Monday Morning Coffee

July 17, 2023

The Angels managed to salvage an exciting comeback win on Saturday against the Astros, but they still lost 2 of 3 and their season is spiraling downward. Their schedule over the next few weeks is like trying to make it through a field of land mines. More importantly, the obnoxious question that keeps getting asked on a daily basis is whether or not they will trade Shohei Ohtani. We’ve exhausted the fact that they should trade him and despite the fact that they will now reportedly listen to offers, Arte Moreno isn’t going to allow it to happen. I don’t understand the mentality though. Moreno is worried that trading him will impact his legacy. You mean he’s worried about his legacy NOW, and not with how he’s handled this franchise over the last decade plus? That’s like being wanted for murder, but concerned you’re gonna get busted for smoking pot. Plus the reality of it is by trading Ohtani, the Angels could still bring back some high quality talent in their farm system, which they desperately need. There is a financial component though to this that Arte might not want to give up. Even if he only has Ohtani for two more months, that is revenue he’s not getting back if he’s traded. They also desperately need to send Anthony Rendon and his contract to another planet. The only thing worse than his contract is all the stupid comments he makes and complete lack of self-awareness that makes you think he just doesn’t give a crap and is only here to collect a paycheck. That has easily become the worst contract in team history.

As for the Dodgers, they took 2 of 3 from the lowly Mets over the weekend, and have taken control of 1st place in the NL West. Can we just take a moment though to appreciate the likes of Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, and JD Martinez? I have no idea how the Dodgers were lucky enough to end up with Mookie and Freddie. They easily should have finished their careers with their respective franchises. Instead, they now have two franchise cornerstones that are not just amazing players, but amazing leaders, that are going to be anchoring their team for the next decade. Then there’s JD Martinez, who was a great get by Andrew Friedman, and has produced at a level that I did not think was possible for his age and injury history. Nevertheless, he’s been wildly productive, and a huge force behind the Dodgers with the 2nd best record in the big leagues. For all the flaws this team has with bullpen, starting pitching, and bench depth, it’s really not all that bad.

To to NBA, where the Lakers wrapped up summer league with a win over the Clippers yesterday. While I don’t think we should draw any ridiculous over the top conclusions about Summer League, I will say the the Lakers have some really nice young players they can develop. Max Christie is very capable of being an excellent rotation player this season. But beyond that, Jalen Hood-Shifino can be productive if he improves his shooting, and Collin Castleton and Maxwell Lewis can also turn into something with some time in the G-League. If you aren’t convinced of that, perhaps I should introduce you to Austin Reaves, who is now the third best player on the Lakers after just two years in the league. However, the Lakers will have an interesting decision to make in August: should they give Anthony Davis a contract extension? On one hand, it will be cheaper than giving him a max when he’s potentially a free agent next summer, and you don’t run the risk of losing him for nothing. On the other hand though, do you want to tie yourself to an injury prone player who may not be the best player on a championship team, well into his mid-30’s when Lebron James will likely have moved on? My initial feeling is they should extend him, but something that gives them protection if he misses games, or higher bonuses if he’s All-NBA, MVP, etc. When AD is healthy, there probably aren’t many players in the league better than him. That’s value that should be retained one way or the other.

I’m sure you all saw Lebron stand up at the ESPY’s last week and clarify that he’s not retiring and coming back to play next year. Of course this led to a ton of criticism from the likes of Dan Patrick and others, who thought this was a “look at me” and unnecessary moment. However, I think he was probably over-criticized for his comments. When we last heard from Lebron, he told us he had a lot of thinking to do about his future. So if he just showed up a training camp and said nothing about it, wouldn’t he be criticized for that as well? Yes none of us truly expected him to retire and the moment might have been a bit over the top. However, it’s Lebron James and he’s a big enough star to warrant that.

Speaking of extension decisions, the Clippers will have a couple of difficult ones to make coming up. Kawhi Leonard and Paul George. These dudes have each missed even more time than Anthony Davis has with the Lakers. Plus, the real issue is that Kawhi’s people protect him and want him to be load managed even more than most players. Unfortunately, in the NBA, historically, teams have just rolled over and given max extensions or max contracts without much hardball negotiations, especially for players who have been All-NBA caliber. However, If I were the Clippers, I wouldn’t roll over that easily. In fact, the Knicks, Blazers, and Raptors all reportedly turned down a trade for Paul George this off-season, and a big part of that is that he was seeking an extension. Even for Kawhi Leonard, as great as he was when he’s healthy, he’s not available enough to command a longer commitment from the team. How you go about negotiations with stars like this without offending them is tricky. Just ask the 76ers who have an unhappy James Harden on their team, with nobody that wants to trade anything of value for him. Even the Clippers, who he really wants to play for. Steve Ballmer is definitely a forward thinker, so how he handles this situation with his stars is one to keep a very close eye on.

It was interesting to learn last week that the Rams actually spent a good portion of the off-season shopping Matt Stafford. It’s not surprising though that there weren’t any takers for his massive contract, especially coming off the injuries he had, as well as the rumors that he may be closer than we think to retirement. The fact that actually happened though tells you that the Rams are already looking to rebuild their team, if it wasn’t obvious already. Yes they still have Cooper Kupp and Aaron Donald, but they will also have 40 new players on their team. More than anything though, they need to find a way to acquire more draft capital so they can figure out who their QB of the future is going to be. Stetson Bennett is an interesting name to watch, but the expectations are low for him. Something tells me that QB of the future is still a couple of year away from even being on the roster.

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