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.

Johnny Monell signs with KBO’s KT Wiz

SAN FRANCISCO, CA - JULY 06:  Johnny Monell #19 of the New York Mets runs back to the dugout after he scored in the ninth inning against the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park on July 6, 2015 in San Francisco, California.  (Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images)
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Former Mets catcher Johnny Monell signed a contract with the KT Wiz of the Korea Baseball Organization, per a report by Chris Cotillo of SB Nation. The 30-year-old originally struck a deal with the NC Dinos on Thursday, but the deal appeared to fall through at the last minute, according to Cotillo’s unnamed source.

Monell last surfaced for the Mets during their 2015 run, batting a dismal .167/.231/.208 with two extra bases in 52 PA before the club DFA’d him to clear space for Bartolo Colon. While he’s had difficulty sticking at the major league level, he’s found a higher degree of success in the minor league circuit and holds a career .271 average over a decade of minor league play. He played exclusively in Triple-A Las Vegas during the 2016 season, slashing .276/.336/.470 with 19 home runs and a career-high 75 RBI in 461 PA.

The veteran backstop appears to be the second MLB player to join the KT Wiz roster this offseason, as right-hander Donn Roach also signed with the club last month on a one-year, $850,000 deal.

Phil Bickford suspended 50 games for drug of abuse

SAN DIEGO, CA - JULY 10:  Phil Bickford of the U.S. Team pitches during the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game at PETCO Park on July 10, 2016 in San Diego, California.  (Photo by Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)
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Brewers’ right-hander Phil Bickford received a 50-game suspension after testing positive for a drug of abuse, per the Los Angeles Times’ Bill Shaikin. This is the second time Bickford has been suspended for recreational drug use, as he was previously penalized in 2015 after testing positive for marijuana prior to the amateur draft.

Bickford was selected by the Giants in the first round of the 2015 draft and was later dealt to the Brewers for lefty reliever Will Smith at the 2016 trade deadline. He finished his 2016 campaign in High-A Brevard County, pitching to a 3.67 ERA, 10.0 K/9 rate and 5.0 BB/9 over 27 innings.

Two other suspensions were handed down on Friday, one to Toronto minor league right-hander Pedro Loficial for a positive test for metabolites of Stanozolol and one to Miami minor league outfielder Casey Soltis for a second positive test for drugs of abuse. Loficial will serve a 72-game suspension, while Soltis will serve 50 games. All three suspensions are due to start at the beginning of the 2017 season for each respective minor league team.

Brewers’ GM David Stearns issued a statement after the Commissioner’s Office announced Bickford’s suspension (via Vince Lara-Cinisomo of Baseball America):

We are very disappointed to learn of Phil’s suspension, but we fully support the Minor League Baseball Drug Prevention and Testing Program and its enforcement by the Commissioner’s Office. Phil understands he made a mistake, and we fully anticipate that he will learn from this experience.