Thursday, March 29, 2012

49ers Sign Brandon Jacobs, A's Split in Tokyo

Well, for some reason, Major League Baseball decided to open the season in March and play the two games in Tokyo in the middle of the night for the two West Coast teams. I mean, at least if they would have played two East coast teams, they may have gotten some viewers, but these two games were the lowest watch MLB openers since the invention of TV, I would think. Oh yeah, the 49ers also made yet another move, and we'll talk about both in this post.

First off we'll start with the Niners, who continued their great offseason by filling yet another void in their offensive arsenal with a power running back and one that should really help them keep Gore fresh throughout the year. Him and Kendal Hunter are the perfect mix of thunder and lightning behind Frankie, and should he miss a game or two, they'll be in much better shape to handle things with Jacobs now in tow. He's a guy who had that big 15 TD season in 2008, then the Giants cut his workload in half and split him up with Ahmad Bradshaw, but he still managed to put up nearly 850 yards with 9 TD's on just 152 carries in 2010 as the 2nd back. The 49ers are giving him just a one-year deal, which I like because it'll motivate him to go our and knock some heads to try and get that big deal next offseason. The NFL is now a league in which every good team has two startable backs, and Jacobs knows that when he's right, he's one of the best power backs, next to Peyton Hillis, in the NFL today. I think Harbough and the 49ers staff now exactly how to use him and I'm expecting a similar output to what he showed in 2010. This deal gives the 49ers a bruiser for short-yardage situations, and gives them insurance in-case Gore misses some time. In a market and draft paper thin at running back, the 49ers just got themselves a good one that knows how to win ballgames and can get that first down on 3rd and 1 when Frankie's on the sidelines. Anthony Dixon was so bad at it last year, they barely used him, and when they did, it showed how sorely they needed to upgrade, and that they have!

Now, completely switching subjects, we move to the A's, who split their two game set with their near equals, the Seattle Mariners, across the World in Tokyo these last two mornings. The Mariners drew first blood, winning the opener on Ichiro Suzuki's 4-hit effort and Felix Hernandez's 8 shutout innings, but they responded well in game two, as young Yeonis Cespedes flexed his muscle and hit a mammoth shot to help guide the A's to a 4-1 victory. Fellow new comer Josh Reddick also homered and raised his average to .667 through 2 games, and he's looking like a real nice pickup early on for the A's. The only two A's yet to get anything going offensively are Jemile Weeks and Coco Crisp, who the A's are hoping spark the top of that lineup if they're to be any kind of offensive threat. However, if Cespedes is the real deal, and this Reddick kid continues to hit (he did it in Boston, so why not?) then the A's will sport a better lineup than I thought. Plus they still have Manny on the way after his 50 game suspension who should be like adding another bopper to the mix. They still are thin in the rotation, though Bartolo Colon gave them a great outing this morning, working 8 innings of 3-hit ball before yielding to Grant Balfour who was perfect in his first save opp. Brandon McCarthy was decent too on Thursday, but didn't match up with Hernandez.

Monday, March 26, 2012

MLB Previews 2012: AL Central

Continuing with the theme we started in our last post, previewing the AL West, we'll continue working down through the East then start in the NL West and do the same with the National League. I don't anticipate anything too big with Bay Area Sports right now besides upcoming MLB's upcoming Opening Day but if the Raiders or Niners make a move between now and then, or some the Giants or A's swing a big trade or something, we'll have certainly have it here for you. Anyway, back to the predictions:

AL Central Preview

First Place, Detroit Tigers

CF Austin Jackson
RF Brandon Boesch
3B Miguel Cabrera
1B Prince Fielder
LF Delmon Young
C Alex Avilla
SS Johnny Peralta
DH Don Kelly
2B Ryan Rayburn

RHP Justin Verlander
RHP Max Scherzer
RHP Doug Fister
RHP Rick Porcello
LHP Andrew Oliver (R)
CL: Jose Valverde

In perhaps the weakest division in baseball, the Tigers, with two MVP candidates in the lineup and the reigning AL Cy Young award winner atop their rotation look heads and shoulders above the rest of the four. The Fielder addition was one that should seal this paper-thin division for them and look for the Fielder/Cabrera combo to provide one of the best 3-4 punches in the game for years to come (both players still in their 20's and locked up long-term). I'd expect the Tigers to have this thing locked up by early September baring catastrophic injuries. The only question with them lies at the end of their rotation and with the depth of their bullpen, but both are strong enough in this division to win, but may not be strong enough to be competitive in the Postseason. As the season wears on and they see they're legit contenders but need more pitching, look for them to be proactive in the market. They're a squad and play in a park that I think Roy Oswalt (still a FA) would be ideal for!

2nd Place, Kansas City Royals

LF Alex Gordon
CF Lorenzo Cain
1B Eric Hosmer
DH Billy Butler
RF Jeff Francoeur
3B Mike Moustakas
2B Johnny Giavotella
C Bryan Pena
SS Alcides Escobar

LHP Bruce Chen
RHP Luke Hochevar
LHP Jonathan Sanchez
RHP Luis Mendoza
RHP Felipe Paulino
CL: Jonathan Broxton

The Royals have already suffered a catastrophic loss in young closer Joakim Soria, but they have the young rotation, bullpen, and enough young talent in their everyday lineup to help overcome it and give KC their best team they've seen since the turn of the century! All their young hitters are having strong springs, but there are some questions surrounding their starting rotation, where they have no true ace. Chen will fill that role, and they're hoping Hochevar and Sanchez each pitch to their potentials, which would give KC a strong front-3 even without that true ace. Their closer will likely be Broxton, who if healthy should be just fine in Soria's place. They're still not playoff material yet, but the Royals are rising in a weak division. Speaking of more starting pitching, they too should be all over Javier Vazquez and Roy Oswalt!

3rd Place, Chicago White Sox

CF Alejandro De Aza
2B Gordon Beckham
RF Alex Rios
1B Paul Konerko
DH Adam Dunn
SS Alexi Ramirez
3B Brent Morel
LF Dylan Viciedo
C AJ Pierzynski

RHP Jake Peavy
LHP John Danks
RHP Gavin Floyd
LHP Chris Sale
RHP Phillip Humber
CL: Matt Thornton

The White Sox are banking on just about everybody besides De Aza and Konerko to have bounce-back seasons in 2012, or in some players cases like Morel and Viciedo's, build on 2011's brief success. The guys they need to rebound that hold the key to their success in 2012 are: Dunn, Beckham, Rios and Peavy. If all those guys play like they're capable of, and shown in the past, then the White Sox will rise up the charts, especially with their deep pitching staff. If that doesn't happen, it's going to be another long year on the South Side and they should really look into blowing things up and building from scratch. If they're out of it at the deadline, look for Kenny Williams to try and deal Konerko, Peavy, Rios, Thornton, and if he can get back on track, even Adam Dunn. Right now, the Sox are weighed down by big contracts that are underperforming, and until those go away, or those players start performing, then they'll be stuck in neutral! Good enough to tease, but no where near good enough to compete for the playoffs.

4th Place, Cleveland Indians

CF Michael Brantley
LF Grady Sizemore*
SS Asdrubal Cabrera
C Carlos Santana
RF Shin-Soo Choo
DH Travis Hafner
1B Shelly Duncan
2B Jason Kipnis
3B Jack Hannahan

RHP Ubaldo Jimenez
RHP Justin Masterson
RHP Josh Tomlin
RHP Derek Lowe
RHP Kevin Slowey
CL: Chris Perez

Injuries to the rotation forced the Indians to add Derek Lowe this offseason, and I think it will wind up being a nice addition to a young staff. Masterson and Jimenez should be solid atop, but Slowey is questionable in the five-slot and could be expendable. They have a under-appreciated closer in Perez, and some very good young pieces in their lineup like Cabrera, Santana and Brantley, but will need Hafner, Choo and Sizemore to avoid major DL time to have any hope of contending. In this division though, an injury here or a hot streak there could really change the shape of things, and it wouldn't surprise me the least of any of these top-4 teams win the division. If those three injury-prone guys stay on the field, and Jimenez does regain pre-2011 form, then the Indians will be compete in this division. The one team I'm pretty certain wont are...

Fifth Place, Minnesota Twins

CF Denard Span
SS Jamey Carroll
C Joe Mauer
1B Justin Morneau
RF Josh Willingham
DH Ryan Doumit
3B Danny Valencia
LF Trevor Plouffe
2B Alexi Casilla

RHP Carl Pavano
LHP Francisco Liriano
RHP Scott Baker
RHP Jason Marquis
RHP Nick Blackburn
CL: Matt Capps

The Twins, out of every team in baseball, sport a pitching staff full of guys MLB hitters lick their chops to face off against. The staff, as a whole, is one of the weakest bunches in baseball, flat out. Liriano should be a bit better which should help them, but any time a team is trotting out a 9-13 pitcher with a 1.34 ERA on opening day, you know they're in trouble. From Pavano, down through Marquis, Blackburn and even in their closer Capps, these guys just don't scare anyone, don't strike people out and have a hard time getting hitters out in general. Also, their best two hitters, the J.M.'s, are as fragile as they come and need to spend more time on the field than the DL for the Twinkies to have any sort of offense. Those two were batting champion and MVP candidates just 2 years ago, hard to believe they both completely lost it at the same time? But the Twins, for a team with a new yard should be drawing up more hype and spending more money and they just haven't been making good baseball decisions.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

AL West Preview: Extended Athletics Edition

Well, the A's have officially left Arizona and arrived in Japan where they will open the season on March 28th. With their opener quickly approaching, I figured now would be a good time to switch gears from football mania back to baseball, and here's the divsion in which the A's will be battling in 2012:

AL West Preview

First Place, Los Angeles Angels

SS Erick Aybar
2B Howie Kendrick
1B Albert Pujols
DH Kendrys Morales
RF Torii Hunter
LF Vernon Wells
C Chris Iannetta
3B Alberto Callaspo
CF Peter Bourjos

RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Dan Haren
RHP Ervin Santana
RHP Jerome Williams
CL: Jordan Walden

The Angels made the biggest splash of the offseason by not only inking the market's top hitter in Albert Pujols, but also the markets top LHP in C.J. Wilson, a left-hander this rotation badly needed. This team is so strong that they have guys like Mark Trumbo (runner up for ROY in 2011) and Macier Izturis slated to ride the pine to start the year. They should each see plenty of time though, as this is a deep, talented squad. And if Hunter and Wells each play to their capability, then this just may be the best team in the American League. The one slight question they have surrounds young closer Jordan Walden, who the Angels appeared to have wavering faith in last season. However, there were tons of closers on the FA market this winter and the Angels didn't add any insurance. Scott Downs is coming off a career year as well as set-up, so the Angels appear confident in their late-inning relief.

2nd Place, Texas Rangers (Wild Card 1)

2B Ian Kinsler
SS Elvis Andrus
CF Josh Hamilton
3B Adrian Beltre
DH Michael Young
RF Nelson Cruz
C Mike Napoli
1B Mitch Moreland
LF David Murphy

RHP Yu Darvish (R)
LHP Derek Holland
RHP Colby Lewis
RHP Neftali Feliz
LHP Matt Harrison
CL: Joe Nathan

The Rangers made the commitment of moving Feliz back to the rotation, where he pitched most of his minor league career, by inking former Giant Joe Nathan to close out games. They also have Alexi Ogando as the kind of, do-all artist, as he could close if Nathan struggles, or move back to the rotation should Feliz hit a bump. The Rangers also have a big question at the top of their rotation in Darvish, who's making his rookie tour through the big leagues this season. He should be good, but I'm not sure he's an ace and that could be asking too much of the 27 year-old in his first season in America. Their rotation has some definite questions, but none that can't be solved, and that lineup just seems to keep getting better and better, so they'll be in the playoffs yet again.

3rd Place, Seattle Mariners

3B Chone Figgins
2B Dustin Ackley
RF Ichiro Suzuki
1B Justin Smoak
LF Mike Carp
DH Jesus Montero
C Miguel Olivo
SS Brendan Ryan
CF Franklin Gutierrez

RHP Felix Hernandez
LHP Jason Vargas
RHP Kevin Millwood
RHP Hisashi Iwakuma (R)
RHP Blake Beaven
CL: Brandon League

The Mariners made an odd trade this winter that head just about everyone wondering why they didn't get more in dealing bright young starter Michael Pineda to the Yankees for DH Jesus Montero. I mean, they should have at least required Phil Hughes or one of the Yankees young arms in return, but they didn't do that. Anyway, it does improve the offense, but only marginally, and it leaves a rotation that was really setting up as one of the better young ones in the league, with a ton of question marks. Hernandez and Vargas will be fine, but after that, it's a crap-shoot. I do like their bullpen though, led by underrated closer Brandon League.

4th Place, Oakland Athletics

2B Jemile Weeks
LF Coco Crisp
CF Yeonis Cespedes
DH Manny Ramirez
1B Brandon Allen
C Kurt Suzuki
RF Seth Smith
SS Cliff Pennington
3B Josh Donaldson (R)

RHP Brandon McCarthy
RHP Bartolo Colon
LHP Dallas Braden
RHP Tyson Ross
LHP Tommy Milone (R)
CL: Grant Balfour

Unfortunately, I don't see the the A's as good enough to even beat out the Mariners for third place. They have injury issues in their rotation, along with a bunch of rookies all over the place, and I just don't see things panning out this year for the Green and Gold. Billy Beane put together one of the oddest offseasons I've ever seen a professional sports team go through. It must be an Oakland thing, as it seems their franchises are always making bizarre moves, from the Raiders and Warriors to the Athletics. After looking to initially clear payroll by dealing away their top pitching talent in Trevor Cahill, Gio Gonzalez and Andrew Bailey, they signed un-proven Yeonis Cespedes to a huge contract and traded Guillermo Moscoso for Rockies' outfielder Seth Smith when they appeared to be set in the outfield with Cespedes, Michael Taylor and Josh Reddick. However, they also re-signed Coco Crisp, taking away another spot from a youngster, and brought in Manny Ramirez, taking yet another spot away from a young bat. This has been the oddest approach I've ever seen Billy Beane take in an offseason. I could get behind going young and building for the new ballpark, but re-signing Crisp, Manny, bringing in Smith and giving loads of money to an unproven commodity did not fit that bill. Only way A's are relevant is if Cespedes is AL ROY, "ManRam" has a career rejuvenation at 38, and their pitching staff (Brett Anderson!) gets and stays healthy.

Note: Over the next two weeks, as we gear up for the rest of MLB's opening day April 5th, we'll be doing divisional previews here and there along with football free agency updates and anything relevant happening with the Warriors.

Friday, March 23, 2012

49ers Add QB Josh Johnson, Re-sign Ginn

Well, I've been joking over the last few weeks how we've turned into almost a pure 49ers site recently, just with all the action that's been going on with them and the lack of action elsewhere in the Bay Area, with Spring Training still going on and the Warriors irrelevant in the NBA playoff chase and the Raiders stay extremely quiet.

The 49ers on the other hand, continued there all out blitz on the free agent market Thursday, by adding former Buccaneer's QB Josh Johnson to back up Alex Smith and provide some depth at the QB position. I love this move as it was something the 49ers were supposedly looking into before last seasons trade deadline as well. Now, Alex Smith is the clear-cut starter, but after him, things were a little uncertain, with Colin Kaepernick still a work in progress and nobody else with any experience around. This gives the 49ers a legit NFL QB behind Alex just in case Alex reverts to his old ways this season, or goes down with injury. It just makes the 49ers a better, deeper team and again, anytime you make your team better, I'm all for it. Johnson is familiar with Harbough's system as Harbough coached him at San Diego State, where Johnson put up all kinds of school records and started the "Whichever QB Harbough touches turns to gold" assumptions. Johnson has had limited success at the NFL level, but in limited playing time. He's only played in 26 NFL games with just a handful of starts, but the 49ers brass believes, like they did with Alex, that under Harbough his potential will come out. He has the ability to be a great backup QB in a league that's starting to lack talent at the position. The 49ers now have a starter in Alex, a true backup in Johnson and a #3 they get to continue to baby along in Kaep and give them a few more seasons to figure his status out!

Josh Johnson wasn't the only 49er signing of the day though, as the Niners also re-signed star returner Ted Ginn Jr. This could signify the end of the 49ers pursuance of wideouts, at least until the NFL draft, but they still have one big hole remaining on offense, and that's the right guard position. There's some question as to whether or not they'd move up in the first round to get a top ranked guard, but I'd feel better if they just signed a trusty vet, like they did with Goodwin at the center last season. This team already has a ton of "green" offensive lineman and don't need another rookie in the starting lineup unless he's a guy who can make an impact starting on week one. A free agent RG who I think would fit perfectly into the 49ers scheme is Texans 29 year-old free agent, Mike Brisiel. He's been a rock to run behind for Arien Foster and could bring some more toughness to this O-Line. Other than that, there are a few other guards in free agency that could be intriguing, and there may be more yet to come, but right now, it looks like the 49ers may indeed end up addressing that position with pick number 1, depending on just who falls to them.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Breaking News: 49ers, Alex Smith Finalizing Deal

I know we're the Bay Area Sports Journal, and will talk everything Bay Area sports, but with no Northern California team relevant in the NCAA tourney, we should re-name this 49ers Madness month here at 'The Journal in subsequent years! If this latest move goes through though, 49er talk should mellow down for the time being and we can move start spreading our focus back around to the different teams in Northern California, but for another post at least, it's all 49ers, though we do have an Oakland A's note at the end!

Well, the hectic weekend that had the 49ers strongly pursuing future Hall-of-Fame QB, Peyton Manning, came to an end with Manning deciding to go play for his childhood idol John Elway and the Denver Broncos. The 49ers then immediately turned their focus back to Alex Smith, but Smith was in Florida vising with the Dolphins, so they had to wait that out and hope Alex didn't sign a deal before getting on the plane and heading back to California. However, with the Dolphins recent signing of David Garrard, and Seattle inking Matt Flynn, there really aren't any teams left looking for a starting quarterback, or at least any that have expressed interest in Alex Smith except the 49ers. And, just as everybody anticipated, Smith and the 49ers are in the final stages of drawing up a contract believed to be in the close to the deal that the 49ers had on the table for Smith since the start of Free Agency (3 years/$24 million). The 49ers may add a few extra million in guaranteed dough to help Smith get over the fact the team would have preffered Manning to him in they had their choice. Still Smith shouldn't feel too bad at all, I mean, how could you if your team offers you a deal, you don't sign it and they express interest in an all-time great at the position? Just as I expected, it seems like any hurt feelings were short-lived for Smith, especially after hearing the supposed uproar from Dolphin fans in Miami after the Dolphins had him in for the visit!

Some people also are saying that the Dolphins choose to sign David Garrard over Smith, but that's a deal in totally different context. I guarantee you, if the Dolphins could have had Smith for what they're going to pay Garrard, they would have chosen Smith without batting an eye, but fact is, Smith had a 3 year offer on the table and probably wouldn't have settled for anything less. So, at least 49er fans who thought Smith would leave the team in spite, can breath a lot easier Tuesday, as they now know #11 will be back for a few more seasons to throw to the new, upgraded wide receiving core. That's one good thing about this deal getting done now. This will allow Smith to go through all mini-camps and what not with the team now, and can start building his rapport with newcomers Randy Moss, Mario Manningham and possibly others. The 49ers are still said to be in the hunt for free agent wideouts, as there are a ton of them, and may be looking for a slot-type, kick-returning speed guy, like Ginn was, but maybe more of a threat at wideout. Two guys who may fit that bill is former Falcon Harry Douglas and Bronco Eddie Royal. Both are better receivers than Ginn, and Royal is just as effective a returner. Douglas hasn't returned in a few years, but has filled that role plenty in his career. Either player would be a nice upgrade to the offense and special teams, especially with Ginn on his way out! One area the 49ers were so good at was special teams and Ginn was big there, they have to replace that with someone of quality!

A's Note: I also wanted to beak some big A's news as well, as they announced that Cuban phenom Yeonis Cespedes will not only be on the opening day Roster when the A's open up in Japan, but he'll be their starting center fielder, in an odd move that moves gold-glover Coco Crisp to left field. It's a move that has apparently upset Crisp and one that doesn't make a whole lot of sense. I mean, if you want to start Cespedes right away, I get it, but putting him in center when you have Crisp just doesn't make any sense to me, especially when this guy projects out as a corner outfielder. Should be interesting to see how that one shakes out for Oakland, I know I'll be watching with anticipation on opening day to see how the kid does as he and Jemile Weeks are really the only two reasons to even watch the A's!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

49ers Land Mario Manningham

The 49ers have had one of the most successful offseasons of any NFL team so far, and it got a whole lot better Sunday, as the 49ers finalized a deal for former Giants wideout Mario Manningham, a guy they had their sights on since the season ended and they knew they needed to upgrade their wideout position.

I've liked Manningham since his days at Michigan and couldn't believe he lasted until the end of the third round in the 2008 draft. Manningham has battled some injury issues through his career, including 2011 when he missed 4 games, as well as 2 in 2009, but he looked healthy in last years postseason, especially vs. the 49ers as he was key for the Giants in that second half. After the signing of Randy Moss, the 49ers look pretty set now at wideout, and I have to say, they're looking even better than I was hoping. I was just hoping they'd land one top-end receiver this off-season, then maybe one in the draft. Then they signed Moss, and I thought that may be it as far as free agent recievers, with the market being so high. But they've now landed two potential game changing wideouts, and each can stretch the defense and are deep threats, which should really help out Michael Crabtree underneath. The 49ers weren't going to get a Vincent Jackson or Marques Colston cause those elite guys either got franchised or signed ridiculous deals (just look at DeSean and Vincent Jackson's). Luckily, they were able to add a player of Manningham's ability on a reasonable two-year deal in market where a guy only slightly better than Mario (Desean Jackson) got $50 million. Mario, in addition to Moss have completely revamped the 49ers receiving core and there's still a chance a WR they like falls to them in the draft (Stephen Hill?). It still leaves to question just who will be tossing them the pigskin?

From what I'm hearing and from a logical standpoint, it appears like the 49ers are really close with Manning and may just be the favorites. What further enforces this idea is that Alex Smith, who shares the same agent as Peyton, is just now scheduling to visit with the Miami Dolphins. If he had plans on leaving SF, he would have been meeting with teams since day one of free agency. One would have to think that said agent may have given him notice that the 49ers are the most likely candidates for Manning, so Smith better start looking elsewhere. Either that, or Smith really is irked about this whole Manning pursuit and may be looking to leave town. Manning said he expects to make a decision on a team by Monday or Tuesday, so hopefully Smith doesn't pull a Moss and sign with Miami before the Dolphins let him leave Florida. That said, the 49ers have to be feeling good about the possibility of Manning choosing them, especially with their recent new upgrades at wideout and aggressive approach towards building a championship-caliber team. This is a team that is clearly ready to win not only next year, but in the years following as well, and that should ultimately entice Manning to the Red and Gold. He could win 2-3 Super Bowls with this defense and running game! He's also got his idol yanking him towards Denver (who also have a good young defensive core, but not the running game or receiving options the 49ers have) and his old College state, Tennessee also interested if he wants to go back to his roots and help the Titans who also would be helped incredibly by a Manning signing. Either way, this saga should wound up by our next post, and I've made no bones about it, I hope he ends up in San Francisco.

Smith possibly bolting and Manning signing elsewhere is something I'm worried about though, and that has to be in the back of Trent Baalke and Jim Harbough's mind. After those two, there's the Kevin Kolb 2.0 in Matt Flynn and that's about it. Kyle Orton would probably be my choice as the fallback, emergency guy, or another option could be dealing a pick for someone elses backup. I don't know why they didn't sign Jason Campbell before Chiacgo did? He would have been the ideal backup plan QB, or insurance policy to Manning.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Update: 49ers Among the 3 Finalists for Manning

Well, what was just a "what if" thought a few ago when Peyton Manning was released from the Colts has all the sudden become a very real possibility. The 49ers brass, including Coach Harbough, trekked across country Tuesday to watch Peyton throw and the 49ers apparently followed that up by sending the medical staff to do a physical on the future MVP.

This is a tremendous turn of events, as Manning has narrowed his list of potential suitors to 3, being the 49ers, Titans and Broncos. Now, I said back when he was released, as good a seasons Alex Smith had, I would jump at the opportunity to bring in Manning (Just looks right in that red uni in that picture), without hesitation if he's strong and healthy, which he apparently is. A healthy Manning turns the 49ers into a sure-fire playoff team again and quite possibly the NFC favorites, that's what kind of impact he could potentially have to this team, which is why the fact he's strongly considering San Francisco should be extremely appealing to 49ers fans. Now, the team that I've been thinking Manning would wind up with because of John Elway's influence, the Denver Broncos, have apparently offered Peyton a gigantic contract worth roughly $14M per year for 5 seasons. It comes down to two things if you ask me. If Peyton wants his best shot at winning some more Super Bowls before his window closes, he'd be wise in choosing San Francisco. They have a defense that would blow any defense he ever had supporting him in Indy during his career away, and a sturdy running game he can count on week in and week out, unlike the inconsistent Joseph Addai. The one area where the 49ers are still a bit limited though, is at wideout, but they just added Randy Moss, and if Manning were to come aboard, he may come with his dependable target from his days in Indy, Reggie Wayne. However, Peyton has been turning borderline NFL receivers into studs in Indy for years (a la Austin Collie, Anthony Gonzalez ect.....).

Now, while this Manning extravaganza carries on, which it most likely will for a few more days until he makes a decision, it makes one wonder what is going through the mind of Alex Smith. Now that free agency is open, Smith is officially unrestricted and free to sign with whoever he chooses, whenever he chooses. One team said to have some interest in Smith are the Seattle Seahawks, and that move could appeal to Smith who's spent his whole life and career on the West Coast. The 49ers have to be a tad concerned in the back of their mind that if they strikeout on Manning, and Smith bolts for somewhere else after seeing the 49ers pursuance of Manning. With that in mind, it may not be a bad idea to try and work a deal for fringe-starting QB right now like a Josh Johnson or Chad Henne, just in case worse came to worst and they lose out on both their targets. Another option, if Smith and Manning aren't, and probably the top option would be Kyle Orton, who would probably succeed in the 49ers system and is a guy I was actually hoping they'd add last season as an experienced backup to Alex.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

NBA Deadline Scoop, 49ers Update

Well folks, we can check off one of the frenzies that have taken hold of the sports world over the last week or so, from NFL free agency, the NCAA Tournament, the NBA trade deadline to MLB's spring training. Indeed, there has been plenty to discuss here at the Journal, which has kept us extremely busy of late.

Today, we're going to keep it mostly NBA, as the deadline really dominated sports headlines Thursday. The Warriors made a few more moves to better their position heading into the 2012 draft. They swapped Stephen Jackson for Richard Jefferson, taking on an extra year of a $10M salary but gaining the Spurs first rounder in the upcoming draft. It's no surprise that Jackson was dealt before arriving in Golden State, as he left here after his first stint under some pretty bad terms. The Warriors didn't want to take the chance of having Jackson become a cancer in their clubhouse again, like he did in Milwaukee and nearly every other destination during his career, besides San Antonio. This move makes sense for both squads, as the Spurs get a tough defender at SF and at this stage, a better player than Jefferson, while the Warriors pretty much ensure they get to pick in the first round in this years draft, albeit a likely low-20's pick. Here are the three other big moves that went down on Thursday:

Gerald Wallace to New Jersey for their protected first-rounder
: This was probably the 2nd biggest deal of the day, as it was one of many moves made by Portland Thursday. The Blazers went through a mini fire-sale before the deadline, dealing away Wallace and starting center Marcus Camby, who was dealt to Houston. They then axed long-time head coach Nate McMillan, in a somewhat surprising move. I know Portland had been struggling this season, but I was surprised they didn't wait until after the year to dismiss McMillan. Anyway, as long as the Blazers end up with the Nets first rounder, which is protected through pick 3 (their likely pick would be 5 if the season ended today), then they make out just fine in this deal, especially as they're obviously moving towards rebuilding. At the same time, although he's had somewhat of an off-year, the 29 year-old Wallace is a rare talent on both ends of the court and may help the Nets chances of resigning Deron Williams over the summer. A potential lineup of Williams, impressive rookie MarShon Brooks, Wallace, Kris Humprhies and Brook Lopez, with Anthony Morrow and Gerald Green coming off the bench for 2012-13, isn't a bad look.

Ramon Sessions to Lakers for first round pick: The Lakers got something they really haven't had in years, and that's a young, explosive point guard who can put up some points and is one of the more underrated players in the NBA. Sessions assists-per-minute ratio is the best in the NBA and he didn't have much of a spot in Cleveland behind star rookie Kyrie Irving. For that, I like this deal for both squads. The Lakers were also trying hard to acquire T-Wolves forward Michael Beasley, and would have been even better off had that gone through, but they have to be happy with their shiny new point guard, who should make everyone on that team better, including Andrew Bynum, and that's scary to think! The Lakers, in response, shipped their long-time PG, Derek Fisher, to Houston.

Three-Way Trade- Clippers acquire Nick Young, Nuggets acquire JaValle McGee, and Wizards end up with Nene: Now, this was the last, but the biggest deal to go down on before the deadline Thursday, and it's a deal that makes a lot of sense for all parties involved. The Clippers get former USC guard Nick Young, bringing him back to SoCal, where they really need some scoring help at the off-guard and small forward position. He's a young perimeter player who should mesh well with CP3 and Blake Griffin and when he's one, he'll even make Clipper fans forget about Eric Gordon. Also, JaValle McGee, who's one of the most talented big men in the game, got the change of scenery he so badly needed, as he was dealt to Denver with Nene heading back to Washington. Nene will give the Wizards a solid veteran front-court influence and should play well with Andre Blatche. However, I think the winner of this deal, if I had to pick one, are the Nuggets. They get a star, 23 year-old center who should fit in well with Denver. George Karl has has the leadership skills and Denver has enough veteran influence that McGee should be on his best behavior. When this guy plays 30+ minutes a night, it's rare if he doesn't wind up with 15 points, 12-15 boards and 3-4 blocks. That's dominance on both ends.


Again, the Warriors and the 49ers were the two Bay Area franchises leading headlines Thursday, as the 49ers are apparently looking very deeply into the possibility of signing either Mario Manningham or Brandon Lloyd. Either would be a tremendous addition alongside Randy Moss and Michael Crabtree. Lloyd is a bit older, but has been one of the most underrated WR's in the NFL in recent years. He's accumulated 2,300 yards recieving and 16 TD's over the last two seasons with Kyle Orton and AJ Feely throwing him the ball, but is going on 31 years of age and the 49ers may want to go with the younger Manningham. The 25 year-old Manningham is coming off an injury-plauged year, which he only played in 12 games, but had 13 catches and 3 touchdowns in the 2012 postseason to finish strongly. With Victor Cruz's emergence, Manningham isn't as high a priority for the Giants as he would be for a team like the 49ers, but with receivers going off the board like crazy, Manningham is now one of the most coveted wideouts left and will be in demand. Luckily for the 49ers, they do have him Santa Clara Thursday, and maybe they can convince him, like they did Randy Moss, to ink a deal within hours of meeting the coaching staff. Wouldn't that be something! If both are going to cost about the same, I'd roll with the younger Manningham, as his speed could really help this offense, but I think either would be a welcome addition and really help shore up the 49ers receiving core and allow them to look elsewhere with their first round pick, like another impact DB.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

NBA Trade Deadline and NFL Free Agent Frenzy

Over the last 24 hours, there have been more moves made by Bay Area teams than I can talk about in one post, but the Warriors and 49ers, especially, have been under a microscope lately with the moves they've made.

The Warriors made a trade Tuesday that really shook up their franchise and had just as many fans scratching their heads then were happy with it. I think this move was made by the Warriors with 2012-13 and beyond, and not so much this season, in mind. I mean, the player they got in return is a center they've needed for years, but he's also the Steph Curry of centers in terms of fragility. Andrew Bogut religiously misses time annually with nagging injuries and can never seem to keep it together for a full season. When he did though, two years ago, he showed what he can do by putting up 16 points, 10 boards and 2 assists per night in 69 games. He only missed 13 that season, but has played in more than 69 games only twice in his 7-year career. At the same time, Bogut will have had nearly a year off by the time next season rolls around, and should be in optimal shape, plus the Warriors are now discussing the possibility of sitting Stephen Curry the rest of the year to ensure no more damage to those ankles. This move was obviously a move made with next year and beyond in mind and one that signifies the Warriors basically giving up on this season. The problem I do have with it, is why they couldn't do it sooner if this was their plan all along? If they would have done this trade 2-3 weeks ago, they would have accumulated more losses and would have been in much better draft position than they are know.

While the Warriors are making moves for the 2012-13 season and trying to lose out this season and get their top-7 draft pick, across the bay, the 49ers have hiked up their efforts in free agency and are too making moves to improve their 2012 squad. They've been so active lately that I haven't even been able to take a day off from posting here, it just seems like rumors or deals have just kept popping up over the last few days, starting with the signing of Randy Moss. Tuesday night though, the 49ers ensured that all 11 starters of their 3rd ranked defense will be returning by retaining all-pro corner Carlos Rogers, to a 4 year deal. The deal is in the $25M neighborhood, which isn't bad for a #1 corner when you look at what Cortland Finnegan just got from St. Louis ($50 million over 6 years). And after the signing of Perrish Cox, Carlos Rogers and Randy Moss in the last 2 days, the 49ers appear to just be getting started. They're apparently still going hard after a wide receiver and have a few coming up to Northern California for a visit. Former Raider, injury-prone but skilled receiver, Chaz Shillins will be heading to Santa Clara to meet with 49ers front office, but the biggest name and perhaps the most impacting of the guys they're now discussing is former 49er, Brandon Lloyd. The former 49er left San Francisco and turned into one of the better wideouts in the NFL, and it's not like he had Aaron Rogers or Tom Brady throwing him the ball either.

Of the remaining free agent receivers, I really like Lloyd for this team, the thing is though, a lot of teams will be perusing Lloyd, so it's not like they'll get him on a Randy Moss or Braylon Edwards type deal. They'd need to give him some guaranteed cash and probably a substantial amount, being that Lloyd's value is raising each time a receiver comes off the free agent board, and their have been a lot lately. Among those deals was a 5 year, $55 million deal Tampa Bay gave Vincent Jackson. After seeing that money, it made me like the Moss signing even more. Jackson has a similar reputation to Randy's, as he quit on his team last season, much like Randy did with the Raiders a few years back, but I'm hoping and the 49ers are banking that those days are behind Moss. The two spots needing the most depth heading into the offseason for the Niners were WR and CB, and they're making solid progress in both areas! You add Brandon Lloyd to that mix, and you really have revamped that receiving core that accounted for just 4 yards in the NFC Championship game.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

It's Official, Niners Sign Moss, CB Perrish Cox

Well, if you've been following the frenzy that is NFL free agency, which officially begins this afternoon, then you know that it was no secret that the 49ers had in Randy Moss for a workout Monday. I wasn't expecting things to move this quickly, but apparently the Niners not only liked what they saw in Randy, but also liked what he had to say as the two parties spent nearly all day together.

As I said in our previous post, I like this move. It's a low-risk, potentially huge payoff signing, as the 49ers will be giving him a base salary filled with incentives. It puts the ball in Moss' court so if he wants to earn some reasonable cash this season, he's going to have to produce. If you look at the last full season Moss had with one team, in 2009, he put up a 1,000+ receiver with 10 TD's. Granted, he did have Tom Brady throwing him the ball, he's put up numbers in every season he's played before being bounced around like a ping pong ball in 2010, playing for 4 different teams during the season. Anyhow, there are plenty skeptics on this deal, but to those people, I say look at the terms of this thing. Like with Braylon Edwards last season, if it doesn't pan out, you axe him and no harm, no foul. Randy Moss has incredible talent and is motivated to have a comeback season, and at 34 years-old coming off a year in which he did not play (fresh legs), you'd have to think he's got some more, high-caliber football ability in that body. One thing it does do is give the 49ers a big target on the outside for Alex Smith to throw to. Last season, the biggest target he had was the 6'3" Vernon Davis, but he's a TE and isn't even involved in every passing play, so the 6'4", speedy Moss should be a welcome addition. I don't think Moss is the ultimate answer, and I think the 49ers still have another wideout or two they're planning on bringing in. Atlanta's Harry Douglas could give them a legit, fast slot guy with Moss and Crabtree wide, and would really spread out the offense. Also, I know they think very highly of Stephen Hill, Gerogia Tech's speedy 6'2" receiver who dominated the combine.

Randy Moss isn't the only questionable character the 49ers added, who missed the 2011 season this week, as they brought in former Denver Bronco cornerback Perish Cox. The young corner has had all kinds of off-field issues in his young career, which is ultimately the reason why he didn't play in 2011, but if you talk to Bronco fans that saw him play in 2010, they'll all tell you the guy can cover. He was a fifth rounder in that 2010 draft, but dropped a few rounds because of his off-field life, which has apparently haunted him since his teenage days. I don't like this signing as much as the Moss deal, because the 49ers gave Cox two years and I just think there were a lot of other corners out there in this deep FA market that could have been better options than Cox. This also makes me wonder what their plan is for Carlos Rogers and if this signing seals his fate as a 49er? I'm expecting Rogers to sign elsewhere, because I think he out-performed himself in 2011, and can only go down from here. However, I'm still hoping they're looking into other number1 type corners cause I don't think Cox is an adequate replacement for Rogers. This is another area that could be addressed early on in the draft, but I think the 49ers saw last season what a good veteran corner can do for a defense and they probably will be looking for another guy like Rogers in this class. One that comes to mind is the Giants' Aaron Ross, who like Rogers, isn't the fastest guy, but physical and a strong tackler.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Bay Area Sports Notes: 49ers, A's

A lot of things are happening in the Bay Area sports world right now, from spring training picking up for the A's and Giants, to free agency and draft buzz starting to heat up for the Raiders and 49ers. Today, we're going to talk about two opposite sides of the spectrum, as we go a little 49ers and a little A's.

49ers Notes: If your a 49ers fan and have Internet, TV, or radio access then you know that the 49ers made some headlines Monday by bringing in the mercurial Randy Moss for a workout in Santa Clara. Supposedly Jim Harbough was throwing him the football, but I'm not sure, other than that, what happened in the tryout and how things went. I kind of like the idea though. Obviously, Randy Moss alone, at this stage of his career, wouldn't be an upgrade like a Dwayne Bowe or Vincent Jackson, but let's face it, the 49ers probably won't wind up with a premiere wideout this summer. If Moss impresses, and is still in good football shape, he could give the 49ers a big, deep threat, something they've lacked, really since Terrell Owens left town. You add maybe a guy like Mario Manningham to the mix too, another guy the 49ers are supposedly going to pursue in free agency, then your talking about adding two unique weapons to the 49ers offensive arsenal that they didn't have last season when they knocked on the door of the Super Bowl. At the same time, if Moss doesn't have that burst or doesn't look like he can separate, then bringing him in could become more of a problem than a help. After seeing the Braylon Edwards experiment tank last season, it has to have the 49ers leery of these type of guys with off-field reputations. Anyway, I thought it was interesting to find this out, as I thought the 49ers would be closed to the idea of Moss or Owens, otherwise they would have gone after one of them late in the season when it was obvious they needed help at wideout and Moss was free and available.

A's Notes: With all the 49ers hype and what not, we haven't got a chance to talk as much A's Spring Training as we'd like, but they sure had a positive weekend in Cactus League play these last few days. Their prize free agent signee, Yeonis Cespedes, made his debut in impressive fashion, with 3 hits, including a long home run. The A's have also gotten an excellent start out of their new right fielder and centerpiece of the Andrew Bailey deal, Josh Reddick, as he's started out his spring hitting .444 with 5 RBI in 18 at-bats. Manny Ramirez also has gotten underway in in A's uni, though he's still searching for his first hit after just 3 games. On the pitching side, A's staff ace, Brett Anderson, is making good progress in his recovery from shoulder surgery last season that ended his year early on, much like the situation with the Giants and Buster Posey. With Anderson being a pitcher and the injury to his arm though, he's going to be brought along a lot slower than Posey has been, and it's still unlikely he starts the year in the A's rotation. Also making a comeback from injury is another strong A's youngster, Tyson Ross, and he's been nails in his two outings. He's gone 4 scoreless innings, allowing just 2 hits with 3 K's in those two starts.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

49ers Should Strongly Consider Manning

If you would have suggested this to me a month ago, I would have said no thank you, but the more and more I research it, and the good things I keep hearing about Manning's increasing health made me ponder just what if Manning where to come aboard the 49ers train and become their new starting QB? The 49ers have offered Alex Smith 3 years and $3oM (not a typo) and could probably have Manning for a year or two at or around the minimum with a bunch of incentives built in.

Anyway, I did a show and you'll see some of the comparisons between Manning and Smith in the video and you can just go ahead and scroll down to the bottom of the page to the video section to see it. I would certainly have interest in bringing in Manning if I'm the 49ers, especially if he's healthy. Heck, even Manning at 90% is better than most QB's in the NFL. I would much rather give Manning the 1 or 2 year minimum than reward Smith by overpaying him by about double what he's really worth. I mean, he had a great game against New Orleans in the playoffs, but one could argue that they were one of the worst defenses in all the NFL. Imagine if the 49ers got a healthy Manning on board, then added his buddy Reggie Wayne to play opposite of Crabtree? Now we're talking an offense! I'd also look into adding another vertical threat at wideout, but first things first. The 49ers need to figure out the QB situation and the sooner the better. And if it's not Alex, it better be Peyton!

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Cactus League Play Starts in Arizona

With Spring Training in full swing, and the Giants and A's each now playing exhibition games to prepare for the 2012 season. Today I thought I'd shift gears and talk a little Giants, as we don't get to talk about them at this site too often and normally save all our Giants info for The Giants Baseball Blog. Anyway, I did our Giants Cast and figured I'd post it up on the Bay Area Journal today just to get some baseball mojo going again. We'll be following this up with a post on the A's, Yeonis Cespedes and how they've fared in camp so far next post. But here's out Giants Cast, just click on the speaker for the sound (office friendly): and Share Branded Video Content.

Friday, March 2, 2012

49ers Franchise DaShon Goldson

In a move that surprised very little of those close to the organization, the 49ers used their franchise tag on All-Pro safety DaShon Goldson (just look at the 2011 season production, into the playoffs), Friday, ensuring the Pro-bowler another year in San Francisco and maybe more.Link
Both sides have discussed the possibility of a long-term deal, and after watching how Goldson and Whitner played together this past season, I think the 49ers aren't going to want to break that bunch of any time soon. Now, if the Niners don't land an extension with Goldson before training camp, his 2012 figure would be taken from the average of the top-5 paid players at his position. In his case, I think the figure comes out to $6-7 million. He made just $3M in 2011, but his play was worth 3 times that amount so I have no problem at all giving him, say, a 5 year, $35M contract, and have your safety position set for the next half decade (Whitner is also under a multi-year deal). Both are young players in their mid-20's and have plenty of good football left. They still haven't even hit their peak yet. Wait until they're about 29-30 and really know the game and their opponent, look out NFC West! In other 49ers news, there was some more talk of the draft going on, as there was throughout the week, but in this case, it was about the 49ers drafting a possible power running back to compliment Gore and Hunter in the backfield. There's been some question brought into play about the durability of Gore after so many full-work loaded seasons with no real backup. You could really tell it bit him late in this last season and in the playoffs as he averaged around 12 carries per game for those last 5-6 ballgames (playoffs included).

There is also word out that the 49ers number one target in terms of wideouts is, of course, Vincent Jackson, who's probably number one on a lot of teams lists. Most 49ers insiders including Matt Barrows expect the 49ers to push for top-tierre talent at the WR position, but ultimately settle on a 2nd-tiere guy like Brandon Lloyd or Mario Manningham. My top choices would be Bowe, Jackson, and then Colston, in that order, but Bowe is likely to remain in San Diego and the 49ers aren't about to get into a bidding war for Jackson, just as they didn't get into one for Asomugha last summer, and look how well that worked out. As far as 2nd-tiere guys, I guess Manningham makes some sense, cause he's got a little speed and a little size to him, kind of a poor mans Colston. Though, Colston too is an interesting name, seeing that New Orleans has some guy named Brees to work a deal out with first, but I don't think he leaves NO. DeSean Jackson just got franchised, so that's not happening either. Another name though that continues to be an option, so long as he and the Bills remain apart on a deal, is going after Stevie Johnson, the San Francisco native, a guy we mentioned here a few weeks back. He's been borderline dominant up in Buffalo and by far that teams best wideout for 2 consecutive seasons. He's exactly the type of young, 25 yea-old athlete to build the receiving corps around. A hometown kid who can take the pressure off of Crabtree and Davis and really open up the playbook!

On another note, March Madness is starting to heat up, with the Tourny just under 2 weeks away. Luckily, the Bay Area has a team in the tourney in 42nd ranked Cal, as there was a chance a few weeks back that the Pac-12 may enter the tourney with no teams! And if your planning on throwing any money down on the Bears in the tourney, check here for NCAA Basketball betting odds or my personal favorite to win it all, Kentucky, the spot for all here's your spot for! Now, there's still some time left, so some things still could change, but the field of 68 looks pretty set!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

The Start of the 2012 NFL Draft Coverage

Don't worry A's, Giants and Warriors fans, we'll still be talking plenty of Spring Training talk, as well as discussing the Warriors quandary with the trade deadline on March 15th, but today marks our first real discussion, of the 2012 NFL draft. It's one of the main reasons why I started this blog, to discuss and breakdown player movement with Bay Area sports teams, especially draft coverages and predictions, so we'll be in NFL Draft-heaven between now and actual draft-time come April.

With combine drills going down all weekend and into the early week, I figured now would be as good a time as any to switch gears to the NFL draft, being about a month and a half away. The 49ers currently hold pick 30, but with the way the combine went ( a lot of wideouts ended up with so-so or bad combines) they could end up with a guy they thought would be a top-15 pick at 30. I'd like a top CB like Janoris Jenkins or Dre Kirkpatrick to fall to 30, but I just don't see that happening like I do one of the top-4 wideouts. Namely, Alshon Jeffery. Assuming Michael Floyd and Justin Blackmon are gone within the top-15, the 49ers could have a shot at trading up just a few slots for a real difference maker in Georgia Tech's Stephen Hill. In a purely run-based offense, this guy still put up a nice year as a Junior for GT and was their go-to receiver the last two seasons, so he's no stranger to garnering attention from defenses. Because of that, I find it pretty incredible he did put up almost 820 yards receiving and 5 TD's when your QB throws for a total of 1,600 yards and 11 scores on the year! That's how run-based that offense is, but Hill still managed to get his as the center of attention in the passing game. Cut from the same mold and from the same school as perhaps the leagues best WR in Calvin Johnson, as well as potential 2012 breakout star, Demaryius Thomas.

The other interesting name I'm hearing is Alshon Jeffery, who apparently got himself way out of shape between December and the combine in late February. He apparently added 30 pounds over that time, but weighed in, supposedly, at 219 pounds. Jeffery also didn't interview well, something I could care less about, which supposedly has hurt his stock too. If Hill is gone by 30, and there isn't some difference making corner doesn't fall, then I'd pull the trigger on Jeffery in a second! I know he had a hideous 40-time (supposedly 4.8 clocked 40!), but just look at the numbers the guy put up in a top division for South Carolina. I've seen him play and he's quicker than that and extremely tough to cover, just youtube the guy! He actually reminds me a lot of another SC receiver who had some speed issues coming into the draft and that guy is Sidney Rice. Granted, the wideout has battled some injury in his young career, he's been productive when out there, as evident of his 2011 season for the QB-less Seahawks! I see Jeffery in the same mold, however, if pro-day comes around and he doesn't have his 40 in check, like 4.55 or under, for his size, would be just fine. The dude can jump, has size and catches everything. Coming into the year, he was mentioned in the same breath as Blackmon and Floyd but he got lazy. If the 49ers indeed go defensive back, at that point in the draft, there really aren't many guys worth a late first round selection. There are a ton of 2nd round corners in this draft, but only 4-5 first round-type, instant impact wideout the 49ers need. Hopefully, one will still be there come pick 30!

One mock draft I read the other day has the 49ers selecting Stanford Tight End, Toby Fleener, but I hope they don't go that route. Anyhow, they need a wideout early, and some 2nd rounders could include UNC's Dwight Jones, Miami's Tommy Streeter or if they're lucky, LSU's Reuben Randle.