of the jerseys that came with it. The original white Screaming Eagle was the only one I could stomach, so I think Adidas made a good choice reprising that one.

I’ll admit the Screaming Eagle looks unnatural in red, white and blue, but that doesn’t make it a bad thing. I would not mind adding it to my jersey collection, and I think it’s a nice switch-up from the normal logo in front.

Maybe I’m biased, but I think this Reverse Retro jersey looks better than most of the other ones around the league, especially when teams like the Oilers, Islanders and Flyers have ones that barely look different.

Back in April, I ranked the four DC teams’ alternate uniforms over the past 15 years, and if I add these new Reverse Retros to the rankings, I’d say they fall somewhere in the 5-7 range. These are far from the worst, but I wouldn’t call them the best alternates in recent memory.

I’m really looking forward to seeing these on the ice in real life, as that will be the true environment to judge how good they look, but for now, it’s nice to get some NHL buzz going as the offseason slowly moves along.

Cover Photo Credit – Washington Capitals

Assessing the Dead NFL Trade Deadline

Despite being just 2-5, the Washington Football Team is still in the playoff hunt. If there’s an opportunity to get into the playoffs, coach Ron Rivera will take it. While in previous years, a 2-5 record would make Washington sellers at the trade deadline, but that was not the case this year.

On one hand, after so many years of losing, it would make sense for Rivera to want to establish a winning culture, even if it is taking advantage of the 2020 NFC East, arguably the worst division in NFL history. Giving this roster even one game of playoff experience would be helpful for the young players on the team.

On the other hand, there is still a long way to go until this team can legitimately contend, so perhaps they would have been wise to part way with some players in order to add some assets that would help in the long term.

On Tuesday, the NFL Trade Deadline came and went, and the Washington Football Team, along with the rest of league, didn’t really do anything. There were three total trades, but none had any major impact, and it seemed like every team was content with moving forward as they were.

The Washington Football Team, however, could have really benefitted from moving a few of their players and setting themselves up with extra draft assets going forward.

Entering the deadline, it seemed like at least three players could have been on the move. Ryan Kerrigan, who has been with the franchise longer than everyone on the roster besides long snapper Nick Sundberg, had reportedly requested a trade after seeing his playing time diminished. Kerrigan is 32 and still a productive pass-rusher, and likely would have returned a mid-round pick.

Instead, the team made clear to other teams that the franchise sack leader will not be moved, and Rivera has pledged to use Kerrigan more, saying he values his leadership and experience on a relatively young roster.

That’s all fine, but with Kerrigan on an expiring contract, it’s much more likely that he leaves for nothing this offseason rather than him re-signing. Any sentimental fan does not want Kerrigan to leave at all, myself included, but if he is going to leave this offseason anyway, it would have made sense to try to get something in return for him.

Now, if he re-signs this offseason, then it makes more sense not letting him go at the deadline. Given the lack of action across the league, it’s also possible that there weren’t any compelling offers. Kerrigan can still produce, so hopefully Rivera sticks to his word and makes keeping Kerrigan worthwhile.

The other big name with trade rumors was Dwayne Haskins Jr. The second-year quarterback was benched after Week 4 this season and was dropped down to third on the depth chart behind Kyle Allen and Alex Smith. There have been conflicting reports about his future with the team, with his camp reportedly expecting an “inevitable” trade at some point, and Rivera saying he still has a future in Washington.

At this point, Washington will likely either finish with a top 10 first-round pick or somehow win the division and not pick until the 16-20 range. There are three quarterback prospects expected to go in the first round should Washington decide to start over at quarterback.

Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence is the presumptive first overall pick and it would take a lot for Washington to get the top pick. Ohio State’s Justin Fields will likely go in the top 3-5; he’s a more realistic option if Washington can sink that low. North Dakota State’s Trey Lance could realistically wind up anywhere at this point, but he has the most question marks of the three.

If Washington wins the division, there’s a good chance they miss on all three barring a trade, and at this point it seems like Lance would be the only one still around by the time the team would pick in the top 10. If they choose not to select a quarterback in the first round, it is possible Haskins would have a chance to win the starting job back, unless the bridges are truly burnt.

If Haskins’ camp is correct and there truly is no going back, and Washington does not draft an adequate replacement at quarterback, then who do they turn to in 2021? Allen is not a starting-caliber quarterback in this league; that much is clear. Smith just won’t be a factor, and the team will probably get out of his contract anyway. Just like every year, it seems like the Washington quarterback situation will be a major question mark entering 2021.

Ryan Anderson has been the subject of trade rumors since the offseason, but the defensive end/linebacker remains on the team. Like Kerrigan, Anderson is on the final year of his contract. Now both players will be free agents this offseason, and there’s a decent chance both players walk.

Given the lack of action league-wide, it’s harder to criticize the team for standing pat during the deadline, but if none of these players return next season, it would be tough not to look back and wonder why nothing was done.

To be fair, the team reportedly did not receive any good offers for Haskins, and they likely received no calls for Anderson. You can’t make any trades if you can’t find a partner, but it’s disappointing they could not have set themselves up better for the future, especially leading into an offseason where they are expected to have over $50 million in cap space, and that’s before you factor in Smith’s likely release.

The team still has half the season left to play, so they have plenty of opportunities to move around in the draft order. Now we’re left to see if the inaction was the best action.

Cover Photo Credit: The Athletic

Evaluating the Era of Curse-Breaking (WTBU Sports)

This post was originally published with WTBU Sports.

Everyone loves a good underdog story. To see the Davids of the world take down the Goliaths makes us feel better. It allows us to believe that if those people can overcome the odds and accomplish something seemingly impossible, then maybe we can too – Disney has been profiting off of this feeling for decades.

But what happens when the Goliath keeps getting knocked down by a bunch of Davids? At a certain point, these supposed “villains” develop a bit of an underdog reputation of their own, and the tables are turned to where they are viewed as the hero. 

No, I’m not talking about the 2010 DreamWorks film Megamind, and not because it’s one of the few films Disney is not profiting off of, but for nearly half a decade, this dynamic has dominated the North American sports landscape when it comes to struggling athletes and suffering fanbases.

Since 2016, the four major American sports leagues have seen a constant trend of perennial chokers (the Goliaths-turned-Davids) or teams in the midst of long championship droughts (the Davids-turned-Goliaths) finally reaching the pinnacle and getting that classic movie ending.

The Los Angeles Dodgers are now the most recent example. The Dodgers have been the best National League team of the decade… when it comes to regular season success. They have won eight straight division titles and made their third Fall Classic since 2017. The last time they won fewer than 90 games in a full season was 2012. They are Goliaths in every sense of the word, but the one thing maring this great stretch in Dodger history was the lack of hardware.

They have choked in the playoffs so many times in recent years, that despite being the top-seeded team in the National League, yet again, for the 2020 postseason, it would have no longer been a surprise to see them come up short. These Dodgers were the most prominent playoff chokers in North American sports today, but they just became the next Goliath-turned-David to reach the mountaintop.

The city of Los Angeles isn’t exactly starved of a championship – the Lakers just won the NBA title a few weeks ago – but the Dodgers ended the franchise’s 32-year championship drought. It also solidified the legacy of Clayton Kershaw, arguably the greatest pitcher of his era.

Kershaw himself was the most prevalent individual embodiment of a Goliath-turned-David. For years, he’s dominated on the mound, winning three Cy Youngs and one NL MVP award. Whenever he takes the mound before October, he is the pitcher to be feared, but after multiple postseason meltdowns, he often felt like the underdog in the playoffs.

Kershaw won both of his World Series starts, putting the Dodgers in a great position to clinch, which they did last night. The Dodgers are the most recent example, but let’s look back on the incredible, ongoing run of curse-breakers and choke-shakers.

2016

Going back to 2016, two major droughts were broken when the Cleveland Cavaliers and Chicago Cubs each won championships. 

LeBron James was already a two-time champion with the Miami Heat but had yet to bring his hometown team to the promised land. He had gotten close and fallen short numerous times with the Cavs, including Finals losses in 2007 and 2015. But after trailing 3-1 to the 73-9 Golden State Warriors, James battled back and won the city of Cleveland its first title since 1964.

Cleveland nearly got its second title in months when the Indians took on the Chicago Cubs in the 2016 World Series, but it was the Cubs’ turn to break a drought, ending their 108-year gap between championships. There was no real individual player on that roster that fit the Kershaw mold, and the Cubs hadn’t really choked in any playoff series since 2003, but the drought was so notorious that it undoubtedly fit the narrative.

These two monumental drought-ending championships opened the floodgates for more like them to follow.

2017

2017 continues the trend, but it contains a few caveats as two legendary athletes were able to add to their legacies. First was Kevin Durant with the Golden State Warriors. The elite forward had scoring titles, All-NBA selections and an MVP award to his name, but was unable to capture a championship with the Oklahoma City Thunder. Prior to the 2016-17 season, he famously signed with the 73-9 Warriors that had knocked his Thunder out of the Western Conference Finals and narrowly lost to the Cavs in the Finals.

Golden State instantly became title favorites, and they followed through to give Durant his first NBA championship. That said, the Warriors had just won the championship two years prior and were in the Finals for the third year in a row, meaning there was no drought to erase, and the team became an even bigger Goliath than it was before, taking away any favorite-turned-underdog notion. Still, Durant had fallen short in the playoffs plenty of times before, but finally got his ring in 2017.

Many fans still debate the legitimacy of Durant’s rings today, but an even bigger controversy surrounds the 2017 Houston Astros, who cheated their way to their first World Series title in franchise history, giving Houston its first champion since 1995. Not to mention it also gave legendary pitcher Justin Verlander a ring, who like Kershaw was a Cy Young winner and MVP and is among the top pitchers of his time.

Of course, the entire sign-stealing scandal throws the legitimacy of that championship up in the air, if not entirely out the window, but at the time it was viewed as yet another athlete, franchise and city that had received its first championship after many years of waiting.

2018

The following year saw two more major droughts fall down. First was the Philadelphia Eagles, who won their first Super Bowl in franchise history and made the NFC East the first division to have each of its franchises be Super Bowl winners.

Then, that summer the Washington Capitals won their first Stanley Cup in franchise history, giving the nation’s capital its first championship since 1992. The Capitals were prominent playoff chokers, winning the President’s Trophy as regular season champions three times and faltering in the second round or earlier before they got over the hump in 2018. 

The win also gave Alex Ovechkin a much-deserved Stanley Cup, solidifying him as one of the greatest players of his era. Ovechkin and the Caps were one of the best regular season teams of the 2010s, but early exits became expected. Finally in 2018, they had something to show for it.

2019

Last year saw three teams make major breakthroughs. The St. Louis Blues won the first Stanley Cup in their 51-year history, rallying from the league’s worst record in January to becoming the World Champions in June. Over the seven years prior, the Blues continually made the playoffs but always fell short, making it as far as the Western Conference Finals in 2016. They even missed the playoffs entirely in 2018 before finally lifting the Cup in 2019.

The Washington Nationals, who like their NHL counterpart had developed a reputation for choking in the playoffs, followed a similar script as the Blues. They held one of baseball’s worst records in May, but battled into the playoff picture and took down two 100-plus win teams in the Dodgers and Astros en route to the franchise’s first championship. It also gave three-time Cy Young winner Max Scherzer a championship to add to his Hall of Fame resume.

In between the Blues and Nats, the Toronto Raptors won their first championship as well, giving the NBA its first ever international champion and the city’s first championship since 1993. Also like the Blues and Nats, the Raptors had spent years trying to get over the hump, sandwiching a Conference Finals loss in 2016 between two first-round and two second-round exits from 2014 through 2018.

2020

This year alone has seen two championships with major legacy implications. The Kansas City Chiefs won their first Super Bowl since 1970, giving head coach Andy Reid his first championship in his 21st year as an NFL head coach. Reid also had a reputation for not being able to get his teams to the top in the postseason, but he became the latest figure to secure his legacy back in February.

The Capitals’ championship two years earlier led to the Tampa Bay Lightning taking the mantle as the NHL’s most prominent postseason choker, but Tampa got their due and won the franchise’s second Stanley Cup. Captain Steven Stamkos was one of the few players on the shortlist of “Greatest active players that did not have a Cup,” but he finally took his name off.

Granted, Stamkos rarely played during the postseason, so it was not as redeeming as some of the other players mentioned before, but it was still a breakthrough championship for a Lightning franchise that often fell short of winning the Cup outside of their 2004 victory.

We’ve seen plenty of redemption arcs come to a happy ending in the past; the Los Angeles Lakers in 1972 after losing so many Finals in the 1960s, Michael Jordan and John Elway in the 1990s, the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and so on. However, never before have there been so many teams and athletes winning monumental championships in such a short period of time.

Now that the Dodgers have climbed the mountain, who will be next in line? The Atlanta sports landscape has been long-suffering, but the Braves nearly made the World Series this year and have the roster to make runs in 2021 and beyond. Perhaps the Vegas Golden Knights can reach the top for the first time after all the close calls in their brief history. Maybe Giannis Antetokounmpo will be the next NBA star to earn his first ring, giving Milwaukee a rare championship. The narratives are there, so it’s certainly on the table.

It’s an unprecedented time in American sports history; every year it seems as if a different perennial choker finally gets to breathe the air of greatness. Who knows when this period will end, but soak it in, Dodger Nation, you finally got your Hollywood ending.

Cover Photo Credit: Eric Gay/Associated Press

Nationals Offseason Preview

The 2020 World Series has come down between the Tampa Bay Rays and the Los Angeles Dodgers. We can still say the Nationals are still the last team to win a non-asterisked World Series given the exotic nature of this season, but in reality, the torch will soon be passed.

The Nats had a rough 2020 season, and if there is any hope of competing in October for 2021, moves will need to be made to bolster the roster. The three-headed monster of Max Scherzer, Stephen Strasburg and Patrick Corbin will all be back in the rotation, but this will be Scherzer’s final season under contract.

There’s no Bryce Harper/Anthony Rendon-type of free agent in risk of walking this offseason, so the team can focus on bringing in outsiders rather than retaining (or rather, making offers) to their own big free agents.

The lineup needs improvement, especially in terms of power, and the backend of the starting rotation could benefit from a new face as well. There is a lot to look at, so let’s look at the team’s outgoing free agents and some players on other teams that the Nats should target.

Notable outgoing free agents:

Aníbal Sánchez ($12 million club option)

Adam Eaton ($10.5 million club option)

Howie Kendrick ($6.5 million mutual option)

Eric Thames ($4 million mutual option)

Sean Doolittle

Kurt Suzuki

Michael A. Taylor

Asdrúbal Cabrera

Ryan Zimmerman

Sam Freeman

From what I’ve seen so far, most of these players will not return. Doolittle made a social media post not too long ago that said everything short of an explicit “good-bye.” Taylor cleared waivers and will test the free agent waters. Zimmerman, Suzuki and Kendrick are all retirement risks, although if Zimmerman and/or Kendrick decide to play in 2021, it will be with the Nats; Suzuki will probably not be back regardless.

Sánchez’s $12 million option will not be picked up, as that is far too much money to hand to a 37-year-old coming off a horrendous 2020 campaign, and there’s a real possibility Eaton’s option is not picked up either. He did not have a good 2020 season, and the Nats may decide to move on from the oft-injured outfielder.

Thames has a relatively low-paying option for next season, but I don’t see any real incentive for the Nats to opt in to another year, especially if they want to get younger.

That leaves Freeman and Cabrera. Freeman appeared in just five innings across seven games. His numbers were good for the small sample size, but he will be 34 in 2021. He made just $575,000 (before prorating to 60 games) in 2020, so it should be very easy for the Nats to re-sign him should they decide to do so.

Cabrera, meanwhile, played a much larger role than Freeman, serving as a decent bat and a versatile infielder for the Nats to utilize nearly every day. Cabrera will be 35 next season, and while he wouldn’t demand an outlandish salary, the organization’s desire to get younger could spell the end of Cabrera’s second stint in Washington.

Assuming all or most of the names on that list will not return, here is a list of all the positional needs the Nats have to fill before Opening Day 2021:

  • Starting pitcher (fourth or fifth in rotation)
  • 1-2 first basemen
  • Starting third baseman
  • Starting outfielder
  • Catcher
  • A handful of bench outfielders/infielders
  • A couple relief pitchers

Those are a lot of needs to address, but third base and outfield will likely be the biggest ones.

There are very few starting-caliber third basemen in the free agent market this year. Justin Turner of the Dodgers will be the best available option, but he’ll be 36 next year. A short-term deal might be worth a high price, as Carter Kieboom underwhelmed at third this year.

Other less expensive options include Kansas City’s Maikel Franco, who hit .278 and eight home runs this season after making just $3.34 million (Turner, batting .307 with four home runs, made $20 million by comparison; both salaries before prorating). Milwaukee’s Jed Gyorko has a $4.5 million team option, so he may be worth watching if not picked up, but Turner is the only big name that really moves the needle.

There are more exciting options for a third outfielder to pair with Juan Soto and Victor Robles. Former World Series foe George Springer of the Astros and Atlanta’s Marcell Ozuna will be the top options on the market. Signing Ozuna seems unlikely, but Springer is a realistic option who would bring much-needed power to the lineup.

Springer’s teammate, Michael Brantley, is also a free agent and would be less expensive, but he doesn’t possess the same power that Springer has, although he is a great hitter. Brantley averaged exactly .300 this year.

Boston’s Jackie Bradley Jr. would be a great choice defensively, and LA’s Joc Pederson, while not a consistent hitter, would certainly add power to the lineup for a less expensive salary.

In my opinion, Springer, then Brantley should be the team’s first priorities for the outfield. As odd as it would be to welcome in someone from the Astros, either would improve the lineup immensely. (Plus, only Springer was on the disgraced 2017 Astros; Brantley did not arrive in Houston until 2019).

As for catcher, an intriguing option would be bringing Wilson Ramos back home. While the Nats have shown interest in bringing in Phillies star JT Realmuto, the team’s money would probably be better spent elsewhere. If the Mets go after Realmuto with incoming owner Steve Cohen looking to make a splash, the “Buffalo” will become expendable.

The Nats obviously have a lot of holes to fill, and if there’s any hope of returning to the postseason in 2021, this will have to be a busy winter.

Cover Photo Credit: ESPN

Capitals Free Agency Review

NHL Free Agency opened last Friday, and although the Capitals did not have much cap space to work with, the team made several key signings while also making one tough goodbye. While other deals will trickle in until the start of the season, including a likely trade of one of the team’s blueliners, the brunt of the action is behind us. Here is my take on the team’s additions, departures and returners.

Major additions:

G Henrik Lundqvist: One year, $1.5 million (Oct. 9)

Oddly enough, the crowned jewel of the Caps’ free agent class won’t be a starting player. Granted, the King will garner plenty of starts, but he will serve more as a “1B” behind Ilya Samsonov, who is now officially the man in the crease after just 26 games of NHL experience.

This is why the Lundqvist signing is so important. The Caps urgently needed a cheap, but productive veteran to not only serve as a safety net for Samsonov, but also to mentor the 23-year-old as he navigates his second NHL season. Lundqvist is past his prime and was unceremoniously dumped by the New York Rangers after posting a career-worst .905 save percentage and 3.16 goals against average this past season.

His presence alone won’t help bring the Caps back to the Cup Final, unless he is rejuvenated by the change of scenery, but of all the free agent options the Capitals could afford to bring in as a backup and mentor, Lundqvist was likely the best option. After 15 years in New York, Hank is looking for a Ray Bourque ending in Washington. Now we’ll see if the Caps can pull it off.

D Justin Schultz: Two years, $8 million (Oct. 9)

The right side of the defense was a major concern throughout all of last season. Behind Norris Trophy finalist John Carlson, neither Nick Jensen nor Radko Gudas were able to lock down the second pair spot. Jensen was one of the Caps’ best defensemen in the bubble, but there weren’t many good takeaways from that experience to begin with.

Gudas is gone, and Jensen could be out the door next with the addition of Schultz, the former Pittsburgh blue liner who will be relied on to play behind Carlson on the second pair.

Schultz is a puck-moving defenseman that has missed extensive time due to multiple injuries over the past couple seasons. Throwing a $4 million AAV contract his way could blow up right in the team’s face, but if he can stay healthy and his production can improve it could turn out well.

He will presumably be paired with Dmitry Orlov, who would be an upgrade from his previous partner in Pittsburgh, but there is still a lot of question marks and risk that come with this signing.

D Trevor van Riemsdyk: One year, $800,000 (Oct. 10)

In another effort to beef up the right side of the defense, Brian MacLellan brought in van Riemsdyk on an inexpensive, low-risk deal that should slot him in on the third pair. Formerly seen as a future top-four defenseman when he entered the league with the champion Chicago Blackhawks in 2015, TVR failed to make his mark at his next stop in Carolina.

After holding a $2.3 million cap hit last season, this contract is very much a “prove it” deal for the 29-year-old. Carolina boasts a lot of talent in its defensive corps, but van Riemsdyk will have every opportunity to gain his footing on the Caps’ third pair. While the Schultz signing has a great chance of backfiring, the van Riemsdyk signing could turn into a massive bargain.

The only issue now is that the team is over the salary cap with two extra defensemen under contract. Someone will need to be traded, and of the defensemen that did not receive a new deal this offseason, Carlson is probably the only one safe. Not that I believe Orlov will be traded, but it’s certainly on the table, especially if the team feels it can bring back the most value that way.

Major re-signings:

RW Daniel Sprong: Two years, $1.45 million (Sept. 18)

Sprong was brought in last year and spent the rest of the season with Hershey before joining the Caps in the bubble as a black ace. Of the black aces, Sprong had the most NHL experience by far due to his days in Pittsburgh and Anaheim before he fell out of favor and settled in the AHL.

Still just 23, the former second-round pick is looking to rebound in Washington, and given the other options at forward, he may have a chance. The Capitals need to get under the salary cap, so a trade will be coming, and if the team cannot get an established NHL winger to play in the bottom six, Sprong will have a great opportunity to earn that spot.

It will take a strong training camp, but his low cap hit will work in his favor. He’s no guarantee, but he’ll be someone worth watching as the regular season draws closer.

D Brenden Dillon: Four years, $15.6 million (Oct. 6)

Dillon was the biggest signing for the Caps this offseason, as the deadline acquisition is now here in Washington to stay, likely on the top pair alongside Carlson. Dillon is a strong five-on-five defenseman and complemented Carlson’s offensive nature as a more “stay-at-home” defenseman.

Now the pair has a whole offseason to really gel, and the defense will hopefully stabilize after such an inconsistent 2019-20 campaign.

Major departures:

G Braden Holtby (VAN): Two years, $8.6 million

The writing was on the wall as soon as the ink dried on Nicklas Backstrom’s extension, but it didn’t take the sting away, especially given the context. After Sergei Bobrovsky was signed by Florida to a seven-year/$70 million deal over a year ago, it seemed Holtby was in line for similar compensation, no matter where it came from.

Now, given the financial hardships brought on by the pandemic and Holtby’s declining play, he was forced to take a short-term pay cut in Vancouver. You can’t feel too sorry for someone making $4.3 million a year given the economic struggles many more people around the world are facing, but relative to the NHL landscape, Holtby really deserved better.

Interestingly, Holtby did not have a No-Movement Clause in his contract, so there is a good chance he will be exposed in next year’s Expansion Draft, and he could possibly be the first starting goaltender in Seattle Kraken history. For now, he’ll be working with breakout youngster Thatcher Demko up in British Columbia. We’ll miss you, Holts. Thanks for everything.

D Radko Gudas (FLA): Three years, $7.5 million

Gudas was brought in last season in the Matt Niskanen trade due to his smaller cap hit. Niskanen is now retired, and Gudas landed himself a nice deal in Florida. He was nothing more than a third pair defenseman, and the Caps replaced him with an inexpensive, yet higher upside option. His departure is a win for all sides involved, except maybe for Florida. (Three years? You’re committing to “Dadko” for three years? Interesting…)

C Travis Boyd (TOR): One year, $700,000

Boyd was caught in NHL limbo: Too good to stay in the AHL, but not quite good enough to have a full-time role in the Caps’ bottom six. While Toronto is loaded with forward talent, Boyd should still be able to earn a spot in their bottom six barring a significant change in personnel.

Boyd was called upon to fill in for the injured Backstrom in the bubble, but he eventually lost his spot to Brian Pinho. While there has been a coaching change in DC, it seems Boyd was better off going elsewhere.

Other signings/re-signings:

C Brian Pinho: Two years, $1.45 million (Sept. 17)

D Lucas Johansen: One year, $700,000 (Oct. 3)

D Cameron Schilling: One year, $700,000 (Oct. 10)

D Paul LaDue: One year, $700,000 (Oct. 10)

LW/RW Daniel Carr: One-year, $700,000 (Oct. 11)

All of these other deals won’t hold much significance for the Caps this season, if ever. Pinho got very limited playing time in the bubble during Backstrom’s absence from the lineup, and he at least has a chance to make the roster as an extra forward, but he doesn’t look like he’ll be a huge factor either way.

Johansen is a former first-round pick that has struggled to break through, partially because of a slew of injuries, but this one-year deal seems like his final chance with the organization. He was projected to be in the NHL by now, but it just has not worked out. If he doesn’t make any significant strides this year, expect him to move on to another franchise next offseason, if not sooner.

Schilling, LaDue and Carr are all AHLers that will hopefully bolster Hershey. Schilling and LaDue each totaled over 20 points with their respective AHL teams last year, and Carr tallied 50 points in 47 games with Nashville’s AHL affiliate.

Way-too-early, post-free agency lines prediction

Forwards:

Alex Ovechkin – Evgeny Kuznetsov – Tom Wilson

Jakub Vrana – Nicklas Backstrom – TJ Oshie

Richard Panik – Lars Eller – Daniel Sprong

Carl Hagelin – Nic Dowd – Garnet Hathaway

Brian Pinho

It’s not quite “post-free agency,” as there will still be changes made to the roster, but for now, here is what the team will probably look like.

Unless new coach Peter Laviolette decides to shake up the top two lines, those aren’t changing. Even if it’s shuffled a bit, those top six forwards are pretty much set in stone.

Lars Eller is locked in as the 3C, and Nic Dowd and Garnet Hathaway will presumably hold on to their fourth line roles, but the other three winger slots are still up in the air. At this point in his career, Carl Hagelin is probably better suited in a fourth line role, but Richard Panik seemed to fit better on the fourth line as well. Barring a trade, one of them will need to play on the third line, and my gut pick is Panik at this point. He improved as the season went on after a rough start.

I have Sprong on the other third line wing because I don’t see any other options currently in-house. Again, a trade acquisition or new signing could change the situation entirely, but at this point, I think Sprong will have every opportunity to earn the spot in training camp. I have Pinho as the extra forward simply because he passed Boyd in the pecking order in the bubble, but we have no clue who Laviolette will favor, and once the team gets under the cap, it could just as likely be an outside candidate. We’ll have to wait until camp.

Defensemen:

Brenden Dillon – John Carlson

Dmitry Orlov – Justin Schultz

Jonas Siegenthaler – Trevor van Riemsdyk

Martin Fehervary

Michal Kempny will be on longterm injured reserve, so he’ll be out of the picture for a good chunk of the season. Jensen could sensibly stay on as the seventh defenseman rotating in with van Riemsdyk or anyone who misses time with an injury, but Fehervary is an up-and-coming prospect who was NHL-ready last season and forced to wait. The Caps would be ill-advised to hold him back again. The best thing for the team and Fehervary’s development is to make him a full-time NHLer.

Or they will trade Fehervary and keep Jensen, but I would be very surprised. Fehervary has the chance to be a major defensive contributor for the Caps down the road, so he should be favored. His lower cap hit ($791,667 compared to Jensen’s $2.5 million) would also help the Caps tremendously. He showed flashes in the postseason, but clearly needs to adjust to the NHL level.

Siegenthaler still needs to be re-signed, so another possibility is that they let him walk and keep both Jensen and Fehervary, but that seems to be another unlikely scenario, as Siegenthaler is another young blueliner with upside and a low price tag. MacLellan has all but assured Siegenthaler will be re-signed. A trade is coming, we just have to wait and see who it involves.

Goaltenders:

Ilya Samsonov

Henrik Lundqvist

Not much else to say about this that I didn’t already cover at the top. Samsonov is the 1A and Hank is the 1B, but the split will likely be closer to 50-50 than what we see with traditional tandems. Vitek Vanecek will be first in line to be elevated if either Samsonov or Lundqvist can’t play.

Cover Photo Credit: NHL Trade Talk

Why the Lakers can thank the Wizards for their 2020 NBA Championship

The Los Angeles Lakers are the 2020 NBA Champions. LeBron James has won his fourth NBA title, and he’s now the first player in NBA history to win Finals MVP with three different franchises, adding one more accomplishment to his all-time great legacy.

Anthony Davis, LeBron’s running mate, now has his first NBA title. Davis spent the first seven years of his career with the New Orleans Pelicans, the franchise that drafted him first overall in 2012. The Pelicans traded their disgruntled franchise star and got back a haul of exciting young contributors: Brandon Ingram, Lonzo Ball and Josh Hart. After winning the 2019 Draft Lottery, the Pelicans immediately got a new franchise cornerstone in Zion Williamson.

The Lakers can thank New Orleans for giving them the missing piece, but that isn’t the only team the Lakers should thank. In fact, there was a third trade partner in the Davis deal that arguably helped the Lakers even more than the Pelicans: the Washington Wizards.

This is what the full Davis trade looked like:

The Los Angeles Lakers receive:
  • Anthony Davis – from NOP
The New Orleans Pelicans receive:
  • Brandon Ingram – from LAL
  • Lonzo Ball – from LAL
  • Josh Hart – from LAL
  • Three future first-round picks – from LAL
  • $1.1 million in cash considerations– from WSH
The Washington Wizards receive:
  • Moe Wagner– from LAL
  • Isaac Bonga– from LAL
  • Jemerrio Jones-from LAL
  • Future second-round pick– from LAL

It’s evident how selfless the Wizards are as an organization. The other two teams helped themselves immensely, but not the Wizards. The Lakers got a top five player to help them win immediately, and the Pelicans got a package of players and draft picks to help build around Williamson for the future. The Wizards got… two bench players, one G-League player and a second-round pick.

Granted, it only cost them $1.1 million, so it’s not like they really had anything to lose. Wagner has developed into a solid forward off the bench and Bonga… is a guard. You could do much worse for $1.1 million. We don’t even know who the second-round pick is yet, it will be used in 2022. It could be the next Admiral Schofield!

All jokes aside, the Wizards are locked into John Wall and Bradley Beal until 2023 (assuming both players pick up their player options, which they would be dumb not to), so adding young, inexpensive players with potential has been a priority. The Lakers needed to clear cap space and roster spots, and the Wizards capitalized on the fire sale.

Of course, the Lakers would not have Davis without the Pelicans agreeing to give him up, but they also wouldn’t have him if the Wizards didn’t take those other contracts off their hands. Sure, the Pelicans are the ones who actually gave up AD, so maybe they deserve the most thanks.

Well that’s only if you take into account the Davis trade. Looking at other players on the Lakers roster, it’s clear the Wizards had a greater impact in this 2020 championship than you may have realized.

Markieff Morris, Dwight Howard and Jared Dudley are three former Wizards that played for the Lakers in these finals. Dudley logged just three total minutes across three games, but both Morris and Howard had actual roles.

Morris played 21.3 minutes per game off the bench, averaging 7.5 points, 3.3 rebounds and 1.2 assists per game. Howard logged just under 12 minutes per game, starting every game except the clincher. He averaged 2.8 points and 2.8 rebounds. Morris was the starting power forward for parts of four seasons in DC, while Howard played nearly as many games in these Finals alone (six) as he did for the Wizards (nine).

And who could forget JaVale McGee? He did not play at all in these Finals, but the now-three-time NBA champion got his start with the Wizards all the way back in 2008. Granted, he has not played in Washington since 2012, but that’s still another former Wizard contributing to the Lakers title effort (at least off the court).

I write this all somewhat facetiously (although the trade did help the Lakers get Davis, so there’s some legitimacy to these claims), but when the Wizards franchise has been so irrelevant in the NBA landscape since the 1979 title defense that fell just short, it’s weird knowing that the Washington Wizards actively contributed to a championship.

It would be nice if they were the ones winning the championship, but baby steps. Can’t go from finishing 1-7 in the NBA bubble to hoisting the Larry O’Brien trophy right away.

Only the Lakers could pull this off: Spend a bunch of the years in the draft lottery, picking mediocre talent and floundering in the league basement before the best player in the world decides he wants to live in Los Angeles, and then soon after recruits another All-World superstar to team up and become contenders again.

The Lakers didn’t build into anything; LeBron came to town, then Davis, and that was all it took. In fact, the organization did not draft a single player on their Finals roster, unless you count Kyle Kuzma, whom the team traded for on draft day. So good for you, Lakers fans. This “long-suffering” franchise [eye roll] is finally back on top. After sending death threats to one of your own players, despite still leading the series, you get your “deserved” outcome: a 12th championship.

Amidst your celebration, you could at least have the decency to thank those who helped you get there, but since you won’t, I’m left with no choice but to do it for you.

On behalf of the Los Angeles Lakers organization, and Lakers fans everywhere, thank you, Wizards, for acting as the middle man in LA’s ascent back to the top. Maybe LA can return the favor someday. I doubt they will.

Cover Photo Credit: Ned Dishman/NBAE via Getty Images

The Pohory-list: Ranking every starting QB under Dan Snyder

Tomorrow, Kyle Allen will be the 22nd different player to start at quarterback for the Washington Football Team during Dan Snyder’s reign as owner. After an underwhelming start to the season, incumbent Dwayne Haskins Jr. was not just benched, but sent all the way down the depth chart, as Alex Smith is now QB2.

We have yet to see what type of statement coach Ron Rivera is making with that decision, whether he wants Haskins to have a chance to sit back and learn the system without the on-field pressure, or it’s the beginning of the end for Haskins in Washington. There are valid arguments both for and against his benching, but now it just comes down to how he’ll respond.

Allen’s Washington career is just starting, and no matter how long (or short) it may end up lasting, it seems premature to measure him against the rest of the Washington quarterbacks in the Snyder era, so he will not be included. It may also be premature to judge Haskins, but since he has 13 games to look at, he will be included on the list. Hopefully he can rebound, elevate his ranking and become the quarterback the franchise envisioned when it drafted him. If not, then his current spot is likely where he’ll stay.

The rankings will be based solely on each player’s tenure with the franchise. Donovan McNabb, for example, probably has the best overall career out of the players on this list, but he is by no means the top Washington quarterback over the past 20 years.

The success of these quarterbacks will be measured based on individual statistics as well as team success. They have been broken up into five tiers ranking from worst to best. Putting this together was not fun; it was a sad reminder of whom the Washington offense has had to put their trust into for the past 22 years.

I’m not sure what is more upsetting: the number of terrible quarterbacks that have started a game for this team, or how the quarterbacks at the better end of the spectrum are just extremely underwhelming. In any case, here are the definitive rankings of every Washington quarterback to start a game in the Snyder era. Try not to cry.

Tier 5: The Scrubs

21. Mark Sanchez (2018)

  • 2 GP, 0-1
  • 138 yds, 0-3 TD-INT

20. John Beck (2011)

  • 4 GP, 0-3
  • 858 yds, 2-4 TD-INT

19. Josh Johnson (2018)

  • 4 GP, 1-2
  • 590 yards, 3-4 TD-INT

18. Tim Hasselbeck (2003)

  • 7 GP, 1-4
  • 1,012 yards, 5-7 TD-INT

17. Danny Wuerffel (2002)

  • 7 GP, 2-2
  • 63 compl%, 719 yards, 3-6 TD-INT

16. Jeff George (2000-2001)

  • 8 GP, 1-6
  • 1,389 yards, 7-6 TD-INT in 2000
  • 168 yards, 3 INT in 2 starts in 2001

15. Shane Matthews (2002)

  • 8 GP, 3-4
  • 1,251 yds, 11-6 TD-INT

This entire list of quarterbacks is uninspiring, so to qualify for the bottom tier is truly impressive in the worst possible way. Mark Sanchez was far removed from his back-to-back AFC Championship appearances with the Jets, and did so poorly in his limited sample size that he falls to the bottom. John Beck wasn’t much better, going 0-3 in 2011 after replacing the struggling Rex Grossman, who promptly took over after Beck squandered his opportunity.

Josh Johnson and Tim Hasselbeck each managed to win one of their starts, but otherwise didn’t amount to anything else. The same can be said of the remaining three players in this tier. Neither were here for long, and Jeff George’s atrocious 2001 stat line puts him squarely in this tier among the worst.

Tier 4: The ‘Meh’ at Best

14. Colt McCoy (2014-2019)

  • 12 GP, 1-6
  • 1,679 yards, 8-7 TD-INT

13. Case Keenum (2019)

  • 10 GP, 1-7
  • 64.8 compl%, 1,707 yds, 11-5 TD-INT

12. Dwayne Haskins Jr. (2019-present)

  • 13 GP, 3-8
  • 2,034 yds, 10-11 TD-INT

11. Patrick Ramsey (2002-2005)

  • 33 GP, 10-14
  • 5,649 yds, 34-29 TD-INT

10. Rex Grossman (2010-2012)

  • 17 GP, 6-10
  • 3,151 yds, 16-20 TD-INT in 13 games in 2011

9. Donovan McNabb (2010)

  • 13 GP, 5-8
  • 3,377 yds, 14-15 TD-INT

8. Tony Banks (2001)

  • 15 GP, 8-6
  • 2,386 yards, 10-10 TD-INT

This tier is made up of two types of quarterbacks: 1.) the backups who were thrusted into more playing time than what they were meant for, and 2.) some failed long-term experiments. Colt McCoy is a solid NFL backup, but is nothing more. Case Keenum was merely a bridge to Haskins, neither of whom performed well, although the supporting cast shares some of the blame (and the door isn’t quite yet closed on Haskins).

Patrick Ramsey stuck around, but just wasn’t a good enough starter at this level, and Grossman spent his time in Washington moving up and down the depth chart. McNabb was brought in to stabilize the quarterback position, but that quickly fell apart before the 2010 season ended.

Tony Banks actually did somewhat decently after replacing George in 2001, and is one of the few players on this entire list to boast a winning record in Washington.

Tier 3: The Playoff QBs*

7. Alex Smith* (2018-present)

  • 10 GP, 6-4
  • 62.5 compl%, 2,180 yds, 10-5 TD-INT

6. Todd Collins (2006-2009)

  • 8 GP, 3-0
  • 63.8 compl%, 888 yds 5-0 TD-INT in 4 games in 2007 at 36 years old

5. Mark Brunell (2004-2006)

  • 35 GP, 15-18
  • 9-6, 3050 yds, 23-10 TD-INT in 2005

4. Jason Campbell (2005-2009)

  • 52 GP, 20-32
  • 10,860 yds, 55-38 TD-INT

All of the quarterbacks in this tier helped lead the team to the playoffs in one season, but didn’t do much else beyond that. Smith is the lone exception, but the team was 6-3 entering the fateful game in which Smith’s famous leg injury occurred. The game was still in reach when Smith went out, but whether they would have been 7-3 or 6-4, I believe the team would be in the playoff hunt all the way down to the wire.

Smith may also return, but he likely won’t even be close to the same player that was stretchered off the field nearly two years ago. Todd Collins, meanwhile, took over for an injured Jason Campbell in 2007, winning out to earn the team a Wild Card berth. Despite ending the season with a 106.4 QBR, Collins threw two pick-sixes en route to a 35-14 loss in the Wild Card round.

His limited sample size is what drops Collins below the rest on this list, but considering his single month as a starter was better than over two-thirds of the other quarterbacks on this list just proves how little success this franchise has achieved under Snyder.

Mark Brunell had a relatively strong season two years prior to bring the team to the Wild Card round in 2005, where they beat the Tampa Bay Buccaneers before losing to the Seahawks in the Divisional round. That 2005 win over Tampa is the last time Washington has won a playoff game.

Campbell, meanwhile, was drafted in 2005 but didn’t debut until 2006. While he didn’t get a single playoff start, he put the team in position to reach the playoffs when he went down in 2007 and Collins took over. Campbell is one of just seven players to have thrown for over 10,000 total yards with the franchise, but the team never got close to any major success in his time here.

Tier 2: The One-Year Wonders

3. Robert Griffin III (2012-2015)

  • 37 GP, 14-21
  • 2012 Pro Bowl
  • 2012 Offensive Rookie of the Year
  • 8,097 yds, 40-23 TD-INT

2. Brad Johnson (1999-2000)

  • 28 GP, 17-10
  • 1999 Pro Bowl
  • 4000-yd season in 1999
  • 6,510 yards, 35-28 TD-INT

The three remaining quarterbacks on this list are the only ones who made a Pro Bowl in the Snyder era, and they also happen to be the only quarterbacks who led the team to a division title. We all know Robert Griffin III’s story, and while his career in Washington will go down as one of the biggest disappointments in recent franchise history, his incredible 2012 season alone is enough to make him the third-best passer in the Snyder era.

Brad Johnson led the team to the division title in 1999 and also made the Pro Bowl that year passing for 4,005 yards and 24 touchdowns to go with 13 interceptions. His performance dipped in 2000, but he still had a 7-4 record as the starter.

Johnson signed with Tampa Bay in 2001 as Washington turned to George as starter. Johnson had a bounce-back year with Tampa in 2001 before winning the Super Bowl in 2002, while the Washington quarterback search went on.

Tier 1: Kirk Cousins

1. Kirk Cousins (2012-2017)

  • 62 GP, 26-30-1, 24-23-1 as full-time starter
  • 2016 Pro Bowl
  • 16,206 yds, 99-55 TD-INT
  • Had three of the four highest single-season passing yards in franchise history, including franchise-record 4,917 in 2016

As underwhelming as it may seem, Cousins was far and away the best quarterback Washington has had over the past 22 years. He played more games with the team than anyone else in this span, and while he never had the talent or supporting cast to lead the team far in the postseason, he flourished statistically under the Jay GrudenSean McVay offensive system.

He made a Pro Bowl, he won a division title, and he broke the franchise single-season passing record in each of his first two years as the main starting quarterback, breaking Jay Schroeder’s original record of 4,109 in 1986 with 4,166 in 2015 before smashing that mark the following season with 4,917. Cousins’ 4,093 yards in 2017 were just behind Schroeder’s former record and the two marks he set in 2015 and ’16.

His 16,206 passing yards with the franchise are the fourth-most behind Joe Theismann, Sonny Jurgensen and Sammy Baugh, which is pretty impressive considering all three spent seven years or more as the team’s primary starter, while Cousins only spent three.

There really isn’t much room for debate when it comes to the top spot. Cousins was (and still is) a fine starting quarterback. He won’t take any team over the top, but he can put up strong numbers and can hold down the position securely. Washington is still looking for a transcendent quarterback to not only lift this franchise out of the basement, but also keep it at a winning level for an extended period of time. If the past 22 years is any indication, it could be awhile until we find one.

Cover Photo Credit: ESPN