Javier Vazquez’s Comeback and Potential Suitors

Javier Vazquez surprisingly retired after a solid season for the Marlins in 2011 in which he posted a 13-11 record; a 3.69 ERA; a hits/innings pitched ratio of 178/192 with 50 walks and 178 strikeouts. It must be added that he also had a dreadful start, pitching terribly until mid-June. For the entire second half, he was a different pitcher, one who was in demand as a free agent and chose to “retire” at age 35.

He can still pitch, just not as a Yankee, having failed there twice. I certainly wouldn’t bring him back to the Yankees, nor to Boston or Baltimore, but every other contending or would-be contending club is an option and Vazquez, while not saying he’s definitely returning, will pitch in the World Baseball Classic for Puerto Rico and has said he’s considering a comeback to MLB. For a $10 million payday, why not?

So which teams could use Vazquez and meet the criteria as contender?

Let’s take a look.

Toronto Blue Jays

The Blue Jays don’t really need another starter, but I suppose they could trade Ricky Romero and attach Adam Lind to him to get Lind’s contract off the roster in exchange for a 1B/DH bat and install Vazquez into the spot, but I’d keep Vazquez away from the AL East.

Tampa Bay Rays

Vazquez isn’t coming back for an incentive-laden deal with a low base salary, which is essentially the only method in which the Rays invest in free agents as they did with Roberto Hernandez (née Fausto Carmona). Tampa would be a good spot in every aspect, but they can’t pay him.

Cleveland Indians

The Indians agreed to terms with Brett Myers yesterday and are using him as a starter. They’re clearly intent on trying to win within their means under new manager Terry Francona and Vazquez would fall into the veteran starting pitcher template. Francona’s gentle handling of his players would suit Vazquez.

Los Angeles Angels

Vazquez is better than Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas, but again, teams didn’t know Vazquez was available. The Angels don’t have any room for him now.

Texas Rangers

His penchant for allowing home runs is a concern in Texas, but their infield defense would also help him greatly. They’re a contender, would prefer a pitcher on a short-term contract and have had success with pitchers like Colby Lewis who’ve left for Japan and came back to MLB making Vazquez’s departure and return a non-issue.

The Rangers are a definite possibility.

Washington Nationals

The Nationals are waiting out Adam LaRoche and his free agency tour. In a free agency family tree sort of situation, LaRoche might go to the Red Sox if their contract snag with Mike Napoli isn’t ironed out and the deal comes undone. If that’s the case, the Nats won’t be able to trade Mike Morse. If they can trade Morse, they can move him for a starting pitcher. Or they can sign Vazquez and worry about the other stuff later.

Vazquez spent the first six years of his career with the Nats organization when they were in Montreal. He’s a perfect fit back in the NL East where he had his best years and pitching for a legitimate World Series contender in Washington.

Atlanta Braves

The Braves have enough starting pitching, so much so that they traded Hanson to the Angels for Jordan Walden. But Brandon Beachy is returning from Tommy John surgery and Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado are kids, so there’s a spot for a veteran like Vazquez if they want him. Vazquez had the year of his life with the Braves in 2009, won 15 games (he should have won 22) and finished 4th in the NL Cy Young voting. It’s doubtful they’d do it, but it’s logical.

Philadelphia Phillies

Vazquez is better than John Lannan and Kyle Kendrick—the two pitchers at the back of the Phillies rotation and gigantic steps down from the top three of Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels—but the home run ball would be an issue for Vazquez and the Phillies offense and defense aren’t what they once were to account for Vazquez’s faults. He’d surrender a ton of homers in Philadelphia. He’s probably ill-suited mentally to the fans of Philadelphia booing him if he pitches 6 no-hit innings and then gives up a run in the seventh with the team leading 10-1.

Milwaukee Brewers

They desperately need starting pitching and have money to spend, but I’m not sure they’re contenders even though they can hit.

Pittsburgh Pirates

They just spent a large portion of available funds on Francisco Liriano. But they might be able to swing Vazquez. They’re intriguing for Vazquez and vice versa. The Pirates are a NL Central club with a big ballpark and enough young talent to be taken seriously as a contender, so perhaps they can work something out with Vazquez if they clear some money elsewhere.

San Diego Padres

The Padres don’t have a ton of money to toss around nor status as a winter contender, but they could surprise in 2013 with their onrushing young talent. They also brought the fences in and lowered the walls at Petco Park, which would affect a homer-prone pitcher like Vazquez.

They could jump in on him in a surprise move.

Vazquez didn’t plan this very well if he wanted to start a bidding war. He realistically could’ve guaranteed himself $12 million if he’d made his services available at the conclusion of the 2012 season and seen the bidding go up with a 1-year deal plus an option with the requisite buyout. He could’ve made $15 million if he’d played it right.

All things considered, Vazquez and the Nationals are destined to wind up together. That’s if he decides to pitch; and if the Nats don’t trade Morse; and Yankees GM Brian Cashman doesn’t try to prove himself “right” by going after Vazquez again for the Yankees.

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  1. #1 by Todd Boss on January 2, 2013 - 2:40 pm

    You seriously think the Nationals are going to spend money on a lottery ticket like Vazquez? After the money they wasted on Wang? Where exactly are they going to put him? They have 5 starters. Which of their 5 starters would Vazquez possibly be considered better than right now?

    They have 7 relievers. Vazquez isn’t a reliever, never has been one, nor do they need another right handed reliever. The ONLY pitcher they need right now is perhaps another loogy to provide spring training competition to Bill Bray.

    How can the signing/trading of Michael Morse (a positional player) have anything to do with signing a reclamation starter? That makes no sense.

    The ONLY thing that may possibly make sense for the Nats with Vazquez would be to offer him a minor league deal so they can pay him peanuts and stash him in AAA. Kind of like what they did with Zach Duke last year. Would Vazquez possibly take such a deal? Probably not; there’s enough teams out there with serious rotation issues that he could get a MLB/guaranteed rotation spot.

    • #2 by admin on January 2, 2013 - 8:05 pm

      How can you possibly compare Wang, who was hurt and was a roll of the dice when they signed him, to Vazquez who did nothing more than take a year off after a very solid 2011 season? And who suggested he’d be a reliever? He wouldn’t sign to be a reliever. He’d stay retired first. No one even came up with the thought. Except you. And he’s not a “reclamation starter.” He’s been a solid starter in his career apart from his two terms with the Yankees and is better than Ross Detwiler even now.
      You’re being absolutely ridiculous thinking that Vazquez is worth nothing more than a minor league deal. He’ll get a big league deal, at the very least, for $6-8 million base plus incentives. In fact, he’s probably a better risk at a cheaper price than Dan Haren was—and I’m a fan of Dan Haren!
      Did you read what I wrote or have a freakout before digesting it? Morse is going to be on the block if they re-sign LaRoche. (For the record, I’d let LaRoche walk and keep Morse.) They don’t need another bat, but they need another starter. I hate to break it to you, but Detwiler is a better reliever than he is a starter.
      Every time I think of giving you credit for being right—and you were right about the Nats last year—you say something totally ill-informed like this.

  2. #3 by Todd Boss on January 3, 2013 - 6:11 pm

    I saw this post today from one of the Washington Post beat reporters who cover the Nats and came back to your post to offer somewhat of a mea culpa.

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/nationals-journal/wp/2013/01/03/nationals-scouting-javier-vazquez/?wprss=rss_nationals-journal

    However, the story reads that the Nats are (as I said) only interested in offering Vazquez a minor league deal with a deadline out.

    As for your other points, I’ll address them one at a time:
    – Wang vs Vazquez: whether or not you have a pitcher who misses time b/c of injury versus a pitcher who misses time because of retirement, its still a guy who hasn’t thrown a major league inning in a year’s time. It is still a “roll of the dice” for whoever signs him. Pettitte looked far better than I thought was possible after taking a year off, and perhaps Vazquez will do the same. But if I was a GM of a team like the Nats, with 5 certified successful starters already under contract, I wouldn’t guarantee him a dime on a major league deal. I’d certainly sign him to a minor league deal, see how he looks in a few AAA starts and only then make a decision. If i’m a team like (say) Miami, Houston, Cleveland, San Diego or Colorado (essentially, the 5 worst projected rotations in the majors right now), maybe you guarantee him more. Clearly the Nats agreed with my position, as reported by Kilgore.

    – Haren versus Vazquez; you’re certainly entitled to your opinion that Vazquez is a “better risk” than Haren at half the cost. I just tend to disagree. We’re talking about a 31yr old who pitched through a back injury all last year and who prior to that was a 5-6 WAR/year pitcher year after year versus a guy who was retired, will be 36 and basically has a career .500 record. I’ll be shocked if Vazquez gets a major league deal for one, and I’d be shocked if Haren doesn’t return to his 2011 and prior form for the Nats. He’s moving to the NL, gets weaker lineups and the Pitcher, and should be healed up from his back issues, which prevented his sinker from working like it should have and tended to raise his arm action, leading to career-highs in homers and ERA.

    – On Michael Morse: yes I’m quite aware that Morse is surplus goods if the Nats re-sign LaRoche; its only the last remaining major off-season todo list for the team. The reason I brought it up is this: your post is about a possible landing spot for Vazquez … but then you never mention who Vazquez is going to replace on the Nats roster. You only mention that Morse is tradeable … therefore implying that because we’re trading Morse, we can sign Vazquez. And that, as I pointed out above, doesn’t make any sense.

    If you were proposing (as it turns out you are) that Vazquez should replace someone in the existing Nats rotation, then you should have written that. But you didn’t; you just said the Nats should sign Vazquez and “worry about the other stuff later.” So I assumed you meant what I wrote. If you wanted to have a discussion about which of the 5 Nats starters you think Vazquez is better than, then lets have it ….

    – Clearly he’s not replacing Strasburg (one of the best arms in the game), or Gonzalez (3rd place Cy Young finisher in 2012) or Zimmermann (6th in the NL in ERA+ last year), or Haren (who they just gave $13M to…) … so we’re left with Detwiler.

    – Lets talk about your statement that “Detwiler isn’t as good as a starter.” for someone who calls me “ill informed,” you really should look in the mirror if you somehow think that Ross Detwiler a) didn’t have a good 2012 as a starter or b) is somehow better suited as a reliever. On what basis do you claim this? On the basis of the 6 relief appearances he made last season? He was removed from the rotation because Wang’s rehab assignment was up, plain and simple. When Wang clearly wasn’t the pitcher that the team thought he was … they DL’d him again and re-installed Detwiler as the starter, and basically admitted later on in the season they never should have gone away from Detwiler in the first place.

    Go look at his minor league stats: he has 77 minor league appearances and 76 of them are starts. He made 27 starts last season. He had a 117 ERA+, placing him 12th in the entire National League. Why in the hell would the Nats move him out of the rotation right now for anyone, let alone a guy coming out of retirement who may or may not still be able to throw a ball in the mid 80s?

    I guess i’m just ill-informed.

    • #4 by admin on January 3, 2013 - 6:44 pm

      Now you’re not only ill-informed, you’re misusing stats and twisting what I wrote with extrapolations that don’t exist.
      I just looked in the mirror and I’m as awesome as always. Detwiler’s ERA+ is all well and good, but if you look at his gamelogs as a starter, you see a 5+ inning pitcher who got beaten up by teams that could, y’know, hit. He’s a slingshot lefty whom hitters figure out the third time around the lineup; he was okay as a 5th starter, but with the departure of Gorzelanny and Burnett, Detwiler is more useful as a swing starter whether they’re going to use him as the 5th starter or not. There’s nothing wrong with that once you accept it, but the first step is accepting it.
      Whom does Vazquez have to replace on the roster? The simple solution is to put Detwiler in the bullpen and start Vazquez. Detwiler’s minor league numbers are of little import to me either. In fact, you left out the little tidbit of his 4.58 ERA in Triple A in 2011. Since you’re referencing randomness, shouldn’t you have mentioned that?
      You’re talking about the 5th/6th starter on a team that won 98 games. He’d better have a pretty good record if the team wins 98 games. Now, they’re going to need to account for the departure of Edwin Jackson (a known innings-eater) and replacing him with Haren (coming off a back injury and an unknown). With the bullpen losses and the departure of Jackson, they have to bolster the rotation or they’re gonna have to do it at mid-season; or they’ll have to overpay to keep LaRoche (which I wouldn’t do) and trade Morse for an arm.
      Where are you getting Vazquez only being able to throw in the mid-80s? How would you know? He was reportedly clocked in the 90s—http://www.mlbtraderumors.com/2013/01/quick-hits-vazquez-red-sox-padres-astros-cubs.html—recently in Puerto Rico. I’m not sure where you’re getting your information other than just making it up.
      I will accept the mea culpa now that you’re better informed.
      And please don’t mention Billy Bray. Thanx.

  1. YANKEES TALKING TO NATIONALS REGARDING MIKE MORSE | SD Yankee Report

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