The starting pitching of the 2013 Milwaukee Brewers still has a lot of questions as the offseason winds down. Could right-handed veteran Javier Vazquez, who is eyeing a return to the major leagues, be a good fit in the Milwaukee rotation?
Vazquez is exactly the type of starting pitcher Milwaukee should be pursuing.
The Puerto Rican was a solid starter for 14 major league seasons, with a 165-160 record and 4.22 ERA. His consistency is reflected by having double-digit win totals in his last 12 seasons in the majors.
MLB.com’s Bill Ladson reported that Vazquez, who last pitched in the major leagues in 2011, is not yet sure if he wants to resume his career. The 36-year-old veteran told Ladson that he is seriously considering his options, and includes the Washington Nationals as a team he is interested in:
I am seriously considering pitching again, but have not made a final decision. Certainly, if I do come back, Washington is definitely a place I would consider. I'm feeling really good and throwing the ball well.
Vazquez is pitching for the Criollos de Caguas Puerto Rican Winter League team, which is currently in the playoffs. WEEI’s Rob Bradford reported that Vazquez looked great in a start last week, going six shutout innings, where his fastball topped out at 93 mph.
Alex Cora, a former major league player and current general manager of Caguas, gave WEEI’s Red Sox Hot Stove Show a glowing scouting report of Vazquez, according to their Alex Speier:
It’s the same stuff that he has towards the end of the 2011 season. In the first half, his velocity was down. He wasn’t as sharp with his cutter. Now, he’s throwing the ball hard. Javy’s a pitcher, he repeats his windup, it seems like he repeats it every time… He’s a strike-thrower. When his stuff is about 92, like it is right now, he’s very successful because he pounds the strike zone.
Vazquez would be a great fit for the Brewers, who have little consistency in their rotation after ace Yovani Gallardo.
MLB.com’s Adam McCalvy wrote that the Brewers could have as many as seven pitchers competing for four spots in the rotation.
Despite the year-long layoff, Vazquez has pitched well in Puerto Rico, with a 3.52 ERA and 30 strikeouts in 23 innings, according to Speier.
Vazquez seems to be the exact type of pitcher that Milwaukee general manager Doug Melvin is seeking. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel’s Tom Haudricourt wrote last month that the team wants to avoid giving long-term contracts to starting pitchers because of having such deals not work out in the past.
It’s unlikely that Vazquez would require more than a one- or two-year contract at this stage of his career. Even though he has mentioned a preference to play for Washington, the Nationals don’t have any obvious rotation vacancies. The Brewers could get the pitcher’s attention by submitting a solid financial offer.
Vazquez can be counted on as a reliable innings-eater. He has averaged 203 innings per year during his career, and has never thrown fewer than 154.2 innings in a single season.
He was also very effective in 2011, his last major league season, going 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA and 162 strikeouts for the Florida Marlins. He was particularly effective in the second half of that season, where he had an 8-3 record and 2.15 ERA in 14 starts, while striking out a batter per inning.
If the Brewers could get Vazquez’s ear, they could offer him things that other teams would find hard to match. Presumably they could pay him a decent salary, while guaranteeing him a rotation spot on a squad that has a good chance to contend in 2013. It would not be a bad way for him to end his career.
While Vazquez continues to make up his mind about returning to baseball, the Brewers should get busy exploring him as a possible option. If he does want to continue his career, Milwaukee should be standing by with an open checkbook and see if they can bring him on board.
Statistics via BaseballReference