Two big trades went down a day ago and are on the verge of being official. The big deal involves the Yankees acquiring Javier Vazquez from the Braves for Melky Cabrera and two prospects. Before that deal went down, the Blue Jays and Mariners agreed to trade power throwing right-handers Brandon League and Brandon Morrow. What is the fantasy fallout of these two deals?
Vazquez to the Yankees
Despite posting consistently good K/BB rates over his career, Vazquez has put up some lofty ERA’s. In 2009, it finally seemed like his ERA matched his peripherals. Now, coming off his career best season, Vazquez heads back to the Bronx where he had perhaps his career worst year in 2004.
In 2009, Vazquez pulled a Cliff Lee 2008, meaning that he flip-flopped his groundball and fly-ball rates (to favor grounders) while throwing more strikes. Vazquez had a career high strike to ball rate of 1.99 last season as well as a career best 67% first strike rate. It was a clear change in philosophy for Vazquez, who threw fastballs at the lowest rate of his career. The move to more offspeed pitches resulted in a career best whiff rate (26.7%).
There are three issues I see affecting Vazquez’s value as a Yankee in 2010. First, the obvious change in National League to American League. With the Braves in 2009, Vazquez had an opponent quality OPS of .731 (The combined OPS of batters faced). Compare that to the lowest opponent quality OPS from a Yankees starter, which was CC Sabathia at .751. The high end of that range was A.J. Burnett with an opponent quality OPS of .765. Clearly, even without those numbers, we know that moving to the AL makes life a bit more difficult for a pitcher.
The second issue is Mr. Short Porch in Right. While Vazquez was able to dominate hitters from both sides of the plate last season, he did fare a bit worse against lefties. Lefties hit 14 of his 20 home runs allowed. That number could increase with the move to Yankee Stadium.
The final issue with Vazquez’s new value is that when describing his 2009 season, the phrase “career best” gets used a lot. While that might fly with a pitcher in their mid to late 20’s, Vazquez turns 34 in July. A regression was likely anyway, but a move to the AL furthers that likelihood.
What to like? Vazquez has always been an above average strikeout pitcher. While 2009 was his career best in terms of both strikeout and walk rate, even a regression would put him among the league best in K/BB rate. Aside from what Vazquez himself can control, he will certainly have the run support.
Imagine Curtis Granderson hitting eighth in that lineup. Yeah, he’ll get run support.
As far as defense is concerned, Vazquez should see a slight improvement, but I’m not counting on Derek Jeter to maintain his 6.6 UZR from 2009 and a lot can happen over the course of a season to cause defensive fluctuations.
All in all, Vazquez’s fantasy value takes a slight hit with the move to the AL and into Yankee Stadium. It would be unlikely for him to repeat his career best numbers from last season, but he’s still a solid fantasy option. Granted, his current ADP at Mock Draft Central puts him in round four, which is too high for my liking.
You can find some great info on the prospects involved here .
As for Melky Cabrera, he is a league average hitter, with only marginal fantasy value. His power numbers should drop away from Yankee stadium. This may or may not open the door for Brent Gardner to start full time in the Yankee outfield. We all know he has top-notch speed.
Morrow to the Blue Jays for Brandon League
One would think that, at age 25, Morrow still had a ton of promise as a future part of the Mariners rotation. However, there must have been discussions to the contrary within the M’s front office. If they ultimately viewed Morrow as a reliever, believe it or not, they got an upgrade in Brandon League.
One glance at League’s numbers and it may be easy to dismiss him as a league average middle reliever. However, my eyes see something different.
Throw out his 4.58 ERA in 2009. League was about as unlucky as a pitcher could be. Based on his 9.2 K/9 and 2.5 BB/9, League’s numbers should have shown dominance. A .322 BABIP against and a well below average 67.6% strand rate inflated his ERA. His 2009 FIP was a full run lower than his ERA.
Also consider two more factors: An outstanding 29% whiff rate and an above average 33% O-Swing (swings on pitches outside the strike-zone.)
One might also think that League’s career best numbers of 2009 will be just that, a career best. Unlike the case with Javier Vazquez though, League is entering his age 27 season and is simply realizing his potential at the big league level.
Stuff wise, League features a mid to upper 90’s fastball which has a ton of horizontal movement. That movement has resulted in consistently high ground ball rates. Also, in 2009, League changed the way he pitched. In essence, he all but completely ditched his slider and focused on pounding the zone with his fastball, then changing pace with his changeup.
Should League continue to progress from his 2009 adjustments, he could end up being THE best reliever on the Mariners staff. Whether or not that turns into some save chances, we shall see, but I don’t put much stock in David Aardsma’s career best 4.3 BB/9.
Apparently the Blue Jays view Brandon Morrow as a staring pitcher. He’ll have to show a ton of improvement to succeed in that capacity.
Morrow desperately needs to develop command and confidence in at least one secondary pitch. Yeah, throwing 99 mph is great, but Major League hitters have proven that they can hit Morrow’s heat. For his Major League career, Morrow has used his fastball almost 74% of the time. If he were able to paint the corners with that pitch, he may be able to get away with using it that much. The problem is that he does not possess such command and often leaves his heat up in the zone, resulting in a heavy dose of fly-balls and extra base hits.
The bottom line with Morrow is what it was last season. He has a great fastball, but needs work on secondary pitches. The potential is still there. Personally, I see him more as a reliever capable of closing out games. If given that role with that Jays, he would have a very good shot at becoming their closer of the present and future. For now, however, he’ll have to prove himself in the rotation. Something I’m not willing to pay much for on draft day 2010.
Charlie Saponara is the owner/author of fantasybaseball365.com and can be contacted at email@example.com