Tuesday, December 22, 2009
Implications of the Vazquez dealPosted by Dan Novick
By now, you've probably heard about the trade that went down late last night between the Yankees and the Braves. The deal sent Javier Vazquez to New York, and center fielder Melky Cabrera, relief pitcher Mike Dunn, and pitching prospect Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves, along with $500K. As with the trade from a few weeks ago that brought Curtis Granderson to the Bronx, this deal once again has the Yankees coming out with the big-name player now on their side.
Javier Vazquez emerged this past season as one of the top starters in all of baseball, culminating in a 4th place finish in NL Cy Young voting. It was his best season to date in a variety of measures such as WAR (6.6, second best in the league), FIP (2.77), strikeout-to-walk ratio (5.41), and ERA (2.87). That is probably the limit of his potential, so we should definitely expect to see some regression before accounting for his move to the AL East. Regardless, he still projects to be well above average, and has shown incredible durability over his career, throwing at least 198 innings in 10 straight seasons, averaging 216 innings per year over that span.
So the Yankees rotation takes a top-5 pitcher from the NL in 2009, and puts him comfortably into the number three spot in their rotation. Now how about the guys they gave up? Melky Cabrera at this point is a relatively well-known quantity. He should be around league-average with the bat and in the field, which does have value. He could improve with the bat (he's still just 25 years old), but he could also go back to what he was in 2008, when he put up a .249/.301/.341 line, good for a .285 wOBA. For reference, that's 29% worse than league average, according to wRC+. Dunn is a lefty reliever with a big arm, big strikeout numbers, and big control problems. If he can get his control under...control, then he could be an interesting late-inning option for the Braves. Vizcaino's potential is what makes this trade not a total loss for the Braves. He has the stuff to be a top-of-the-rotation starter down the road, but that road is a long one. He'll be 19 all of next season, making his full-season debut after tearing up the NY-Penn league, showing very good strikeout numbers and above-average control (3.2 BB/9).
This trade does not leave the each team without holes, however. With Melky Cabrera now out of the picture, who will be the left fielder? What do the Braves do with their outfield depth once Jason Heyward proves he's ready? How will the Braves spend the $8-9 million they're saving by getting rid of Vazquez?
The likely scenario for the Braves would be bringing back Adam LaRoche for another season and using the remaining cash on arbitration raises. They have Nate McLouth, Melky Cabrera, Jordan Schafer, and Matt Diaz under team control, and stud prospect Jason Heyward waiting in triple-A for the call to the bigs. That's a lot of similarly-valued players for just three spots, and they could look to deal from that position.
With Melky Cabrera out of the fold for the Yankees, the left field situation becomes a bit less clear. As it stands right now, the only players on the roster available for the position are Brett Gardner and recent Rule 5 pick Jaime Hoffmann. Both players would provide excellent defense at the position, with Hoffmann being rated as the top defensive outfielder in the Yankees system by Baseball America, and UZR rating Gardner as an elite defender in center field.
According to Mark Feinsand of the NY Daily News, the Yankees could spend "roughly $5-6 million" to fill the position. Assuming that is true, could that be enough to get someone like Mark DeRosa? It's certainly not enough to bring back Damon on a 2-year deal, and Matt Holliday would laugh Brian Cashman out of the room if he offered him that. They could just stand pat for now and use that money at the trade deadline if they need an upgrade. Whether something happens soon, or at later on in the season, I don't think either of these teams are done just yet.
Dan Novick is a lifelong Yankees fan, and still gets the chills every time Enter Sandman plays from the Yankee Stadium speakers. He welcomes comments and questions via e-mail.