Let’s Talk About the No. 1 Team in the Country

    Plus: Two pros play the market.

    February 21, 2023

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    Diamond Tigers

    They’re the No. 1 team in the country, but how much do you really know about them? “The Rally” host Brooke Fletcher kicks off today’s newsletter with the reason you have to watch college baseball this year: the top-ranked LSU Tigers.

    Opening Day for Division I college baseball was last Friday as teams from around the country began their march to Omaha for the College World Series. After the first weekend of play, this is why I believe the LSU Tigers are the team to beat in 2023.

    Coach Jay Johnson and his team are looking for redemption after losing in the Regionals in 2022. They’re coming into this season as the No. 1 team in the country and they’re off to a great start after completing a three-game sweep over Western Michigan last weekend.

    Nobody has benefited more form the changes in college sports than LSU. Coach Johnson has used the NCAA transfer portal better than anyone else, and LSU is one of the few baseball programs that can offer a strong NIL outfit. The Tigers have the No. 1 transfer class and the top recruiting class in the country — not to mention the projected No. 1 overall pick in the 2023 MLB Draft, Dylan Crews.

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    Despite some of their key players leaving for MLB last season, the Tigers have made up for it by adding more stars and functional depth at every position with players like Thatcher Hurd (UCLA), Christian Little (Vanderbilt), and All-American Paul Skenes (Air Force). Skenes will address a big need for the Tigers this season in their rotation with velocity topping out near triple-digits.

    Chase Shores, Aiden Moffett and Griffin Herring were some of the top recruits in the country and will add some depth as freshmen. The Tigers also bring back promising returning contributors like Ty Floyd, Samuel Dutton, and Tre’ Morgan.

    From Tennessee to Florida, the SEC is stacked with competitors that will make it difficult for LSU to reach Omaha. However, I think it’s safe to say that no team in college baseball is more equipped and talented than the Tigers in 2023. That’s the best sign of a National Champion.

    Starting this week, catch Brooke on “The After Rally” live on Stadium at 6:30 p.m. ET.
    Photo Courtesy: Beau Brune / lsusports.net

    Playing the Market

    Four years ago today — February 21, 2019 — marks the day that Manny Machado signed the largest free agent contract in American sports history, a 10-year, $300 million pact with the Padres. GM A.J. Preller gave Machado an opt-out halfway through the deal — if the MLB free agent market goes bonkers for some reason, Machado would have the option to take advantage.

    And then the MLB free agent market went bonkers.

    This offseason saw front offices returning to a former modus operandi that had been largely avoided for much of the last decade: giving enormous contracts to star players that extend into their late thirties. Big-market teams and ambitious owners have shown a willingness to spend whatever it takes to land top-tier talent, but the implementation of tax thresholds based on team payroll has incentivized them to spread those dollars over more years.

    Manny Machado wants to take advantage. On “The Rally,” we discussed Machado’s announcement that he’ll opt out after this season.

    Two Can Play That Game

    Turns out, MLB isn’t the only major pro sport throwing around huge sums of money. Who knew? Well, Daniel Jones knew, and he’s taking advantage just like Machado.

    The Giants chose not to exercise Jones’ fifth-year option before last season, and now they’re paying for it one way or another. Jones is now a free agent, and he’s reportedly seeking $45 million per year in a new contract. Is Daniel Jones worth $45 million per year? No way. Does the market for a competent QB in the NFL put him in a position to make that much money anwyay? Well, yeah, kinda.

    The Giants have a few options, including an exclusive or non-exclusive franchise tag, a long-term deal, or even letting him walk. They also have to balance a deal for Jones with their plans for RB Saquon Barkley, who’s also a free agent.

    We made our predictions for how the Giants will handle Daniel Jones in this clip from “The Rally.”

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