Fire

A new leader in payroll among MLB teams?

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A new leader in payroll among MLB teams?

From Comcast SportsNetNEW YORK (AP) -- The Los Angeles Dodgers are on track to become only the second major league team with a 200 million payroll and could end the New York Yankees' streak of 14 years as baseball's biggest spender.The Dodgers are at 214.8 million for 21 signed players next season, according to a study of their contracts by The Associated Press. That follows last weekend's additions of free agent pitcher Zack Greinke for a 147 million, six-year contract and South Korean pitcher Ryu Hyun-jin for a 36 million, six-year deal."Creating a lot of buzz, that's for sure," Greinke said. "And you do wonder when things are going to stop."Crediting the 3.9 million Boston is paying Los Angeles next year as part of last August's trade and not counting the portions of signing bonuses for players obtained from the Red Sox, the Dodgers' 2013 payroll currently is at 207.9 million.The Yankees have led each year since the Baltimore Orioles edged them by 200,000 in 1998, and New York has been at 200 million-plus every season since 2005. The record opening-day payroll of 209.1 million was set by the Yankees in 2008."I don't that there's anybody that can keep up with what the Dodgers are doing," Arizona Diamondbacks general manager Kevin Towers said.Los Angeles, almost certain to pay the luxury tax next year, has joined the high rollers since the Dodgers were bought in May by Mark Walter's group, which also includes Magic Johnson and Stan Kasten."When we took over the team we said we were going to spend money and I guess you guys are seeing that we're trying to do that," Johnson said. "We're not messing around. We're not talking about it, we're doing it."Under outgoing owner Frank McCourt, they started the season with the 12th-highest payroll at 94.7 million. They boosted spending with the midseason acquisitions of Hanley Ramirez, Adrian Gonzalez, Josh Beckett, Carl Crawford and Brandon League.The Dodgers finished 86-76 last season, eight games behind the eventual World Series champion San Francisco Giants in the NL West. The Dodgers haven't reached the World Series since winning the title in 1988.In addition to their players with agreements, the Dodgers have two players eligible for salary arbitration: catcher A.J. Ellis and right-hander Ronald Belisaro."We're here to win. I can't tell you if we're stopping or not," Johnson said.New York's 2013 payroll is at 176 million for 13 players, including a 12 million deal for third baseman Kevin Youkilis that hasn't been finalized. Four Yankees are eligible for arbitration: pitchers Phil Hughes, David Robertson, Joba Chamberlain and Boone Logan.The deals for Greinke and Ryu contain numerous complicated provisions and perks.Greinke gets a 12 million signing bonus, of which 7 million is payable by Dec. 31 and 5 million on Feb. 1, 2014. He gets a 17 million salary next year, 24 million in 2014, 23 million in 2015, 24 million in 2016, 23 million in 2017 and 24 million in 2018.He can opt out of the final three years of the contract within three days of the final game of the 2015 World Series.While Greinke doesn't have a no-trade provision, if he's dealt during the season he can decide within three days of the end of the World Series whether to terminate the contract. And if he's traded during the offseason, he gets an extra 3 million and has the right to end the deal immediately.In addition, for the 2018 season only, he gets 1 million for winning the Cy Young Award and 500,000 for finishing second through fifth. Greinke also has the right to purchase four premium tickets for all home games.Ryu gets a 5 million signing bonus, half due on April 1 and the rest on April 1, 2014. His salaries are 2.5 million next year, 3.5 million in 2014, 4 million in 2015 and 7 million in each of the following three seasons. He can earn an additional 1 million annually in performance bonuses, 250,000 each for 170, 180, 190 and 200 innings.If he has 750 innings pitched from 2013-17, he can opt out of the final season. If he wins the Cy Young Award, his salaries for remaining seasons would increase by 1 million. They would go up by 750,000 if he finishes second, 500,000 if he finishes third and 250,000 if he finishes fourth or fifth.He has the same opt-out rights as Greinke, but without the 3 million payment, and he can't be sent to the minor leagues without his consent.Ryu gets a 30,000 moving allowance, eight annual first-class round-trip tickets from Los Angeles to South Korea, an employee assigned to Korean media needs, and interpreter, a personal trainermassage therapist, English lessons and payment for immigration fees.The contract gives him the right to wear No. 99 and allows him access to purchase premium tickets. He gets a suite on the road but pays the difference between the cost of a suite and a regular room.

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

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USA TODAY

Joao Meira spills the first news of the Fire's offseason

The wait to find out which players have their options picked up or declined by the Fire might still be a couple weeks, but the first news of a player move in the Fire's offseason came via Twitter.

Defender Joao Meira announced he won't be returning to the club in 2018.

Meira signed with the Fire just before the start of the 2016 preseason after being out of contract in Europe. The Portuguese center back signed a one-year deal with a club option for the second year.

After he played 28 matches with 26 starts in 2016, the Fire picked up his option. He became even more of a fixture at center back in 2017, beating out Jonathan Campbell for the other starting spot alongside Johan Kappelhof. Meira played in 30 regular season matches and made 27 starts, finishing fourth on the team in minutes played (2,412).

That Meira won't be back isn't a major surprise for a few reasons. First, he was out of contract. He was one of two players, along with Bastian Schweinsteiger, on the Fire's roster that the team had no control over for 2018. On top of that, the 30-year-old had made it clear that he wanted to be closer to his home and family in Portugal.

Meira's departure leaves a gap at the center back position for the Fire. Kappelhof, who enters the third year of a three-year guaranteed deal in 2018, and Campbell, who will likely have his club option picked up, enter as the only healthy center backs in 2018. Christian Dean was added in August via trade, but is coming off a broken foot, an injury that has plagued him before. His status for the start of the 2018 season is unclear.

Grant Lillard, a potential homegrown signing and a senior at Indiana, could compete for time at center back next season. He is one of the top rated players in the country for the Hoosiers, which are the No. 2 seed in the NCAA Tournament. While Lillard could step in from a numbers perspective and would add size to the Fire's back line (Lillard is 6-foot-4), he wouldn't be able to replace Meira's ability on the ball. Meira wasn't as effective of a defender as Kappelhof, but was arguably the best passer among the Fire's center backs and helped alleviate pressure at times.

This also opens up an international spot on the Fire's roster. The Fire went over the alloted total last season, but were able to put John Goossens and Jorge Bava on the disabled list to clear room. Meira's exit gives a bit more flexibility in that department.

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Bears-Lions prediction: Will special teams continue John Fox's NFC North woes?

Only three of John Fox’s 12 wins as Bears coach have been against NFC North opponents, while 12 of his 29 losses have come against divisional opponents. 

That’s a recipe for back-to-back-to-back last place finishes in the NFC North. And if the Bears can’t beat an Aaron Rodgers-less Green Bay Packers team, why could it beat a Detroit Lions team that has a healthy franchise quarterback?

The positive end of that answer is the Bears do have wins over two playoff teams (Pittsburgh and Carolina) while six of their four losses have been by eight points or fewer. Sunday’s game will probably be close, again (if it’s not, and the Bears are on the losing end of it, it would raise some significant concerns about the state of Fox within the locker room). 

So if the game is decided by one possession or less, this could be the difference: Detroit has one of the best special teams units in the NFL, ranking second in Football Outsiders’ DVOA, while the Bears are 28th by the same measure. 

Getting Sherrick McManis back this week should help solidify Jeff Rodgers’ special teams units, but Jamal Agnew has two punt return scores and is averaging 18.3 yards per return. 

“Tough guy — he’ll return inside and outside,” Rodgers said. “He’s got multiple longer returns against people this year. it’s not just, ‘I had a long return in Week 2 or Week 1,’ and kinda held onto that. he’s been productive in a lot of games. certainly a guy that we’ve gotta do a good job against.”

If the Bears don’t do a good job bottling up Agnew, though, he could be the reason why the game flips to Detroit — or, at least, why the Lions keep the Bears at arm’s length. 

Prediction: Lions 24, Bears 16