Washington stars traded to LA teams; Yankees land another star; an NBA Draft 2021 recap; and U.S. Women eek-out 1st round win in PKs against the Dutch

The Friday afternoon edition of "Seven things to know before 7 PM" is here

I know it has been a couple of days since my last Snippets article. I wanted some time off from writing these daily blog entries (feeling a bit burned-out), but I am back with the big stories over the past 24 hours! We have two star Nationals players and one star Wizards’ player heading to Los Angeles; both the Yankees and the Dodgers adding tremendous firepower to their already-stacked lineups; a thorough thought process of last night’s 2021 NBA Draft; and a recap of an exciting finish between Team USA women and Netherlands in the quarterfinal match that went into penalty kicks early this morning.

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1) Scherzer AND Turner dealt to the Dodgers for their top two prospects

In an expected development that has been building over the past month, the Washington Nationals have parted ways with two of their premier talents in a huge six-player trade last night. Gone is the ace, the franchise pitcher for the Nats in Max Scherzer, as well as star shortstop in Trea Turner; they are off to the Los Angeles Dodgers, who in turn dealt their best and second-best minor league players in catcher Keibert Ruiz (MLB’s #16th-best prospect) and right-handed pitcher Josiah Gray (the #58th-best, according to Baseball Reference), as well as two other insignificant minor league players.

Scherzer was undoubtedly going to be traded, given that the Nats have been on a free-fall over the past month; their starting pitching continuing to regress after a May mirage; and injuries and Covid hitting the team hard. He was the team’s best asset, and there were loads of suitors. The surprise was Turner being involved in the deal, as the Nats’ brass has said that there would have to be a “too good to be true” offer in order to pull the 28-year old away from the team. But both will be missed immensely, as Scherzer and Turner have played their hearts out during their time in DC. Just look at the gaudy stats Scherzer put up after signing a seven-year, $210 million deal back when he was 31:

Many pundits instantly pointed that the Nats’ offer was pure insanity - giving a 30+ year old pitcher $210 million… but the stats do not lie, and plus he was one of the key guys that propelled the Nats to a World Series title back in 2019.

Turner was Mr. Reliable for the Nationals since being that “player to be named later” in a three-team, 11 player trade back in 2015. That trade sent then-Tampa Bay Rays outfielder Wil Myers to the San Diego Padres and the Nats receiving pitcher Joe Ross and a “player to be named later” from the Padres, as the headliners. The then- #54-ranked MLB prospect (and #2 in the Padres’ farm system) has blossomed with the Nats, with an elite 0.300 batting average and 24 home runs per season and a projected average of 49 stolen bases per season in his seven-year career. Turner never won any Gold Glove awards (given to players with great fielding ability), but it was above-average, as he only committed one error every 13 games.

As for the Dodgers? The defending champions continue to load up on All-Stars and MVPs - when MVP Chase Bellinger is the team’s worst batter, that’s saying a lot! Just look at this projected lineup!

But… going back to the Nationals - Turner and Scherzer were not the only Nationals players to be dealt as we approach the 4 PM trade deadline today.

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2) Other Nationals’ trades during their fire sale

The Nationals decided to clean house, as every player was considered available except for one Juan Soto. So, in the late night EST hours, the team traded away the likes of outfielder Kyle Schwarber (to the Boston Red Sox), closer Brad Hand (to the Toronto Blue Jays) and relief pitcher Daniel Hudson (to the San Diego Padres) for all minor league players in return.

For Schwarber, the Nats obtained single-A pitcher Aldo Ramirez, who is the 19th-best player in the Red Sox’s system; for Hand, the team got triple-A catcher Riley Adams, the 17th-best prospect for the Jays; and for Hudson, the Nats acquired the Padres’ ninth-best minor league player in another right-handed pitcher in Mason Thompson and another minor minor league player in return.

But what a whirlwind of a month; just look at the success of the team in May-June:

Since then, Schwarber had a pulled hamstring injury and was out indefinitely, star pitcher Steven Strasburg was ruled out for the season with a serious nerve issue; Turner and eight members of the coaching staff got Covid; the team resorting to their minor league catcher, as both Alex Avila and Yan Gomes were injured; and Hand was blowing several saves in a row.

Now, the team is in complete rebuilding mode, which was expected as the team’s pitchers were not getting any better (and older!) and the injuries insurmountable.

3) Yankees land another star hitter in Cubs’ 1B Anthony Rizzo

Since I have not posted a Snippets article over the past couple of days, I missed out on writing about how the New York Yankees are essentially going all-in in the acquisition of Texas Rangers’ power-hitting outfielder in Joey Gallo on Wednesday. Well, yesterday, the team made a bigger and better splash in landing former Chicago Cubs’ first baseman Anthony Rizzo. These two additions give the Yankees two much-needed left-handed batters, as literally every other bat in their lineup all is right-handed - from second baseman DJ LeMahieu to catcher Gary Sanchez, as you can see below in a projected lineup:

Outside of centerfielder Greg Allen, all eight of the batters can hit, and hit for power. A lineup of LeMahieu, Aaron Judge, Gallo, Giancarlo Stanton, Rizzo and Sanchez? How do you pitch around the heart of the Yankees’ lineup? Sheesh!

4) Russell Westbrook traded to the Lakers

And, in another headliner… the Washington Wizards surprisingly are parting ways with point guard Russell Westbrook, as the team partnered with the Los Angeles Lakers to send Mr. Triple Double to The City of Angels in a blockbuster four-player, three draft pick NBA Draft day trade last night.

Despite the year-to-year rumors of Wizards’ star Bradley Beal possibly getting dealt, it was Westbrook and not Beal who had his name called last night. For the Wizards, they lose a superstar player, but also get rid of Westbrook’s monster $44 million/year contract and in return get much-needed veteran depth in the three Lakers’ bench players, as well as a second 1st round pick in last night’s NBA Draft. I do not expect the trio of Lakers to stick around, however, as one or more could be traded for the void now left at point guard.

As for Westbrook? He returns home. Westbrook was born in Long Beach, California, and attended UCLA for three years, including one year with NBA veteran Kevin Love. Now, he goes back to his home area and joins a now-loaded Lakers’ Big Three of LeBron James, Anthony Davis and now Russell Westbrook. The team has been looking to deal the likes of Kyle Kuzma and others for several years now, and finally had a taker in the Wizards last night.

5) NBA Draft Recap

As for the NBA Draft? Lots to talk about, and I will do so in ellipses’ style formatting, in chronological draft pick order:

Lottery Round

The Oklahoma State guard Cade Cunningham had an outstanding season with the Cowboys, and was richly rewarded with the #1 overall pick, as he will join a very young Detroit Pistons squad… the Cleveland Cavaliers also added a potential superstar in USC center Evan Mobley, who should form a terrific young big four with Jarrett Allen, Collin Sexton and Darius Garland… The Orlando Magic got a gift of a pick in landing Gonzaga guard Jalen Suggs, who should be a future All-Star; but the team does have a glut of point guards in him, Cole Anthony and Markelle Fultz… The Magic then added Michigan forward Franz Wagner - local DC people remember his older brother Moe Wagner, as he played for the Wizards a year ago, but both are reunited in Orlando (both played at the University of Michigan); Franz is a great defensive-first forward who should fit right in with the Magic… The Charlotte Hornets then landed a steal of a selection in the Connecticut Huskies’ guard James Bouknight, a fantastic guard that can create his own shot and now is in a lineup that features Rookie of the Year LaMelo Ball, Terry Rozier, Gordon Hayward and draft-day acquisition Mason Plumlee. Suddenly, in a span of two years, the Hornets went from irrelevant to a daily must-watch team… I question the Indiana Pacers’ pick at #13 overall, as 24-year old Chris Duarte is a feisty, defensive-minded point guard, who is half-a-foot taller than the team’s other reserve PG in T.J. McConnell… The Golden State Warriors got definite value with their #14 overall selection in taking Arkansas wing Moses Moody, who shoots the three well (36%) and can play defense - something every one of the other non-Klay Thompson Warriors’ wing players can do.

Rest of the first round

I absolutely love the selection the Washington Wizards made with their first pick at #15 overall - they drafted 6’7” wing Corey Kispert from Gonzaga. He is an outstanding three point shooter who has drawn comparisons to Brooklyn Nets’ wing Joe Harris; the only concern is his defense, which is not that great. But he should slot right in as a starter, with the likes of Bradley Beal, Rui Hachimura and Daniel Gafford… I like the pick of Virginia forward Trey Murphy for the New Orleans Pelicans at #17, as that gives the team much-needed spacing with the likes of a frontcourt of Zion Williamson and Jonas Valanciunas… The surprise team of the playoffs in the Atlanta Hawks got a solid player with upside at pick #20 in Duke’s Jalen Johnson, a 6’8” forward that was the best player available and can fit in as a starting forward down the road… The Wizards, with the Lakers’ 22nd overall pick, traded that to the Pacers’ for veteran reserve guard Aaron Holiday and the #31 overall pick; I like the addition (as there are no current point guards on the Wizards’ roster; both Ish Smith and Raul Neto are free agents), and the team got to select again… And, with that last pick in the first round, the Wizards drafted a G-League prospect in Isaiah Todd, a 6’10” forward who is actually from the Baltimore, Maryland area. Not much to say about this player, as Todd is essentially a project and a deep stash.

Second round

At this point of the draft, these players selected are bench players that may or may not have guaranteed contracts come October/November (at the start of the NBA season), but I will be noting down notable players that had their names called late last night… First up is Miles McBride, a 6’2” point guard from West Virginia who can be a definite backup in New York Knicks’ head coach’s Tom Thibodeau’s defensive-first system; I wish the Wizards selected him and not Todd… if you follow college basketball, then you have heard of the Chicago Bulls’ selection at #38 overall in Illinois guard Ayo Dosunmu; he is a lanky point guard (6’2” with a 6’8” wingspan) that can be a career backup guard for the Bulls… The Utah Jazz had one of the steals of the NBA Draft in selecting Baylor guard Jared Butler 40th overall; Butler dropped due to health concerns (he was projected to he a lottery [top-14 overall] selection), but fills a need as a backup to star guard Donovan Mitchell… and, I love the next selection by the San Antonio Spurs as well, as they drafted Iowa wing Joe Wieskamp, who is a great three-point shooter on a team that desperately needs long-range shooting… The Hawks then had another great pickup at #48 overall, as they took Auburn PG Sharife Cooper - the perfect backup and complement to star Trae Young, as Coop is a fantastic playmaker and defender - but is a below-average shooter… And, finally we hear Luka Garza’s name at pick #52! The college basketball player of the year fell this far because this 6’11” center is very slow at guarding the pick-and-roll (and slow of foot in general) and a mediocre defender overall; but his defensive shortcomings is masked by his elite offensive skill, as Garza can shoot the three effectively and gobble up rebounds in bunches - he reminds me of a slower, bigger (and slightly taller) Kevin Love… and, at long last, the Maryland product in guard Aaron Wiggins is taken by the Oklahoma City Thunder at #55 overall. At this point in the draft, and with most of the Thunder’s roster in flux, Wiggins seems like he is destined for the Thunder’s G-League team (their minor league team), but I would be pleasantly surprised if he cracks the Thunder’s roster come October.

6) Team USA women triumph over Netherlands in penalty kicks to advance to the semifinals

What a first round match early this morning EST (7 AM kick-off) between Team USA women and Netherlands in a rematch of the 2019 World Cup Final. Remember how I said several days ago, following Team USA’s 0-0 draw against Australia in the final group stage match, that I would be shocked if they won this morning, given their poor play against elite talent?

Well, that was going to be the case early (as they let up a 15 minute goal to the Olympics’ leading scorer Vivianne Miedema, who has NINE goals in these four games played), and late (Netherlands had a penalty kick opportunity in the 80’ with the game tied at 2-2). But the US just dug in and never gave up all night (Japan time). After falling down 1-0 early, the team responded with back-to-back goals three minutes apart in the first half, courtesy of Lynn Williams and Sam Mewis. Netherlands then countered with their game-tying goal ten minutes after the halftime break, courtesy of Miedema.

Both teams were aggressive all evening, but it was the Dutch who had the opportunity of a lifetime at the 80’. Dutch player Lineth Beerensteyn, who was a torn in the U.S.’s side the entire second half, drew a foul in the goalie box, resulting in a Dutch penalty kick. But it was American goalie Alyssa Naher with the save of her life, as she gobbled a shot to her left, keeping the score level at 2-2.

And, once again, the Americans were bit hard by the offsides rule, as twice they scored goals in extra time, but in both cases (for Christian Press and Alex Morgan), they both were a foot and a leg offsides on their go-ahead and potential game-winning goals. So, we head to penalty kicks.

In the penalty kick session, Naher was able to make two stops - one on the initial kick from Miedema (so Miedema is human, after all!), and the last from Dutch Aniek Nouwen. On the other side, the Americans did not miss a single shot, getting goals from Rose LaVelle, Morgan, Press and last from Megan Rapinoe - the dagger that lifted the team into a semifinal match against star player Christine Rampone and Team Canada at yet another ungodly hour (4 AM EST on Monday morning).

A great win, nevertheless, for Team USA, as they survived and had several friendly bounces go their way against the Netherlands early this morning.


7) Friday’s Olympics Medal Count Update

So, here’s where we stand in the medal count so far:

We are done with another edition of my Snippets on this July Friday afternoon. Enjoy the Olympic events taking place this evening. So, until next time, signing off.