Patriots roster projection, v1.1

So I’ve been seriously slacking at this address lately.  It’s summer!  But…trying to get back on the horse.  New England Patriots preseason football starts tonight, so no better time to do it than now.  I had previously made a roster projection in early May, shortly after the draft.  Ergo, version 1.1 here.

There are 91 guys on the roster at this point.  At least that is my count.  Yup, there is only supposed to be 90.  But they have an exemption for U.S. Olympian rugby player (and safety) Nate Ebner.  Not sure when he is coming back, but I am keeping him in that status for now.  Plus, we all know Tom Brady is suspended for the first 4 games.  So instead of taking 53 guys for the final roster, I am taking 55.  Since the preseason PUP list is in effect, I’ll consider the regular season PUP list.  No practice squad or other lists at this time.  Sorry!  Let’s get to it…

QB (3):

Locks:  Jimmy Garoppolo, Jacoby Brissett

In:  None

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Suspended:  Tom Brady

Only change from v1 is Brady’s official suspension.  People are clamoring to add a veteran here.  I don’t see it, unless Jimmy Football and Brissett show complete incompetence in the preseason.  Or there is an injury.  But remember 2008?  Matt Cassel was absolutely inept in the preseason and then went 11-5 during the regular season.  These two need all the reps they can get and I think they will get them.  No sense in adding a vet unless there is an emergency.

RB (5):

Locks:  Brandon Bolden

In:  James White, James Develin, LeGarrette Blount, Tyler Gaffney

Out:  Donald Brown, Joey Iosefa, D.J. Foster

Way Out:  None

PUP:  Dion Lewis

Only change is the PUP for Lewis that creates a spot for Gaffney.  I have a feeling about Gaffney.  Not that he will be any good.  But the fact that they have kept him around so long.  I feel like he will get an opportunity because this is his 3rd year here.  Especially with no one else really standing out.  Bolden is only a lock because of special teams.  I have never been a huge White fan, but no one is pushing him.  Foster may have, but he has been hurt.  He could end up as an IR stash.  Brown has been hurt as well.  Don’t love Blount, but Belichick does.  All is quiet on Lewis’ status.  I’m going to assume they play it safe with him.  Still extremely hard to project where they will go here.

WR (4):

Locks:  Julian Edelman, Chris Hogan, Malcolm Mitchell

In:  Keshawn Martin

Out:  Chris Harper, Aaron Dobson, Nate Washington, Devin Lucien

Way Out:  DeAndre Carter

PUP:  Danny Amendola

Only change is DA to PUP.  Similar to Lewis, haven’t heard a ton on Amendola.  I personally would’ve started both Danny and Edelman on the PUP and “saved” them for the latter part of the season.  Since, you know, they both get hurt a lot.  But as Bill would say, “football players play”.  So we have Julian active.  Of course, Jimmy G needs people to throw to I guess.  Anyway, if they start Amendola on PUP, that could create a spot for, gulp, another Aaron Dobson stint.  I’m hoping not.  Nate Washington could’ve snuck in here too.  But it doesn’t reflect well when you vomit on the first day of camp and aren’t heard from since.

TE (3):

Locks:  Rob Gronkowski, Martellus Bennett

In:  Clay Harbor

Out:  Bear Pascoe, A.J. Derby

Way Out:  Bryce Williams, Steven Scheu

No changes to the active roster.  As for the guys cut, my biggest disappointment I think is that De’Runnya Wilson was never actually signed.  He was “way out” on my first projection, but it appears he really was “way, way, way out”.  Bryce Williams and Bear Pascoe have been subsequently signed instead, but methinks they are just camp bodies.  Hoping Gronk doesn’t play at all in the preseason and Bennett plays very little.  Michael Williams may have been my 3rd TE, but he ended up on IR with a torn ACL instead.  Derby has made some noise in camp, but not sure at this point it’s enough to unseat Harbor.  Seems like a good practice squad guy.

OL (9):

Locks:  Nate Solder (LT), Bryan Stork (C), Shaq Mason (G), Joe Thuney (G), David Andrews (C)

In:  LaAdrian Waddle (T), Marcus Cannon (T), Jonathan Cooper (G), Josh Kline (G/C)

Out:  Chris Barker (G), Cameron Fleming (T), Ted Karras (G)

Way Out:  Keavon Milton (G), Kyler Kerbyson (T), Jon Halapio (G)

PUP:  Sebastian Vollmer (RT), Tre’ Jackson (G)

Lots of moving pieces here.  Kerbyson and 2015 6th rounder Halapio have been signed since the last projection…but that hardly matters.  I can’t tell if Jackson is still on the preseason PUP.  But I know Vollmer is.  Leaving them there for now, since things have been quiet, especially on the big German.  Andrews and Waddle switch places, but they both make it anyway.  Kline gets back on the roster.  Cooper has been hurt and maybe he ends up on IR, giving Dante Scarnecchia and the organization a year to try to tap into his potential as a former #7 overall pick.  Right now, Thuney and Mason are the top guards, but that can change in a heartbeat.  Fleming and Barker have been fringe depth for a few years now.  Karras may be ticketed for the practice squad.  Long way to go before this settles.

DE (5):

Locks:  Chris Long, Rob Ninkovich, Jabaal Sheard, Geneo Grissom

In:  Trey Flowers

Out:  Frank Kearse

Way Out:  None

Ninkovich should end up on the “short-term IR, designated to return” list with his torn triceps.  But he can’t be placed there until after the original 53-man roster is set.  Made me add Flowers back in and make Grissom a lock now though.

DT (5):

Locks:  Alan Branch, Malcolm Brown, Terrance Knighton, Vincent Valentine

In:  Marcus Kuhn

Out:  Joe Vellano

Way Out:  Woodrow Hamilton, Anthony Johnson

Not much difference here from May.  Kuhn seems to be getting a lot of run in camp, so I am putting him on.  Anthony Johnson was signed over the summer, but not sure that affects anything.  Not much to talk about otherwise.

LB (5):

Locks:  Jamie Collins, Dont’a Hightower, Shea McLellin

In:  Jonathan Freeny, Ramon Humber

Out:  Rufus Johnson, Elandon Roberts, Kevin Snyder

Way Out:  None

No changes with the guys who make the team.  Jon Bostic was traded and Tony Steward was cut.  I don’t know what happened to C.J. Johnson, but I don’t think anyone cares.  I moved Kamu Grugier-Hill to another position…because I can.  No one is holding out.  No one is hurt…yet.  Let’s just leave it at that.

CB (5):

Locks:  Malcolm Butler, Logan Ryan, Cyrus Jones

In:  Justin Coleman, Darryl Roberts

Out:  E.J. Biggers, Jonathan Jones,

Way Out:  V’Angelo Bentley, Cre’Von LeBlanc

Roberts was the last guy I added to the roster.  He may lose his spot if Ebner is back.  Since he was a 7th rounder in 2015 and was on IR all last year, they may be able to stash him on the practice squad anyway.  Moved Jones from “Way out” to “Out”, but I may be the only one that cares about that.  I’ve heard his name mentioned a bit in camp and that’s why I did it.  If you do happen to care, that is…

S (4):

Locks:  Devin McCourty, Patrick Chung, Duron Harmon, Jordan Richards

In:  None

Out:  Brock Vereen, Vinnie Sunseri

Way Out:  Cedric Thompson

Sunseri was a summer signee, but seems to be another fringe guy.  Devonta Burns was another guy that apparently supposedly signed after the draft but didn’t (like my pal De’Runnya…yup, just looking for a way to say the name again!)…so he’s gone.  Pretty cut and dried here.

Specialists (7):

Locks:  Stephen Gostkowski (K), Ryan Allen (P), Joe Cardona (LS), Matthew Slater (ST), Brandon King (ST)

In: Kamu Grugier-Hill (ST)

Out:  None

Way Out:  None

Exempt:  Nate Ebner (ST)

Seven specialists you say?!  Yup.  Slater, King and Ebner have rarely played their listed positions during their careers.  With Grugier-Hill seemingly on all four special teams units, it appears that will be the case with him too.  Cardona apparently will be able to play the season instead of “playing” for the U.S. Navy, so no need for a second long-snapper in Christian Yount.  So he was jettisoned a bit ago.  Nothing else exciting going on here.

That’ll do it for now.  Happy that football is starting.  Though it’s kind of a bummer that summer will be winding down.  Oh well.  At least there should be some actual football played tonight.  As opposed to the Hall of Fame Game that was supposed to be played this past Sunday.  Don’t get me going on that…

Boston Red Sox first half review…kind of?

I suppose we really don’t need to rehash the first half of the Major League Baseball season, as far as the Red Sox are concerned.  We all know the deal.  They are a better than expected 49-38, 2 games out of first place.  The offense has been largely good.  The pitching has been largely a disappointment, to be kind.  Young everyday players, like Xander Bogaerts, Mookie Betts and Jackie Bradley Jr. are blossoming right in front of our eyes.  David Ortiz is having a monster farewell season at the age of 40.  David Price and Craig Kimbrel have not made the difference their profile would suggest.  Clay Buchholz and Eduardo Rodriguez have been abject disasters.  Steven Wright has been a revelation.  Fat Panda is, well…still fat.  And for his 19 mil the team got an 0 for the season.  Ok, in only six at bats before his injury…but the point remains the same.  Blah, blah, blah…

We know all that.  Let’s focus on what one man thinks they SHOULD do in the 2nd half of this year.  Before we get to that, my thinking is that Dave Dombrowski has gotten off to a pretty good start with the minor deals he has made thus far.  Well, I am not sure why he felt the need to get a 33-year-old utility man who has a .199 career average in Michael Martinez.  I mean, don’t we have a guy like that already in Brock Holt?  And what was Marco Hernandez doing wrong?  I guess the move was made because those two both bat from the left side and Martinez is a switch hitter.  And they still plan to play Holt a ton in left field it would seem.  Whatever.

But I like the move for Aaron Hill.  I don’t mind Travis Shaw.  But despite the hot start, I never considered him an everyday player…at third or at first.  A bunch of at-bats off the bench at both positions?  Sure.  And it appears that this will be the case going forward.  Hill isn’t going to hit 36 bombs like he did in 2009 with Toronto.  But he will be a useful addition.  At what appears to be a minimal cost…with 2 “prospects” going the other way.  Wendell Rijo is only 20, so maybe he will be something.  But he was hitting .186 in AA.  Doesn’t look good.  Aaron Wilkerson was pitching well in Pawtucket.  But he’s 27 years old himself and has never made the majors.  Doesn’t look like a big loss.

I also like the move for Brad Ziegler.  Not a prototypical closer, but he wasn’t supposed to come here as a closer anyway.  But hopefully he will close here with Kimbrel now out.  As much as I love Koji Uehara, this year he has been…shaky (done?).  Junichi Tazawa has apparently been battling a shoulder ailment (and is now on the DL)…but he’s never been considered a closer anyway.  Robbie Ross Jr. had some saves down the stretch last year…but on a bad team.  Plus John Farrell forgets he has him in his bullpen half the time.  So that won’t work.  The end result is that Ziegler may now be currently the best reliever in the bullpen.  Yikes!  But it’s a good move regardless.  It doesn’t appear that Ziegler’s cost was much, though maybe a bit more than Hill’s.  Jose Almonte, a 20-year-old pitcher that was in Single-A, and Luis Alejandro Basabe, a 19-year-old middle infielder that was in the same location.  Young, yes.  But I don’t ever recall seeing them on any “Top Prospect” lists.

After all that preamble, let’s get to the Blowhard’s suggestions.  Once again, in no particular order.

*Trade for a young #1 or #2 starter using the systems’ supposed plethora of prospects.  I know, I know, I know.  Who wouldn’t do this?  But the point is, the Sox CAN make this happen more than most other teams.  According to many people around the game, the Sox have several “can’t miss” prospects.  Yoan Moncada, Andrew Benintendi, Anderson Espinoza, Rafael Devers, maybe even that knucklehead Michael Kopech…yup, you’ve heard all the names.

The Sox should pick their top 2 or 3 guys and keep them.  And unload anyone and everyone else.  After all, for how long have we heard guys like Will Middlebrooks, Garin Cecchini, Casey Kelly, Bryce Brentz (before he shot himself accidentally in the leg in 2013 maybe), Henry Owens, Brian Johnson, Brian Rose, Wilton Veras and countless others were “can’t miss”?  Exactly.  Some of these guys won’t make it.  Most of them actually.  So while their names are hot, get rid of them.

OR, if they decide they will pay Xander and Mookie and not Jackie eventually, deal JBJ.  Assuming Benintendi will come up and take his place at some point soon enough.  OR, if the thought of engaging with Scott Boras down the road will leave them with so much distaste, trade Xander (heresy!!).  Assuming Moncada will come up and take his place eventually.

Now, I am not advocating trading Xander, no, not at all.  I actually would still consider trading JBJ, for the record.  Still not 100% sold on him long-term.  Even though I may be getting there.  Anyway, ideally, I’d go with trading a boatload of prospects.  But I think you get my overall point.  You have things people want.  You have a big hole…throughout the entire organization…with starting pitcher depth.  Go get a stud.  Now.

After all, wouldn’t every single person do Carl Pavano and Tony Armas Jr. for Pedro Martinez again?

EDITOR’S NOTE:  I wrote the previous 900 or so words earlier, then put it aside for several hours.  In the interim, the Sox apparently traded Espinoza for “All-Star” Drew Pomeranz.  I use the word “All-Star” loosely of course.  Listen, Pomeranz has had a nice half-year…on a poor team with no pressure…in a pitcher’s park.  Not to mention that he was an injury replacement for the All-Star game this year.  He has been with 3 teams in his 6 year major league career.  He was essentially traded for the immortal Yonder Alonso after last season.  He has never pitched more than 147 1/3 innings in a full year professionally and stands at 102 right now.

In other words, not exactly the trade I was looking for when I mentioned packaging prospects…especially top ones.

But you know what?  I’ll take it.  Not that I have a choice.  But Pomeranz is only 27.  Under team control for a couple more years.  Showed some promise in 2014 with Oakland (I know, another pressure cooker!) before he punched a chair after a bad start.  Stupid, I know…but who knows, maybe if Kopech makes it to Boston someday they can hang out.  More importantly, Espinoza is 18 YEARS OLD.  Who the hell knows what he will be?  Some people were all worked up the Sox gave up 17-year-old Engel Beltre back in the Eric Gagne trade.  Who?  Exactly.

Espinoza could be the next Pedro Martinez, sure.  But the odds are way better that he becomes the next Casey Kelly…or Brian Rose.  Plus…anything can happen before he gets to the majors.  Specifically injury…like a major arm kind.  He’s a loooooooooooong ways away folks.  I’d rather bet on some of the positional prospects than the pitching prospects, if I had to.  In any event, maybe it works out, maybe it doesn’t.  We shall see.

I’m still going after the #1 or #2 type guy as well though…moving on…

*Release Clay Buchholz.  Goes without saying.  And I’ve still said it a ton.  But Farrell is making noise about putting him back in the rotation eventually.  Maybe the acquisition of Pomeranz changes that thinking.  Either way, it’s well past time.  Coincidentally, they need to make space on the 40-man roster for Pomeranz.  Someone has to go.  Maybe it is finally him?  I’m looking at the 40-man and the obvious choice to me is to DFA Sean O’Sullivan.  But he is on the 15 day DL, so I don’t know if they CAN make that move.  Maybe Josh Rutledge is transferred to the 60 day DL.  Or same for Chris Young.  But there aren’t many options at this point.  DFA Clay?  Let’s get everyone on board!!

*Get one other 5th or 6th starter type.  This shouldn’t cost much.  If the Sox got a number #2 guy this month as I mentioned above, the rotation would look like this:  Price, #2, Porcello, Pomeranz, Wright.  Eduardo Rodriguez would theoretically be the #6 guy.  He’s been terrible, but no one should be giving him away or counting him out now.  Plenty of promise there.  And he has at least some positive major league history.  This other guy would actually be #7.  Better than Buchholz.  Or Joe Kelly.  Or Owens.  Good to have some more depth.

*Add another top-notch bullpen guy and a veteran “middle inning” guy.  As of right this second, with Taz and Kimbrel (Carson Smith too of course) on the DL, the bullpen consists of:  Buchholz, William Cuevas, Tommy Layne, Heath Hembree, Ross, Koji, Matt Barnes and Ziegler…Double Yikes!!  Matt Barnes may be your second best reliever now.  Ugh.

We’ve gone over Bucky.  Cuevas, (also Noe Ramirez, Pat Light, Roenis Elias)?  Not any kind of answer.  Layne has been ok, but is fungible.  No bigger Hembree guy than me.  But who knows with him?  He’s never been around long enough to know how he will hold up in a pennant race.  Ross is ok, but Koji may be done.  Barnes?  Not a fan myself.  Hopefully Ziegler can do something.  But…a lot of question marks as you can see.

Perhaps Joe Kelly is that “middle inning” guy?  Maybe.  Can’t be worse than some of the aforementioned dudes.  It appears he will get a chance.  I’m ok with it.

If they get the 2 bullpen guys, then the 7 they carry until either injured guys come back and/or September callups can be something like:  Kelly/vet, Ross, Barnes, Layne, Koji, Bullpen trade target, Ziegler…still questionable, but if the guy you get is awesome, then that will be a major boost.  Hate to leave Hembree out, but you can stash him in Pawtucket like Kelly for a few weeks if you have to.  The vet could be a 13th type of pitcher with experience and he could also be in AAA for now.  Maybe give Koji a “rest” on the DL.  Just mix and match arms until Taz and Kimbrel come back.  Then in September you have a lot of half decent arms out there.  Anchored by Kimbrel, Ziegler, Taz and trade guy.  With depth in Koji, Barnes, Ross, Kelly, other vet, Hembree, etc.  And no Noe’s or Light’s in sight either.

Bottom line?  Never hurts to have more than enough bullpen arms.  The Sox bullpen won’t become like the back-end of the Royals or Yankees…this year anyway.  But if they can just have more available options than what has sometimes paraded through the mound for them up to this point, it will help close the gap.

*Fire John Farrell.  Ok, that’s not going to happen.  He’s here for the season now I feel.  Like it or not.  And honestly, firing him at this point will probably not accomplish much.  Oh well.

What else?  Nothing actually.  Pitching, pitching, pitching.  That’s it.

The Sox can live with Sandy Leon/Ryan Hanigan/Christian Vazquez/Blake Swihart(?) behind the plate.  Especially if Leon continues to hit .455.  That’s possible, right?

They can also live with Holt/Brentz/Young/Swihart(?)/Shaw(?) in left field I believe.  Maybe Benintendi comes up in September and adds to that mix.  Pretty sure they wouldn’t want to add him to the 40-man roster before they have to.  But perhaps he forces the issue.

The biggest thing they have to do on offense I feel is to keep the Big Guy healthy.  Give him a day off a week if you have to.  They should be able to work their way around that with the bodies they have.  Big Papi’s sick numbers are bound to regress a little anyway.  So let’s keep him fresh for the stretch run.  I know, he’s only a DH and gets up 4-5 times a game.  How much can that affect him?  I would normally agree with that thinking.  And have argued that over the years.  But now he is 40…old for sports.  Let’s err on the side of caution in his final year.

There are a lot of teams in the mix all across baseball.  But, especially in the AL, I don’t believe one team stands head and shoulders above the rest.  The World Series is a realistic goal.  When World Series aspirations are realistic, you need to go for it.  Let’s leave no stone unturned in order to get there.

The road just got longer…

So the Boston Celtics did not get Kevin Durant.  I think everyone knew that was going to be the end result.  Although, I admit, there was a small period of time last weekend where I think we all got our hopes up.  But realistically it was never going to happen, I’m sorry.

How do I feel about Durant going to the Golden State Warriors?  Well, I think it sucks, to be blunt.  On the surface, he took “the easy way out.”  He went to the best team in the league (sorry, Cleveland) in pursuit of a championship ring.  That’s his prerogative, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it.

Durant did something he himself didn’t like several years ago, when LeBron and Chris Bosh went to Miami and joined Dwyane Wade to form a “superteam” that ultimately went to 4 straight Finals, winning 2.  KD put a tweet out essentially knocking the move.  But he now joins Steph Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green on a new superteam.  OK, it was only one tweet and times and minds do change.  So he probably didn’t need to take as much heat as he did for something he said like 5 years ago.  But still…

Not a lot of people thought Golden State would be the place.  Because they already did have the 3 studs.  How are they going to spread the ball around to FOUR guys?  With all that money invested in those 4, how would they even be able to fill the roster with any more talent whatsoever?  Why go to the team that just beat you?  Etc.

So he went to a true championship contender.  Most of the teams on his visitation list were exactly that.  Can’t fault a guy for that I suppose.  Money is nice, but I myself wouldn’t want to go to a team that was bound to go like 20-62 just because they offered the most money.  It is just disheartening that KD chose to go to a team that won the championship 2 years ago and also should have won it again this past year.  Barring injury, it’s almost kind of a lock that they at least make the Finals this year again, no?

Sure, I’m biased.  Of course I wanted him to come to Boston.  To help the C’s turn the corner into a legitimate championship contender.  Now, regardless of what the Celtics do the rest of the offseason, doesn’t it still feel like it’s Golden State and Cleveland and then everyone else is kind of pretty far away?  That it’s like no one else has a REAL chance?  Maybe this is the way the NBA is now.  Maybe this is the way the NBA always kind of has been.  But it still just doesn’t feel right.

Well, at least Durant did it quickly.  And he didn’t make a production out of it like LeBron did back then.  It’s disappointing for any Boston fans.  And any fans of teams other than Golden State, I suppose.  But if KD was pompous about it, then it would’ve made it worse.  So I have to give him that much, begrudgingly.

It is what it is and we just have to move on.  Again, most of us didn’t think he was coming here anyway, so we shouldn’t dwell on it.  But what is next?

The Celtics signed Al Horford to a max contract.  There’s a start.  But Big Al is like a 2nd or 3rd piece, not a lead dog.  And I’ve said it before:  If the Horford the C’s get is the version from last year’s playoffs?  Yuck.  Either way, even though I don’t love the contract, I don’t mind the move.  It’s another step in the right direction for the franchise.

There’s a lot more work to be done.  Even after renouncing the rights to Jared Sullinger.  Ha!  That was done kind of quietly, eh?  I never loved Sully.  But I never hated him either.  I did absolutely hate when he teed it up beyond the arc…every time actually.  I hated that he couldn’t get his fat arse in any kind of shape every year.  But he could rebound.  And this team still doesn’t have many guys that can do that.  I would’ve taken him back, at least for one more year.

But maybe Danny has something else up his sleeve.  He better.  Quickly scanning the remaining free agent list, I suppose it goes without saying that there aren’t too many gems left.  Sure, there are plenty of good pieces available.  But the Celts already have about a thousand of those.

I do have to say, I am glad Danny did not panic and sign some of these other free agents over the first few days.  Have you seen these contracts?  Horford’s 4 years for 113 mil is crazy, but Mike Conley getting 5/153?  Chandler Parsons 4/94?  Kent Bazemore 4/70?  Jon Leuer 4/42?  Timofey Mozgov 4/64?  E’Twaun Moore 4/34?  E’TWAUN MOORE?!  The list is actually endless, so I will stop there.  Silly money.  Pure stupidity in many cases.  I’m glad Ainge only partook in one of those.  Notice how I avoided the 4/70 Portland gave Evan Turner.  Ugh.  Wait, the Nets gave someone named Allen Crabbe an offer sheet for 4/75 and the Blazers matched.  Almost 20 mil a year…for Allen Crabbe.

Anyway…so…Danny needs to deal to get his guy.  Still has plenty of assets.  I imagine there will be some deals on the table still.  Maybe the same rumored deals around the draft with Philly are still a possibility.  We will have to wait a little longer.  And I’m still ok with Ainge being patient, based on the new set of circumstances.  What else can we do anyway?

But they can’t possibly go to camp with the current group, can they?

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