Javier Vazquez Trade Looks Like a Good One, but There Is a Big Variable
Everybody seems to love the New York Yankees trade with the Atlanta Braves for Javier Vazquez. The Yankees traded OF Melky Cabrera, LHP Michael Dunn and Low-Low A (although highly rated) pitcher Arodys Vizcaino to get the former Yankee right handed pitcher.
I am always a little wary when too many people love things at the same time. When too many people jump on the bandwagon, it always seems like time to get off the ride. For example, when every housewife is day trading stocks to "make easy money," the time for the bubble to burst is right around the corner. At that point it is time to cash out and sit in the sidelines.
With baseball trades, I always get a first impression, then let the trade sink in for a day or two before I make a judgment whether a trade is good or bad for a team. For example, the trade the Yankees made during 2008 when they traded four young players to the Pittsburgh Pirates for Xavier Nady and Damaso Marte. Everybody loved it. I did not .
On the surface, there is not a lot to dislike about the Vazquez trade if you are a Yankee fan. General Manager Brian Cashman essentially traded a starting/fourth outfielder in Cabrera, a probable LOOGY in Dunn and a possible good starting pitcher in Vizcaino for an established major league starting pitcher. A starter who was one of the best in the majors last season, going 15-10 and 2.87 ERA with 238 K's in 219 innings.
But the more I thought about the trade, I realized the most important player affected in 2010 might not be a player even in the trade.
As Cashman stated in his remarks after the trade was announced, he said that replacing Cabrera was easier than getting a pitcher of Vazquez' stature. In fact, Cabrera was beaten out of the starting job last season by the speedy Brett Gardner, and unless the Yankees make a move for a more established player, Gardner would likely platoon with recent Rule 5 draft pick Jamie Hoffmann .
I highly recommend this platoon rather than the Yankees signing free agent such as Mark DeRosa, who is not even an upgrade on Cabrera's offensive production. DeRosa's career slash is .275/.343/.424/.767 with an OPS+ of 97, while Cabrera hit .274/.336/.416/.752 with an OPS+ of 99 this past year (and is only getting better). DeRosa is 10 years older than the others, will cost a lot more cash (about $6 million a year for 2+ years), and likely will not play defense as well as Cabrera would have or Gardner/Hoffmann will.
I was initially surprised Cashman moved Dunn after the GM almost pulled the plug on the Curtis Granderson trade because Detroit insisted on both Dunn and Phil Coke before agreeing to accept only Coke. Then it was apparent Cashman wanted Dunn available to trade for a starting pitcher.
The Yankees also lost lefty Zach Kroenke in the Rule 5 draft this year, so they are out three home grown lefties within the last two weeks. Cashman is pinning a lot of hope Damaso Marte can continue to pitch in 2010 like he did in the 2009 post season. Kroenke, who was a Rule 5 pick last season also and was returned, has a decent chance of being returned again.
The player the Braves were most interested in was Vizcaino, who according the Baseball America was the Yankees No. 3 ranked prospect. The 19-year-old Vizcaino has a good fastball and knee-buckling curve (the best combo a pitcher can have, better than sinker/slider type guys), but both pitches aren't always in control. He is a good prospect but for the Yankees was at least FOUR years away before he reached the Bronx.
Don't you think the Yankees will sign at least two or three similar type Dominican guys before Vizcaino reaches the majors? Plus, the Yankees also have Wilkins DeLaRosa, Hector Noesi, Ivan Nova, and Romulo Sanchez on the 40 man roster who are far more advanced than Vizcaino. Also, Zach McAllister, Jairo Heredia, David Phelps, DJ Mitchell, and Manuel Banuelos are all highly regarded pitching prospects who are also more advanced than Vizcaino.
So although I believe Cabrera is a much more important player than most Yankee fans (and obviously Yankee executives), he and Dunn and Vizcaino don't bother me as much as the player most likely affect by this trade.
Yankee second baseman Robinson Cano. Why Cano?
He and Melky Cabrera were best friends, inseparable on and off the field. Once they began to play together in the majors late in 2005, they were constant companions. Like current teammates Derek Jeter and Jorge Posada, who began playing together in the minor leagues.
Cabrera was always enthusiastic in his play, playing hard all the time (why aren't Latin players ever called gritty?), and some, but not all, of that enthusiasm wore off on Cano. As an example, Robby saw Cabrera sent down late last in the 2008 season and worked hard last winter and had the best offensive season of his career.
Will Cano be affected by not having his compadre with him on the field, in the dugout, in the clubhouse and on the road, where it might be most important? Will Cano give it his all, or will he show the sings of immaturity that has plagued him at various times throughout his career?
I know that players who are paid millions of dollars to play baseball are professionals and need to act like pros. And in professional sports today, players are continuosly moved, and players like Cano need to understand that it is part of the profession.
But players are humans, and like all of us they have emotions and feelings. Losing a brother in Cabrera might affect Cano to some degree, the degree of which we will not know until probably mid-way through the 2010 season. I say mid-way because Cano sometimes gets off to slow starts.
With his tremendous mechanics, Vazquez is a workhorse and will give the Yankees the customary 200+ innings, about 15 wins, and even if his ERA rises by a full run this season over last year, a sub 4.00 ERA. Better than new Boston Red Sox free agent signer John Lackey's ERA last season and similar to Josh Beckett's.
People have speculated that Vazquez will not be as good in the American League and worry about his 2004 campaign with the Yankees, where after a strong start, he wilted in the second half. Vazquez pitched well when he was with the Chicago White Sox in 2007 and pitched well last year against the only AL team he faced, the Boston Red Sox. In that June 27th game , Vazquez allowed one run while striking out eight in 7.2 IP. He absorbed the 1-0 loss and fell to 5-7 after that game.
He bounced back to go 10-3 over the next three months and alleviated any fears of his perceived second half collapses. In fact, his career ERA (4.04) is lower after the All-Star break than it is before the break (4.32).
If Vazquez averages the almost seven innings per start like he did in 2009, he should easily win 17 games in 2010. And with the designated hitter in the American League, there is no reason why Vazquez won't reach those innings pitched per start.
However, the true test is if the Yankees get to and win another World Series in 2010.
Vazquez will help the Yankees get there, and the Yankees hope Cano helps them, too.
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