UPDATE: Buster Olney reports that, according to an executive involved in the talks, the Cliff Lee-to-the-Yankees deal “is just about done.” Wow. This is actually happening.
5:42 A.M.: Joel Sherman of the New York Post dropped a bomb this morning, saying that the Yankees are “on the brink” of landing Cliff Lee from the Seattle Mariners.
The details are slim, but Sherman says that the deal would involve a package that includes top prospect Jesus Montero. There is no indication of who else would be involved. Notably, Lee is scheduled to pitch against the Yankees tonight in Seattle.
The Yankees landing Lee would be a shock given that even the most overheated reports this week have them merely (altogether now) kicking the tires on the Mariners’ ace. At best people figured that the Yankees were trying to make the price of Lee higher for, say, the Twins or the Mets. That they may be about to swoop in and land Lee is nothing short of astounding.
And nothing short of demoralizing, frankly. Demoralizing for the Mets who, even if they themselves could not get Lee probably don’t want to see the Yankees get him, thereby stealing his thunder. Demoralizing for anyone in the AL who thought that getting Lee would help them out in a short playoff series against the Yankees.
And maybe most of all, demoralizing to sports fans in general. Indeed, a day after living through the LeBron James experience — which Will Leitch apty described as something that makes one “feel extremely stupid to be a sports fan” by virtue of the unnecessary excess involved — the idea of the richest team landing the richest trade deadline prize when they don’t even really need starting pitching isn’t going to sit well with a lot of fans.
Don’t get me wrong: the Yankees are playing by the rules here and should
not be expected to merely stand pat while their competition improves. But don’t for a minute think that their landing Cliff Lee won’t spark a fairly significant uproar.
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.
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.