Implications of the Vazquez deal

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.

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  1. DonCoburleone said...

    Its funny I’ve been reading alot of sites regarding this trade and it seems that both fan-bases are upset. As a Braves fan I must say that Melky Cabrera does absolutely nothing for me. I would have rather had Gardner (longer to go before arbitration, has REAL speed and is better on defense). The real key to the deal IMO is Vizcaino.  I know New York prospects are chronically overhyped, but the #2 prospect in ANY system is still extremely valuable.  In 2 or 3 years the Braves could be holding two of the most valuable players in the game (Teheran and Vizcaino).

    Anyway I think it was a good idea to trade Vazquez (assuming that there was absolutely nobody who wanted D Lowe) because he obviously just had his career year and I’m all about selling high.  I just hope this opens up the Braves finances a little so they can add another piece (Holliday Holliday Holliday!) before the season begins.

  2. terri said...

    If Vazquez flops this trade will be a disaster…and now no big piece in left field means no protection for A-Rod….I dunno about this one

  3. Tpet said...

    I think the Yanks could pursue Russell Branyan to plug LF. He would provide a prototypical power bat without breaking the bank.

  4. Dan Novick said...


    As a Yankee fan, I really like this deal. I was never a big Melky fan. Vizcaino is a very good prospect, but he’s never pitched in full-season ball. He’s a lottery ticket.


    No protection for A-Rod? The Yankees have the best lineup in baseball, and might have the best 5-8 hitters in baseball also. I don’t know what point you’re trying to make.

    If Vazquez flops, it would obviously be less than idea. But why do you think he will? I don’t think it would be a disaster either…who exactly did they give up? if Vazquez flops, it’s not like having Melky Cabrera in left would save their season.

  5. YankeesfanLen said...

    Aren’t we going back to when the Yankees would have pitchers in for a curtain call?  Most times it worked pretty well.  Melky has been trade-bait forever, pretty good clutch, average otherwise.
    Gardner is speedy and may marginally improve his bat, but personally would like Johnny back.  And no, not because of the double steal which was just right place, right time.

  6. brewcat said...

    I agree Dan – is Terri suggesting that Cabrera would be A-Rod’s “protection?”

    To Tpet – You could plant a small tree in left field and it would cover more ground than Branyan. He should stay in the infield or DH.

  7. DonCoburleone said...

    Dan I agree with you, Melky Cabrera is the poster child for “Average MLB Outfielder”, but don’t think for a second that the Yankees are getting a repeat performance of Vazquez’s 2009 in 2010.  Just the difference in leagues and regression to the mean will put Vazquez’s 2010 ERA closer to 4 than 3, and thats not even accounting for his inability to pitch “under pressure”. 

    And like I said, when looking at this trade in a vacuum the whole key is Vizcaino. He may be a lottery ticket, but he is far more of a sure thing than whatever 1st round draft pick the Braves would have gotten for letting Vazquez walk next offseason.  Also, looking at this trade in total, it frees up money for the Braves to sign whoever (LaRoche and Nady or Bay or Holliday even?) which is the real purpose for making this trade in regards to the 2010 season.

  8. Rob in CT said...

    Granderson-Gardner-Swisher gets it done for me (only if the organization believes it can do this w/o insulting Granderson, of course).  Gardner would be the 1 weakness in the lineup, but his glove makes up for it, IMO. 

    I expect ~200IP, ~4.25ERA from Javy.

  9. jsolid said...

    oh my god – the right move is to put Gardner in left!! three reasons- the first two are his speed and defense. he stole 26 bases in less than half a season. he is in the discussion for fastest player and best base stealer in the majors. this is very valuable. for example, if you count his steals as extra bases, suddenly his SLG goes from .379 to .484. also, from watching the games, he was a much better hitter in the beginning of the season before his injury. to me, he never got his timing back, and the stats support this – before the injury: .282/.352/.404, after the injury: .233/.324/.300. defensively, UZR rates him as an absolutely elite outfielder.
    his speed, his defense, his (i would argue) improving offense – put Gardner in left.

  10. Cisco Bastidas said...

    Most of the comments i’ve read don’t take into account that Javi Vaquez wil pitch in a new stadium, under a different mgr. and pitching coaches, also with a different line-up & deffense behind him, so i think that a more mature and effective version of Javier is the one that the Yankees and we as their fans will get in 2010, so good that the club is going to pick his 2011 option while Pettite is gone and Lee is in. Thanks and hope that Melky has a great career in Atlanta.

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