I mentioned in my post on the “mystery pitcher” last night that Javier Vazquez was a realistic option and now there are a few reports that Vazquez is squarely on the Yankees radar. A few interesting notes about a potential reunion with Vazquez:
• The Yankees once traded Nick Johnson (and others) to get Vazquez. Now they could end up with both on the same team.
• Despite his up-and-down time with the Yankees, Vazquez had no interest in playing anywhere but the East coast. He was very uncomfortable living in Arizona and has a limited no-trade clause that allows him to veto deals to the AL and NL West divisions. With family still living in Puerto Rico, Vazquez is happy on the East coast.
• The Yankees would be getting Vazquez with only one year remaining on his contract (so not a long-term obligation) and coming off a terrific year in which he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts for the Braves. He finished fourth in NY Cy Young voting.
• Despite suffering from a terrible case of pink eye during the 2004 season – I remember having to write about it and wanting to stay far away – Vazquez has been healthy. He’s pitched 200-plus innings each of the five years since leaving New York and his 198 in 2004 is the only season of the last 10 in which he didn’t top that threshold. Not bad for someone who is supposed to be a middle-to-back-of-the-rotation starter in New York.
Fans will always remember Vazquez for his awful performance in Game 7 of the 2004 ALCS – and to be fair, that’s pretty hard to forget – but bringing him this winter makes sense on a lot of levels. With a rotation of CC, AJ, Pettitte, Vazquez and Hughes/Chamberlain (with the other one going to the bullpen), the Yankees pitching staff is formidable.
UPDATE, 9:40 a.m.: Sounds like the Yankees are shipping Melky Cabrera, LHP Mike Dunn and a lesser prospect to Atlanta for Vazquez and LHP Boone Logan (stats here). Interesting to see that Dunn is in the deal after the Yankees were determined to keep him out of the Granderson trade (though Logan, who they get coming back, is also a lefty). Can’t say I’m surprised to see Melky go. You had to figure either he or Gardner wouldn’t be around after the Granderson deal.
Initial reaction: Great deal for the Yankees. Strengthening starting pitching (which was clearly their last remaining weak point) for an extra OF and prospects while not sacrificing long-term financial flexibility is a coup for Brian Cashman.
UPDATE, 9:51 a.m.: Don’t forget that Yankees executives like president Randy Levine were the ones leading the charge for Randy Johnson after the 2004 season – Levine, not Cashman was the one who literally negotiated with Arizona – so it wasn’t as if Cashman was the one running Vazquez out of town originally. Cashman always liked him.
Also, this move seems to indicate that the Yankees are only interested in having one of the “kids” in the starting rotation this year. After years of debate, this may well be the end of the starter or reliever debate for Joba Chamberlain.
UPDATE, 10:02 a.m.: For the bargain price of Melky, Mike Dunn and (apparently) the other A-Rod, Arodys Vizcaino, Cashman has:
1. Given the Yankees rotation incredible depth.
2. Likely pushed the Yankees toward a resolution on the Joba to the pen question.
3. Retained financial flexibility for next offseason and beyond (Vazquez’s contract is up after 2010).
4. Relieved a glut of extra outfielders.
Not bad for one move. And no, I don’t believe for a second that Brett Gardner will be anywhere in the Yankees Opening Day outfield.
UPDATE, 10:10 a.m.: So who’s in left for the Yankees now? Obviously Johnny Damon is still out there but I think that ship has sailed (though, you never say never). Matt Holliday? Jason Bay?
Put it this way: This was a strong move for Cashman to make because it is WAY easier to find a reasonable option in left field than it is to find a starting pitcher – let alone one who finished fourth in Cy Young voting a year ago and offers an appealing contract. In essence, Cashman solved one problem (pitching) while not greatly changing another (left field was an issue even with Melky on the team).
UPDATE, 10:35 a.m.: Some (of many) outfield options: Holliday (obviously), Bay (obviously), Mark DeRosa, Jermaine Dye, Marlon Byrd, Randy Winn, Rick Ankiel and – of course – Johnny Damon.