So which pitcher are the Yankees targeting?

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I went to bed assuming that Buster or Rosenthal or Feinsand one of those guys would have the Yankee trade story all nailed down by the time I woke up. Then I remembered that reporters and general managers sleep too. So no new news on the Yankees’ pursuit of a pitcher. 

Feinsand does have a nice breakdown of the possibilities this morning.  His candidates: Josh Johnson, Carlos Zambrano, Ted Lilly, Roy Oswalt, Derek Lowe, Javier Vazquez, Bronson Arroyo, Aaron Harang and Brandon Webb. He throws in Felix Hernandez to make Yankee fanboys crazy for a minute, but he’s not serious. Makes me like Feinsand a lot more than I already do, however.

Oswalt is an intriguing name on that list (UPDATE: David Pinto mentioned him first, last night). I’ve heard bubkis along the lines of him being shopped, but it would probably be a really smart move to trade him in order to jump start a much needed rebuild. Of course, (a) Oswalt has a full no-trade clause that he’d have to waive, and given that he once asked for (and received) a bulldozer as a gift from owner Drayton McLane, it doesn’t strike me like the kind of guy who would waive it to go to New York City; and (b) if Houston was really interested in a rebuild they wouldn’t do things like pay Brandon Lyon $15 million. So maybe it’s not Oswalt.

I still think the most likely target on that list is Javier Vazquez.  Here’s my reasoning:

  • The Braves are the only team around openly shopping starting pitching;
  • Derek Lowe and Javier Vazquez have been prominently mentioned as potential trade candidates out of Atlanta;
  • Mark Feinsand of the Daily News doesn’t know who it is, but he says that it’s not a salary dump deal, which seems to rule out Derek “$45 million” Lowe. Vazquez, however, is only on the hook for
    one year at $11.5 million;
  • Vazquez is coming off a 2.87 ERA season with a whole mess of strikeouts. Even if you added a run or so on account of league-change and regression, he still projects to have a pretty nice season as a third or fourth starter, which is what the Yankees are looking for;
  • The only reason to shy away from Vazquez is that he has a history in New York. 2004. It was one of his worst years as a major leaguer. Feinsand, however, notes that Vazquez was hurt much of that year.  He’s a better pitcher than he showed in 2004, and I don’t think Brian Cashman is such a slave to the tabloids that he’d avoid Vazquez simply because someone at the Post would come up with some biting headline about his return.

We’ll obviously see how this develops today, and of course, the Yankees could be talking to someone completely different than Atlanta about someone completely different than Vazquez.  But there are a handful of circumstantial reasons why Vazquez makes sense to the Yankees, and why someone the Yankees could trade — Nick Swisher? — makes sense to the Braves.

We’ll see.

Jose Canseco to join NBC Sports California as an A’s analyst

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Hey, I have a new coworker: Jose Canseco has been hired by NBC Sports California as an Athletics pregame analyst.

OK, maybe he’s not technically a coworker, as the folks at NBC Sports California — formerly CSN Bay Area — and I do not hang out at the water cooler, have potlucks in the conference room or exchange secret Santa gifts at Christmas time, but dang it, I’m gonna TELL people I work with Jose Canseco. The only downside will be people assuming that, because he and I are on the same team, my performance is something less than authentic. Or, perhaps, Canseco may write another book and tell all of my secrets.

Anyway, Canseco will be part of NBC Sports California’s A’s Pregame Live and A’s Postgame Live shows. Live TV can be hard. I’ve done a bit of it, and there is certainly more to that gig than meets the eye. You can’t always prepare for what happens on the fly. I’m sure Canseco will do well, however, as he’s great with coming up with the best stuff off the top of his head.

2017 Preview: Cleveland Indians

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Cleveland Indians.

The Cleveland Indians almost won the World Series without their best hitter for the whole season and two of their starting pitchers for the playoffs. This year that hitter — Michael Brantley — is back and the starters — Carlos Carrasco and Danny Salazar — are healthy. Oh, and they added arguably the best free agent bat available in Edwin Encarnacion.

Baseball teams love to downplay their expectations, but given where the Indians are at the moment, anything less than another American League Pennant will have to feel like a disappointment, right? Fortunately for the Indians, they stand as the favorites to do just that.

They didn’t lose much in the offseason. Yes, World Series hero Rajai Davis is gone, but the Indians outfield will be fine if Brantley remains healthy. Mike Napoli‘s loss will be felt but it will be made up for with Encarnacion’s bat and probably then some. Coco Crisp left too, but he was not a key part of the equation.

The biggest losses are guys from last year who will start the year on the disabled list, most notably Jason Kipnis and Lonnie Chisenhall. Kipnis is just starting to work out following time off to rest his sore shoulder. Chisenhall ran into a wall the other day and is being evaluated. There is no sense that either will miss extended time, however.

Otherwise, the lineup should score a lot of runs, with on-base machines Jose Ramirez and Francisco Lindor setting the table for Encarnacion, Brantley and Carlos Santana, who is entering his walk year. The Indians trailed only the Red Sox in runs scored in the American League last year and they should score a lot of runs this year as well.

The strength of the club, however, remains its pitching. Corey Kluber looked like his old Cy Young self last year, particularly in the playoffs. Danny Salazar built on his excellent 2015 season in the first half before falling prey to injury. Carlos Carrasco posted an ERA+ of 141 before breaking his hand and Josh Tomlin and Trevor Bauer both stood out for fourth and fifth starters.

The bullpen is excellent too, as relief ace Andrew Miller is joined by Cody Allen, Bryan Shaw and newcomer Boone Logan make up one of the relief corps in baseball.

Pitcher health is probably the biggest uncertainty for any contender, but the Indians have the best pitching in the AL if everyone stays healthy. And maybe even if one or two guys don’t.

It’s hard to find much fault with the 2017 Cleveland Indians. They are the class of their division and, while the slog of the regular season turns a lot of surefire contenders into hash before it’s all said and done, there is no reason to look at the Indians right now and think of them as anything other than the best team in the American League.

Prediction: First place, American League Central.