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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.