Tuesday, December 14, 2004


With Jared Wright and Carl Pavano joining the Yankee "rotation" and the Eric Milton rumours unabetted, it seems much more likely the Yankees are really serious about dealing "former" ace Javier Vazquez. I imagine they want to rid themselves of Kevin Brown, too, but his contract has to make him untradeable... (Hmm... two prized pitchers the Yankees acquire in the off-season become the bane of the club's existance less than a year later. What's this weird feeling of deja vu all over again?)

It's pure insanity, considering that just a year ago Vazquez was the most coveted pitcher outside of the Arizona desert.

So, who are the likely suitors for Vazquez's services?

I imagine it has to be a National League team. The Yankees can't afford to gamble that Vazquez regains his poise with another AL club--especially with their AL East and AL West rivals (although a Tim Hudson for Vazquez deal makes sense from both clubs' perspective, and the Red Sox will desperately need another top tier starter if the Pedro to the Mets rumours are true).

Granted, staying with the AL for a moment, an interesting strategy from Brian Cashman's perspective would be to send Vazquez to the Tigers, White Sox, or Indians in an attempt to upset the balance of power in the mediocre AL Central. (Put it this way: Would you rather face Javier Vazquez or Johan Santana in a short series?) The White Sox tried to get involved in a three-way deal by sending Carlos Lee to Arizona in return for Javier Vazquez when the Diamondbacks were still considering dealing Randy Johnson to New York. The Indians in particular would likely be ready to rival the Twins by having another power arm to join C.C. Sabathia at the top of the rotation. But none of these clubs can afford to give-up MLB-ready impact players if they intend to unseat the Twins, and the Yankees don't seem particularly interested in acquiring younger prospects.

So, which NL teams are likely to make offers for Vazquez, and what can they offer in return?

Even with John Smoltz rejoining the rotation--actually, especially with John Smoltz rejoining the rotation--the Braves need another top starter to retain their stranglehold on the NL East. And rumour has it the Braves have a decent pitching coach whom they fancy as a bit of a specialist in overhauling promising arms. If the Braves were at all serious about trading Marcus Giles and prospects for a guaranteed year of Tim Hudson, why wouldn't they jump at the chance to make the same offer for three years of Javier Vazquez? I know the Braves keep crying poor, and $11.5M/year may sound like a lot of money, but considering $7M only gets you Carl Pavano in today's market, it's a damn bargain for a starter of Vazquez's calibre.

OK, I know what you're thinking. The Yankees just signed themselves a nifty-new 2B. Why on earth would they want an inexpensive 26-year-old 2B with a career .286 EqA? Well, the Braves also have a 27-year-old Gold Glove CF with a career .280 EqA. That's only 7 points lower than the free agent prize of the off-season, Carlos Beltran. While Jones isn't likely to match Beltran's level of production over the next five years, he'd be a good consolation prize. Overrated with the glove or not, the fact that he's at all mobile means he'd be a massive improvement over the defensively challenged Bernie Williams.

Even if John Schuerholz manages to convince Cashman and Co. to consider Jones over Giles, there's still more work to be done. Acquiring Vazquez isn't a fix-all for the Braves. Sure, the Braves save some money (Andruw Jones has 3 years and $39M left on his contract), but along with J.D. Drew's departure they're now left with two holes in the lineup. They can find somebody to play CF. Jose Cruz Jr. is a free agent, and his .274 EqA last year isn't that far below Jones'. He probably wouldn't cost much more than the difference between Jones and Vazquez' contracts. Even better Schuerholz could call Bill Bavasi about Randy Winn. Winn continues to be an underrated player offensively (.281 EqA last year) and defensively (2 RAA in CF). Considering the Braves' options at 1B, they might be the only club receptive to Bavasi's reported insistence on including Scott Speizio in any Winn deal. They could even rush Jeff Francoeur to the show, but his future is probably as a corner OF.

I think from the Braves' perspective it's got to come down to whether they think youngsters Andy Marte and Jeff Francoeur are ready to contribute. It's not a question of whether they can be Albert Pujols and Miguel Cabrera Mk II. But if Marte and Francoeur can pick up even some of the slack, getting Vazquez is a great move for the Braves.

Jeff Loria has too much at stake in his goal to field a thoroughly shitty team to prove his point that the Marlins need a new publically funded stadium (or else!!!) by fucking it up by acquiring a pitcher of Vazquez's stature.

The chances of the Yankees ever dealing with the Mets in this century is only slightly less far-fetched than trading with the Red Sox.

Vazquez's considerable upside doesn't really fit the team's apparent desire to sign every ho-hum starter who slips through the Yankees fingers. It's hard not to daydream about Bobby Abreu in pinstripes. Abreu would be a sweet addition, and my guess is he'd even be a passable upgrade on Williams in CF.

I can hear the cheers across Yankee Nation: The Return of Christian Guzman!

The one team in baseball that doesn't need another power righty.

Not even Steinbrenner wants Ken Griffey these days, and I can't imagine the Reds dealing Adam Dunn or Austin "Gimpy" Kearns. (Actually, having dealt Nick Johnson to get Vazquez in the first place, by acquiring Kearns they'd be coming back full circle.) Besides, I'm not sure this is the right place for a pitcher with a slight case of gopheritis.

Houston's rotation is a big question mark if Roger Clemens doesn't return, but they have nothing valuable to offer the Yankees in return. (Yes, not even the Yankees can afford Jeff Bagwell's contract.) What's the point of getting Vazquez if it costs them Lance Berkman? Also, see comments above, RE: gopheritis.

Showing surprising signs of competitive life this off-season, but I still don't see a fit.

I can't remember where I read it, but in light of the Arthur Rhodes for Matt Lawton deal somebody wondered whether the Pirates would ever make a deal where the primary concern wasn't salary. Next.

Jim Edmonds screams New York Yankees to me. He's simultaneously overrated and underrated, a requisite of all those who wish to serve under Captain Jeter. And for a club that all things being equal increasingly prefers veterans to youngsters, the flashy 34-year-old is on the right side of 30. Hell, he's even coming off of a career year, and thus his contribution in 2005 is bound to be wildly overestimated by Yankee brass. Frankly, this is incomprehensible. Edmonds has a limited no-trade clause, but I can't imagine New York is on the list. Why isn't he sharing a stoggie with Big Stein as we speak?

Considering that the Cards' rotation last year was anchored by the string that held Chris Carpenter's arm together, they could obviously use a potential front-line starter like Vazquez. Why wouldn't they? Edmonds is scheduled to make about $22M over the next two years (plus $10M option or $3M buyout), so the salary difference is a wash. Sure, there's always the risk that if Vazquez continues his slow burn he'll forever be tarnish in the mid-west as the guy the Cards traded Jim Edmonds for. But Edmonds is just as likely to collapse next year as he is to win the MVP. The question from the Cardinals' point of view is who replaces Edmonds? Even with Edgar Renteria's probable departure, a full season of Larry Walker's bat should help keep the Cards among the league leaders in runs scored.

Unlike the Braves, however, the Cards don't have any internal options to man CF. Like the Braves, this shouldn't be a deal breaker. Walt Jocketty even has a distinct advantage over John Schuerholz. Sure, the Cards could similarly try to acquire Cruz or Winn. Even better though, while the other clubs are focused on Adrian Beltre and Carlos Beltran, Jocketty should swoop in and offer J.D. Drew a massive two-year contract. I mean something along the lines of 2 years, $30M if that's what it takes. Insane? When he's healthy, Drew is worth just as much as Beltran. Will Carroll has long been saying that putting Drew in CF would lessen his injury risk, and a two-year contract would considerably minimize the risk for the Cards. Would Drew return to the team that traded him away? They say money talks... no better way to find out.

Those Randy Johnson rumours just won't die. Personally, I wouldn't trade Vazquez for Johnson. With the caveat that Johnson is better than Kevin Brown, let me ask you: rather than trading Ted Lilly for Jeff Weaver, and then trading Jeff Weaver for Kevin Brown, wouldn't the Yankees be better off today if they had just kept the younger Lilly?

To even consider it Cashman would have to be one sadistic fuck.

The rumoured package of Edwin Jackson and Antonio Perez for Tim Hudson that has the internet aflutter probably wouldn't interest the Yankees much. Or maybe it would. Either way, from the Dodgers perspective three years guaranteed of Vazquez has got to be a much better deal than only one year of Hudson. (It's not as if the Oakland ace is without his own question marks going forward.) Honestly, is a Milton Bradley for Javier Vazquez deal really that ridiculous?

I was pretty certain the Yankees would trade for Mark Loretta mid-season as San Diego (once again) failed to live up to (other people's) expectations, but I guess Miguel Cairo's serviceable impersonation of a 2B put that deal on the backburner. So much for that. I imagine Kevin Towers would pay their airfare if Cashman said he'd take Ryan Klesko or Phil Nevin, but how about that Brian Giles? Granted, he'd only be slightly worse than Bernie Williams in CF, but at this stage in their careers he's a still a much better hitter. It's certainly not an ideal deal from New York's perspective, and besides maybe Towers is still smarting over having been sucked by Dave Littlefield (!!!) to even consider offers.

I can't pretend to understand how Brian Sabean's mind works.

So, what do you think?

All of this ignores the possibility of a three-way deal that sends Vazquez packing, but I'm left with the feeling that there are only two or three possible deals that could realistically benefit everyone concerned.

I just hope he stays.

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