The rich get richer as Yankees add Javier Vazquez to their rotation
If you took just the players that the Yankees have acquired this winter more because they could than because they needed them, you would have the beginnings of a pretty good team. In
Vazquez's strengths and weaknesses are well-known. By most of the usual measures of a pitcher's quality, he's something near an ace. He's extremely durable, as only
In practice, Vazquez has been something else, however. In a good year, such as 2009, when he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA for the Braves, he's a Cy Young candidate, but you can't tell when those years are going to come. The problems are that he's almost too willing to throw a strike, leading to a lot of home runs, and that he seems to have issues pitching with men on base.
Over his career he has allowed a .697 OPS with the bases empty and a .773 mark with men on; by way of comparison, the major league averages last season were .741 and .763. Even in an off year he's a cinch to pitch 200 innings with a league average ERA, and that has a lot of value, but both pitch by pitch and year by year he's as frustrating as any pitcher in baseball, because you always have the sense that he should be more than he is.
Just because of his past there, people in New York are going to be eager to be frustrated with him. In 2003, just as he seemed to have emerged as an ace in Montreal, the Yankees traded three good prospects for him -- Johnson among them -- with visions of Vazquez anchoring their staff for years to come. All started well, but after a horrific second half of 2004 in which he ran up a 6.70 ERA and a disastrous appearance in the final game of that year's legendary ALCS -- he walked five of the 13 Red Sox he faced -- Vazquez was exiled to Arizona.
He was never quite the scapegoat that
His past with the team seems irrelevant from here; if he wasn't an injured pitcher in the second half of 2004 he did an extraordinarily convincing impression of one, and anyone who points to that bad run as evidence that he isn't mentally or emotionally fit for Bronx pressure has to explain why he pitched so well in the first half of that year.
As to the new yard and his pitching style, it seems a minimal concern. Vazquez was effective for two years and excellent for one with the White Sox, whose stadium is at least as good a home run park as the Yankees'. He has proved that he can pitch well in this kind of environment, and if he doesn't do so it won't be because of the park.
In the end this looks like a great acquisition for the Yankees, and it is -- better, in all likelihood, than Boston's
All of this keys in on one half of the deal, but of course there was another. The Braves got, it should be said, a better package for Vazquez than
For the Braves, the deal will be judged a success or failure based on what they do with the roughly $8 million that they freed up by moving Vazquez. They have enough starting pitching to sustain the loss, so if they can add a needed bat with that money and trade a spare outfielder to fill another need, they'll likely come out ahead. If not, they'll have missed an opportunity. But judged in its own right, this is a fair trade.
The last element of the deal is that with Cabrera gone, the Yankees are suddenly short an outfielder. There's a good case for starting reserve
Might the Vazquez trade bring