Feb 5, 2020

Axios Sports

Kendall Baker

๐Ÿ‘‹ Good morning! A baseball blockbuster and a 12-player NBA trade made for a hectic Tuesday night. Let's dive in.

Today's word count: 1,329 (5 minutes).

1 big thing: โšพ๏ธ Red Sox trade Betts to Dodgers

Mookie Betts walks through a Fenway Park tunnel after scoring the winning run in the Red Sox final game of 2019. Photo: Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

The Red Sox and Dodgers have agreed to a blockbuster deal that will send former MVP Mookie Betts and veteran (and extremely expensive) starter David Price to Los Angeles for a package that includes promising young outfielder Alex Verdugo, ESPN's Jeff Passan reports.

  • The trade also includes the Twins, who will send pitching prospect Brusdar Graterol to the Red Sox and, in turn, receive starter Kenta Maeda from the Dodgers.

By the numbers: Since the start of the 2016 season, Betts' 33.8 WAR (wins above replacement) is second to only Mike Trout's 35.5, and he leads all players with 98 defensive runs saved โ€” 13 more than second-place Andrelton Simmons.

Why it matters: This move instantly makes the Dodgers super contenders and puts arguably the two best players in the world in the same market. It also serves as a stark reminder that the baseball world is increasingly dictated by teams' desire to stay under the luxury tax threshold.

How it works: Each season, clubs that exceed a predetermined threshold ($206 million last year, $208 million this year) must pay a "luxury tax" on each dollar spent above that threshold, and repeat "offenders" see their tax rates increase exponentially.

  • As three-time offenders, Boston was looking at an aggressive tax rate, so they traded away the epitome of a franchise player to avoid paying it.
  • The Yankees and Dodgers have hit the reset tax button themselves in recent years, paving the way for them to sign the two best players to change teams this offseason: Gerrit Cole and now Betts.

What they're saying: ESPN's Bill Barnwell sums up the frustration that I imagine most Red Sox fans feel at the moment โ€” and that all fans feel when the team they love prioritizes profits over winning:

Screenshot: @billbarnwell (Twitter)

The bottom line: The Dodgers are making a win-now gamble and hoping it leads to a World Series breakthrough, while the Red Sox โ€” the Goddamn Boston Red Sox โ€” just dumped the best position player they've had in 50 years to save some money.

P.S. ... Shortly after acquiring Betts, the Dodgers sent outfielder Joc Pederson to the Angels for infielder Luis Rengifo.

2. ๐Ÿˆ Class of 2020: Blue-chip recruits by state
Expand chart
Data: 247 Sports; Map: Danielle Alberti/Axios

Today is National Signing Day. What was once a day filled with frenetic activity is now much quieter due to the "early signing period" scooping up most FBS signees, but it still signifies the end of the college football recruiting cycle.

By the numbers:

  • "The Big Four": Florida produced 59 blue-chip recruits (i.e. four- or five-stars) in the class of 2020, followed by Texas (54), Georgia (36) and California (30). Combined, the four states were responsible for 49.4% of all 2020 blue-chips.
  • The next tier: Louisiana (16), Alabama (15), Maryland (15), North Carolina (13) and Tennessee (11) were the only other states to produce more than 10.
  • No blue-chips: Alaska, Delaware, Idaho, Maine, Montana, New Mexico, North Dakota, Oregon, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, Wyoming.

The bottom line: Elite football prospects spring up all over the country, but they're heavily concentrated in the South and California, plus notable hotspots near Houston and Dallas.

Go deeper:

3. ๐Ÿ€ Capela dealt in 4-team, 12-player trade

Capela on the bench during last night's Rockets-Hornets game. Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images

The Rockets, Hawks, Timberwolves and Nuggets have agreed to a 12-player trade, per ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski, the largest NBA deal since the Knicks moved Patrick Ewing to Seattle in 2000.

  • Rockets get: Robert Covington, Jordan Bell
  • Hawks get: Clint Capela, Nene Hilario
  • Timberwolves get: Malik Beasley, Juan Hernangomez, Evan Turner, Jarred Vanderbilt, Brooklyn's 2020 first-round pick via Atlanta
  • Nuggets get: Gerald Green, Noah Vonleh, Shabazz Napier, Keita Bates-Diop, future first round pick from Houston

More NBA:

  • Freak bests Zion: Giannis Antetokounmpo (34-17-6) got the best of Zion Williamson (20-7-5) in their first-ever meeting, and he made some NBA history in the process, becoming just the seventh player with 10 games of at least 30 points, 15 rebounds and five assists in a single season.
  • New 3-point contest: The NBA is adding a pair of deep shots (six feet beyond the arc) that will be worth three points apiece. Each round will now be 27 shots instead of 25, and players will get 70 seconds instead of 60.
  • Mills out in NYC: Knicks president of basketball operations Steve Mills, one of James Dolan's longest-tenured lieutenants, was fired yesterday.

Go deeper: The Rockets are pushing the center position to its breaking point (The Ringer)

4. ๐Ÿˆ Jaguars to play back-to-back London games

The Jacksonville Jaguars announced yesterday that they will play two back-to-back games at London's Wembley Stadium next season.

What they're saying: The news reignited speculation that the team could eventually move to London, but owner Shahid Khan fired back, saying this is intended to do the opposite: maximize revenue to help keep the Jaguars in Jacksonville long term.

  • "London games bring in twice the revenue of regular home games. This is NOT a first step toward relocation. It's the opposite: making sure the Jags stay in Jacksonville long term," a team source told ESPN's Trey Wingo.

My take: While I believe Khan wants to keep the Jags in J'Ville (why build a $500 million development if you're planning to leave?), I have a hard time believing the extra revenue from a second London game will be worth the damaged relationship with a fan base that just lost another home game.

Bonus: ๐Ÿ’ต NFL revenue by team
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Data: Statistica; Chart: Andrew Witherspoon/Axios
5. โค๏ธ Dwight on Kobe
Dwight and Kobe in 2012. Photo: Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Dwight Howard says Kobe Bryant was going to come to Chicago to help him in the dunk contest and that he's heartbroken about never getting the chance to tell him how much he appreciated him.

"[When] we were on the same team, we didn't understand each other. But I saw a different Kobe, and I even saw a change in myself. And I'm pretty sure he saw it. I just wanted to be able to tell him how I felt about him, and I never got the chance to."
"Every day it's been on my mind [and] I just tell people, if you have any bitterness or anger, whatever, strife towards anybody, let it go. Let them know how you feel. Get those feelings out."
6. ๐Ÿ“Š By the numbers
Photo: Patrick McDermott/NHLI via Getty Images
  • ๐Ÿ’ 698 goals: With the Capitals trailing by one late in the third period, Alex Ovechkin scored three straight goals for his third hat trick in six games. Caps win. Ovi moves two shy of 700 goals for his career. Incredible.
  • โšพ๏ธ $2.6 billion: Steve Cohen's $2.6 billion bid to buy the Mets has reportedly fallen apart because the Wilpons changed the terms late in the process and Cohen objected.
  • ๐Ÿ€ 30+ points (again): Arkansas' Mason Jones (40 points in an overtime loss to No. 11 Auburn) is just the second SEC player in the last 20 years to score at least 30 points in three straight games.
7. Feb. 5, 1956: ๐Ÿฅ‡ Olympics conclude in Cortina

64 years ago today, the 1956 Winter Olympics came to a close in Cortina d'Ampezzo, an Italian ski resort town that was featured prominently in the 1981 James Bond film "For Your Eyes Only" and will c0-host the 2026 Games with Milan.

Photos from '56...

Photo: Bettmann/Getty Images

Austrian skier Toni "Wonder Boy" Sailer became the first person to sweep all three alpine skiing events (downhill, slalom and giant slalom) in a single Olympics.

Photo: Intercontinentale/AFP via Getty Images

American Tenley Albright (above) and her teammate Carol Heiss took the top two spots in women's figure skating, while Americans Hayes Jenkins, Ronald Robertson and Jenkins' brother David swept the men's event.

  • Fun fact: The Cortina Games were the last Olympics to feature figure skating outdoors.
Photo: Fox Photos/Getty Images

Canada's starting hockey goalie was Denis Brodeur, father of Martin Brodeur, the NHL's winningest goaltender.

  • Podium: After winning six gold medals and one silver through the first seven Olympics, Canada earned a disappointing bronze in Cortina, while the U.S. took silver and the Soviet Union took gold.
8. The Ocho: ๐ŸŽฐ Choose your own adventure
9. ๐Ÿ€ NBA trivia
Photo: Tim Warner/Getty Images

James Harden recorded his 42nd career 40-point double-double last night, the second-most since the 1976 NBA-ABA merger.

  • Question: Who is the only player with more?
  • Hint: Retired in 2011.

Answer at the bottom.

10. ๐Ÿ“š "The Girl in the Huddle"
Screenshot: @SBNation (Twitter)

60 years ago, Elinor Penna wanted to write about the NFL โ€” so she started a newsletter. By 1970, she had syndicated columns and TV deals and became a pioneer in an industry where women weren't welcome.

"I don't know what my goals were then. I wasn't trying to lay any new roads. I didn't give a shit about that. Trailblazing ... that had nothing to do with it at all. I was having fun."
โ€” Elinor Penna

Read: The Girl in the Huddle (Natalie Weiner, SB Nation)

Kendall Baker

Talk tomorrow,

Kendall "Betts and Belli, sheesh" Baker

Trivia answer: Shaquille O'Neal (43)