RandBall

Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.

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TFD: Michigan reportedly offering 6-year, $48 million deal to Jim Harbaugh

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 17th at 5:18pm 286154151

Nebraska wouldn’t take [redacted] for an answer. And it appears that Michigan won’t take no for an answer.

According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, Michigan is making another run at Jim Harbaugh to be its football coach, and this time they reached onto the highest branches of their money tree to put together a 6-year, $48 million offer.

That would make Harbaugh the highest-paid coach in college football, eclipsing the $7.16 million Alabama’s Nick Saban makes. Saban is the only current college football coach making even $6 million a year.

Heck, there’s only one NFL coach who makes $8 million: Sean Payton. And there’s only one coach who makes more in any U.S. pro or major college sport: Coach K at Duke, who pulls in close to $9.7 million a year.

Flipping expensive established MLB players for young talent works ... until it doesn't

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 17th at 2:54pm 286135291

wilmyersSmall payroll teams like the A’s and Rays have had loads of MLB success over the past several years, often doing so by staying one step ahead of the financial game.

Out of necessity, those teams have traded away established players nearing big paydays for younger, cheap talent years away from cashing in. Then when some of those young players approach their paydays, they start the process all over again. Along they way, they try to identify surpluses and players they really want to build around.

Again, this has worked very well for both organizations. Tampa has made the postseason four of the past seven years; The A’s have gone each of the past three years and had a similar run in the early 2000s.

But there are some subtle reminders of just how thin the margin is for both teams, and one of them came to light today with news that the Rays are close to trading outfielder Wil Myers to the Padres. Myers isn’t close to cashing in, and the Rays will reportedly get several players in return, so it’s not like this is a total loss for Tampa.

That said, Myers was the unquestioned prize for the Rays in a trade after the 2012 season that sent, among others, pitchers James Shields and Wade Davis to the Royals. In 2013, it looked like a great move for both teams. Shields was great in his first year with Kansas City, and Myers was the AL Rookie of the Year with 53 RBI and an .831 OPS in just 335 at bats.

The Rays still had plenty of pitching without Shields, and Myers’ offense helped them get to the postseason. Everything was going great …

Until 2014. Myers hit a major second-year slump, batting just .222 with a .614 OPS. The Rays as a team finished last in the AL in runs scored, and despite a pitching staff that was still above-average, they plummeted to a 77-85 record. The Royals, of course, got another great year from Shields while Davis emerged as one of the best relievers in baseball as Kansas City went all the way to the World Series.

Long story short: the Rays gambled on staying ahead of the game, hoping that Myers would be a superstar making a pittance for years. He faltered, and now they’re flipping him for more prospects. If those players don’t pan out, they will have very little to show for the type of initial trade (Shields/Davis) that A) a larger-market team like the Yankees never has to make and B) a lower-revenue team like the Rays or A’s absolutely has to make and can’t afford to mess up.

Wednesday (Vikings' biggest position of need) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 17th at 10:39am 286103911

barrThe Star Tribune’s Mark Craig had a good piece today about just how far ahead the Vikings’ defense is from the offense — something that figured to be the opposite at the start of the season with a lot of question marks on defense and a lot of presumed playmakers on offense.

The Vikings have improved enough on defense this year to be considered at least middle-of-the-pack, if not better. It might not be a championship defense, but it is on the way to being a good-to-very-good defense. The offense has cost the Vikings multiple games, plain and simple.

As such, here is how we see the Vikings’ biggest positions of need going into 2015:

*Offensive line: We wouldn’t be upset at all if the Vikings spent two or more draft picks on the offensive line, including the first-round pick. If you had to point to one unit as the reason things have tended to fall apart for Minnesota this year, the line is it.

*Wide receiver: An infusion of talent here is needed. Even if Cordarrelle Patterson has a resurgence in 2015, the Vikings need to get better here in order to give Teddy Bridgewater a better chance to succeed.

*Defensive back: The biggest reason the Vikings took a defensive leap this year is the relative health and strong overall play of the secondary, led by Xavier Rhodes. But bringing in some more depth at both corner and safety would be wise.

*Linebacker: Anthony Barr was terrific before his knee injury, and the rest of the players at this position have held up at least adequately in most situations. Still, it’s another area that could use more depth for the defense to take another step.

If the Vikings spent most of their draft picks and overall attention on those spots, they would be wise. If Adrian Peterson is gone, they will surely need to address running back depth as well, but the role of feature backs in the NFL has been diminished to the point that we wouldn’t consider it a higher priority than any of the aforementioned positions.

Mid-day talker: Thinking back on 2009 Vikings-Cutler trade rumors

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 17th at 9:05am 285989271

cutlerMonths before the Vikings lured Brett Favre to Minnesota … and weeks before Jay Cutler was ultimately traded from the Broncos to the Bears … there was a steady stream of reports and rumors that the Vikings — coming off a 10-6 playoff season but still with questions at quarterback — were interested in making a deal for the QB.

Did you forget about this? Never forget it. Because with each passing Cutler game, we still wonder about it.

How different would 2009 have been? How different would the five seasons and many QBs after that have been? Would it have been worth it, possibly, in some ways? Cutler in purple? Here’s what was being written in the Star Tribune back in March of 2009:

The Denver Post reported the Vikings are among the teams that
have expressed interest in Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler, and
talks between the sides were believed to be ongoing Monday. It
remains unclear what the Vikings might be offering.

The news broke three days after the Vikings completed a trade
that sent a fourth-round draft pick to Houston for Sage Rosenfels.
He and Tarvaris Jackson are expected to compete for the starting
quarterback job, but neither is at the level of Cutler, a 2006
first-round pick who made his first Pro Bowl this past season. The
Vikings made inquiries about Cutler‘s availability at the NFL
scouting combine last month.

Vikings coach Brad Childress was elusive when asked at Rosenfels’
introductory news conference whether the team would add a top-tier
quarterback.

“Don’t know, I’m not clairvoyant,” Childress said.

Cutler is 44-37 with an 84.4 passer rating in his Bears career. He’s the NFL leader in bad body language. How would his tenure have played out here? We’ll never know, but it’s a question we still, for some reason, think about.

Tuesday (Flip's third rebuilding project) edition: Wha' Happened?

Posted by: Michael Rand Updated December 16th at 2:08pm 285967551

flipfansFlip Saunders took over as head coach of the Washington Wizards in 2009. Armed with a lineup featuring Gilbert Arenas and a cast of others, Washington had slumped in 2008-09 but had made the playoffs each of the previous four seasons. Thinking the Wizards were in prime contention for a rebound year, they swapped the No. 5 pick in the 2009 draft with the Wolves for Randy Foye and Mike Miller.

The move backfired for Washington.  A whole host of problems with Arenas and others led to an eventual youth movement — one that didn’t involve that No. 5 pick, who the Wolves turned into Ricky Rubio. Flip started the process of that youth movement, coaching John Wall and co. to 23 wins in 2010-11 before getting fired 17 games (2-15 record) into the 2011-12 season. Now, the Wizards are one of the best teams in the East with a 17-6 record heading into a game in Washington tonight against the Wolves.

It’s a reminder — the second reminder — that Saunders can head into a rebuild and his teams can come out on the other side looking pretty good. The first, of course, was his work with a young Kevin Garnett in the mid-1990s, helping take the Wolves from perennial lottery team to perennial playoff team. His third such effort, of course, is pretty much the same as his first: getting the Wolves from the lottery to the playoffs again. Time will tell how that plays out — and it does take time — but the track record is at least encouraging for Wolves fans.

We had a chance to chat with Flip Saunders about the rebuilding mentality last week:

“When I was in Washington, they made a decision where we traded Antawn Jamison, Gilbert Arenas had the situation with the gun so he was gone, traded Caron Butler, Brendan Hayward, (DeShawn) Stevenson, we (lost) our whole starting five. We had like nine guys with two or fewer years of experience. So what was going to happen is that we were going to lose. It’s frustrating, it’s hard to go through, but if you’re committed to that and to development, by letting those guys play and play a lot of minutes, you facilitate their development,” Saunders said.

“I look at them and where they were four years ago, and now they’re one of the best teams in the East. John Wall developed. And if you look at the league, and you look at all these players … when we traded (Kevin) Love, we became in essence what I would call a lottery team. We traded our best player for the No. 1 pick in the draft. If Love wasn’t on our team a year ago, we probably would have struggled. if you look at teams that have been lottery teams and gotten the first pick, whether it’s Cleveland with (Kyrie) Irving and Anthony Bennett, New Orleans with (Anthony) Davis, Wall with Washington, they don’t even win 27 games. LeBron James, he won (35 games) his rookie year. So there’s a process you have to go through. But what you have to understand is that there’s a history and that it will pay off. (Kevin) Durant and Russell Westbrook were (2-24) at one point (in 2008-09). It would be easy for people to put their head in the sand and say, ‘That’s not going to happen,’ but it’s kind of the reality. People that are basketball people understand what we’re going through.”

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