Yankees Pick Up Another Gem Starter In Vazquez

The Boston Red Sox must feel like the executives at Pepsi every time they read the sales figures of Coke.
The New York Yankees trumped the Red Sox’ signing of free-agent right-hander John Lackey by acquiring Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday.
The Yankees also acquired left-handed reliever Boone Logan and in return the Braves received outfielder Melky Cabrera, left-handed reliever Michael Dunn and minor-leaue right-hander Arodys Vizcaino.
That means in the past week the Yankees have reacquired firstbaseman/designated hitter Nick Johnson and Vazquez. Could Alphonso Soriano be the next former Yankee to return?
In Vazquez, the Yankees get a pitcher who is coming off one of his best seasons in the major leagues. Vazquez, 33, was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts for Atlanta. In 219 1/3 innings Vazquez gave up only 181 hits and struck out 238 while walking only 44 batters.
Vazquez was second in the National League in strikeouts and he finished fourth in the balloting for the NL Cy Young Award. 
Vazquez has also thrown more than 198 innings in the past 10 seasons and was an American League All-Star selection in 2004, his only season with the Yankees. He finished the 2004 season with a 14-10 record with a 4.91 ERA. He then was traded to the Arizona Diamondbacks in the deal that brought Randy Johnson to the Yankees.
Since 2000, Vazquez has recorded at least 10 wins and 150 strikeouts each season, making him the 10th pitcher in major-league history to accomplish the feat. According to the Elias Sports Bureau eight of the other nine pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.
Vazquez joins a rotation that includes CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. Speculation now begins on whether the Yankees will shift Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to the bullpen. 
Common sense would dictate it would be Chamberlain, 24, because he was a disappointing 9-6 with a 4.75 ERA as a starter and 1-0 with a 2.84 ERA in the postseason in the bullpen. Chamberlain spent the final two months of 2007 season as the setup man for Mariano Rivera and was 2-0 with a 0.38 ERA in 19 games. 
He started the 2008 season in the bullpen but was converted to a starter at midseason. His statistics as a reliever were again better but he finished the season with 4-3 with a 2.60 ERA and the Yankees stated he would be a full-time starter in 2009, albeit with a limit of about 150 innings.
Hughes, 23, pitched 42 games out of the bullpen and was 4-1 with a 1.40 ERA and 65 strikeouts in 51 1/3 innings. However, he was 0-1 with a 8.53 ERA in the postseason.  As a starter last season, Hughes was 2-2 with a 6.59 ERA in six starts. 
If Hughes is chosen as the No. 5 starter, he will be under the same innings limits Chamberlain was under the past two seasons. Because Hughes pitched only 86 innings in 2009 he would be limited to about 140 innings in 2010.
That could mean the Yankees might allow Hughes to begin the season as a starter and skip his turn whenever they can. The Yankees then could shift Hughes to the bullpen at midseason in favor of swingman Chad Gaudin, who pitched well for the Yankees as a starter down the stretch in 2009.
The loss of Cabrera in the trade, means that this blog was correct in its assessment last week that the Yankees have not completely shut the door on Johnny Damon.
In my last post I wrote the following:
(Jorge) Posada made it known this week that he would like the Yankees to obtain another starting pitcher to counter the Red Sox’ signing of John Lackey. But if the Yankees do not like the slim pickings on the free-agent market of Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Jason Marquis, Joel Pineiro and Jon Garland they possibly could swing a trade of Cabrera and some prospects to land a better starter.

The speculation on Yankees’ interest in Vazquez began when the veteran right-hander turned down a deal last week that would have sent him to the Los Angeles Angels. Vazquez declined the trade because he did not want to pitch on the West Coast.
That alerted Cashman that Vazquez was available and he quickly contacted the Braves to see what their asking price for Vazquez might be. By dealing Cabrera, the Yankees have obviously opened up left field with only Brett Gardner left to fill it.
That likely means Cashman feels he is close to bringing Damon back to the Bronx.
Damon’s agent Scott Boras was looking for a four-year, $52 million deal for his free-agent outfiielder client. But the Yankees balked at any contract over two years and were looking to bring Damon back for two years at $7 million per season.
But because no other major-league team is offering Damon a contract of three or four years, Boras later dropped his demands to two years at $26 million and then later down to two years for $20 million. So it appears likely that Damon could be getting close to a deal the Yankees for two years at somewhere between $7 million and $10 million the two sides are haggling over.
Don’t be surprised if that deal is locked up pretty soon.
If Boras stands firm and Cashman decides to let Damon walk, the Yankees do have a fallback position in free-agent utility man Mark De Rosa, who could play left field. De Rosa, a New Jersey native, also can play second base, shortstop and third base as well as the outfield.
It still remains doubtful that with the Yankees looking to cut at least $15 million in payroll for 2010 that they would get into the bidding for slugging outfielders Jason Bay and Matt Holliday. The Yankees did go over their budget plans in 2009 when Mark Teixeira expressed and interest in signing. 
But if the Yankees feel they have no other choice they could get into the bidding easily.
But the Red Sox are now in a much weaker position in improving their club for 2010. The torn ligament in Mike Lowell’s thumb voided the Red Sox deal to send the veteran third baseman to the Texas Rangers.
The Lowell trade was Step 1 in their shift of Kevin Youkilis to third base and their trade of right-hand pitcher Clay Buchholz and center fielder Jacoby Ellsbury and some prospects to the San Diego Padres in return for power-hitting first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. 
With Lowell still on the roster, Youkilis must remain at first and the deal for Gonzalez is likely on hold. 
The Red Sox say they would like to keep Bay as the team’s left fielder. But their four-year, $60 million offer to him was rejected and the New York Mets have made it clear that he is the No. 1 target this winter.
The Red Sox are also having difficulty in their talks with Holliday because the Cardinals are aggresively bidding to retain him as protection for Albert Pujols. Holliday has also been a more productive hitter in the National League and could be looking sign with a team that keeps him in the NL.
Meanwhile the Red Sox are overloaded with outfielders in Ellsbury, Mike Cameron, J.D. Drew and Jeremy Hermida, who they obtained from the Marlins.
It looks like Yankees General Manager Brian Cashman has put Red Sox GM Theo Epstein in a difficult position of having to raise the Red Sox payroll just to keep up with the moves Cashman has made this offseason.
Even with the Marco Scutaro signing as the team’s shortstop, the R
ed Sox have a lot of holes to fill in their offense and their bullpen that will end up costing them a lot of money. The inability to get Lowell’s contract off the books has really complicated things beyond what Epstein could have imagined.
To be sure, the Yankees loss of Cabrera is significant. Just 25, Cabrera is coming off a bounce-back season in which he had 13 homers, 68 RBIs and hit .274. He also was the Yankees’ best defensive outfielder with a very good arm.
Dunn, 24, was originally slated to become the replacement for left-hander Phil Coke, who was traded to the Detroit Tigers in the Curtis Granderson deal. The converted outfielder, Dunn had a 6.75 ERA in four September appearances after splitting most of the season between Double-A Trenton and Triple-A Scranton.
Vizcaino, 19, had a 2.13 ERA in 10 starts for Class A Staten Island last year. The Dominican Republic product was rated the Yankees’ third-best prospect by Baseball America.
It would appear that Logan will now replace Coke as the team’s second left-hander in the bullpen, joining veteran Damaso Marte. Logan was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in 20 relief appearances for the Braves. He also was a teammate of Vazquez when they both pitched for the White Sox in 2008. 
Cashman has already tried to head off speculation the Yankees are looking to sign Bay or Holliday.
“I will continue to look at any remaining piece, but it won’t be a big piece,” Cashman said. “So any speculation about some high-end player, with big ability and dollars attached on a large scale, would be inappropriate.”

Cashman, however, did not rule out the possibility of re-signing Damon. That may be a clue that the Yankees want the 36-year-old outfielder back — but only at their price.
Stay tuned . . . 

One comment

  1. Cordaro9418

    How can you guys get so excited over Javy Vazquez? You had him. That’s like the Sox getting all wet over the return of Derrick Lowe. Been there, done that. Vazquez has been the same semi-dependable starter he always has been. But again, you guys already know that.

    As for Bay. Who cares anymore? Overrated. Holliday is obviously the better choice, but at this point he and Scott Boras would be idiots to walk away from St. Louis, who obviously represents a great chance for him in the regular /post-season. Besides, if the Birds let him walk, it shows a lack of effort to Pujols, who refused opening negotiations early because he’s not ‘worried’ about the money and wants to ‘see what happens’ with the team. Commitment to winning.

    At this point, opening the season minus Bay and with Holliday in St. Louis is fine. Cameron is a bridge to Carl Crawford in next season’s FA pool, along with Joe Mauer and the other young talent who’ll be seeking a pay-bump.

    Does Lowell hurt the Sox? Not really hurt as much as hinder. Lowell is well suited to the 1B/DH platoon, but obviously between Youk, V-Mart and Kotchman… it’s a log-jam. But he will make a fairly good insurance policy against Ortiz coming out of the gate slow again or an injured / slumping aforementioned 1B/3B starter. Expenisve? Yeah, but we can afford, just as you guys can.

    I don’t see Adrian Gonzalez coming to town, not when other viable options are available. Yeah, there’s the new front office connection, but why take Gonzalez when you could take Buchholz and the same prospects and maybe get a Prince Fielder, whom the Brewers have openly noted ‘may be available’.

    We all know the song our teams play.. ‘Anything you can do, I can do better’… 2004 to 2007 to 2010… ding! we’re due this year. The pitching and defense are there (on paper anyway), and we’ll see if another big bat is ultimately required.

    As for this Vazquez thing. Let’s not make it seem any bigger than should be. Johnson either. Two former Yankees who didn’t meet the expectations during the ‘lean’ years and were shipped out… but now return as heroes. You either really missed them or are compensating for something.

    Merry Christmas.. even to a Yankees fan.

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