December 23, 2009

Vazquez will be better this time around

vazquez tradeThere hasn’t been a more active general manager in baseball than Brian Cashman in the year 2009.

Cashman’s latest deal was centered around ex-Yankee starter Javier Vazquez in a five-player, two-team deal yesterday morning. Vazquez was effective for the Yankees in the first half of 2004 before an arm injury hampered his second half. After giving up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the ALCS that year, Vazquez was dealt to the D’Backs for Randy Johnson. He publicly announced it was his arm injury that hurt his performance with the Yankees (perhaps for the first time) in his press conference yesterday:

“In the second half, my arm didn’t feel as good as it did in the first half, and it was really the first time in my career, and really the only time in my career, that I felt my arm wasn’t where it’s supposed to be.”

What has he done since? He’s pitched for three teams, registered at least 200 innings each season and compiled an ERA of 4.09. Last year with the Braves was arguably the best season of his career, marked by his 2.87 ERA, 1.026 WHIP and 238 strikeouts. The only other pitcher of the decade with more strikeouts is Randy Johnson and the only other pitcher of the decade with more innings pitched is Livan Hernandez. He had this to say on returning to the Yanks:

“I’m glad to be back. I’m excited to be a part of the team again. Everybody that knows me, knows that I didn’t want to leave my first time out. I’m just glad to be back.”

vazquez poll results He’s got the right mindset, and it sounds like he’s a different pitcher, at least, that’s what the fans voted.

As much as I don’t want to forgive him for that pitch he made to Damon, I think Vazquez can change his luck with the Yankees in 2010. Here are my three reasons why he will:

  1. He’s got five more years of experience under his belt (three in the AL). Now he’s faced his fair share of AL hitters, while in 2004 he entered with hardly any experience against the AL.
  2. I think the 2010 Yankees easily offer the best offensive support he’s had in his career. With a team that will probably average around 5.5 runs per game, I fully expect him to collect at least 15 wins.
  3. Presumably, he’ll be a middle or back end of the rotation guy instead of the ace, so he doesn’t have to deal with that pressure of leading a staff. The pressure dial has been turned to its off position.

As for the rest of the trade, the Yankees have a lot of benefits to outweigh losing their league-average starting left fielder. Melky Cabrera was a fan-favorite, Robinson Cano’s lover, YouTube star and perhaps a blooming hitter. Brett Gardner and Jamie Hoffmann can rock-paper-scissors for the last outfield spot for now, but I doubt either will be in the opening day lineup.

Because Vazquez is only signed for 2010, the Yankees could get some compensation draft picks back if he rejects an arbitration offer after the season. That helps make up the loss of pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino, who just turned 19. He had a ways to go before pitching with the Yankees.

I’ve learned Boone Logan, like Michael Dunn, is a lefty specialist (lefties have hit .231 against Logan in his career). Because of the terms on his contract, Joel Sherman reports, he will have to earn a spot on the 25-man, but I’ll predict he makes the cut (barring any reliever pickups by Cashman).

Most importantly, to me, the deal allows Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes to secure the set-up spot in the bullpen (hopefully not both). Sorry folks, but David Robertson was not ready to have that job without a legitimate backup option on opening day. Now the Yankees will be able to groom Chamberlain or Hughes as a starter in 2010 and be able to seamlessly bridge the gap to Mariano Rivera .

My guess is the last spot in the rotation is up for grabs in spring training. As most of you know, I’d prefer Hughes as the starter, but I think the Yankees will go with Chamberlain because of his experience.

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