Javier Vazquez’s Comeback and Potential Suitors

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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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August Waivers Rodeo—National League

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Yesterday I looked at American League players who are going to get through waivers. Now let’s look at the National League.

Jayson Werth, OF—Washington Nationals

Werth has a full no-trade clause and is due around $100 million from now through 2017. He’s just returned from a wrist injury. By playoff time, the Nationals will benefit from his presence; he’s got playoff experience from his Phillies’ days and has had success while there.

Jason Bay, LF—New York Mets

He might as well take over as GM for any club that claimed him because that job would be open immediately upon his arrival. He might be traded somewhere in an exchange of contracts.

Andres Torres, CF—New York Mets

Someone might take him for a low-level prospect. He’s under team control for 2013, but the Mets are going to non-tender him if he’s still with the organization.

Jose Reyes, SS—Miami Marlins

There’s $96 million on his deal from 2013-2016. Given the way the Marlins operate, it’s safe to say that another team is going to be paying it off sooner or later. Maybe sooner. Maybe later. Who knows? No one’s claiming him. He’s not a player around whom to build.

Mark Buehrle, LHP—Miami Marlins

The contract: $11 million in 2013; $18 million in 2014; $19 million in 2015.

With the new ballpark and the pressure on the front office, the Marlins have to put forth the pretense of being competitive in 2013 and Buehrle can still pitch while not costing much for his skills in 2013.

Given the history of the Marlins under Jeffrey Loria, what did the agents of these players—Reyes and Buehrle—think when they got these backloaded deals? That this time there wouldn’t be a sell-off? This time they were going to keep the team together, win or lose? Reyes and Buehrle wanted their guaranteed money and they got it. They might be playing in space by the time the contracts bloat, but so what? They’re getting paid.

Carlos Lee, 1B/OF—Miami Marlins

He has a no-trade clause to 14 teams and isn’t afraid to exercise it. Someone will take him in late August as a righty bat off the bench hoping that a change wakes up his power bat. He’s a free agent at the end of the season.

Carlos Zambrano, RHP—Miami Marlins

The Cubs are paying most of his salary, but he’s been dreadful. The Marlins will end up just releasing him. Barring seven straight no-hitters, Zambrano’s contract kicker for 2013 (activated if he’s in the top 4 of the NL Cy Young voting this season) is not going to be activated. In that event, he also has to be judged “healthy” at the end of this season. Whether that’s physically and mentally is unknown. He has a no-trade clause, but why wouldn’t he waive it?

Ricky Nolasco, RHP—Miami Marlins

He’s signed for 2013 at $11.5 million. Claim him and they’ll give him to you.

Heath Bell, RHP—Miami Marlins

HA!!!!

John Buck, C—Miami Marlins

He’s batting under .200 and hits the occasional homer. He’s owed $6 million for 2013 and throws well enough from behind the plate.

Greg Dobbs, 3B/OF/PH—Miami Marlins

He signed a 2-year, $3 million contract for 2012-2013 and has pop off the bench. Someone like the Tigers would take him for the stretch run.

Ryan Howard, 1B—Philadelphia Phillies

$105 million on his deal through 2016 and is batting under .200 since returning from Achilles tendon surgery.

Chase Utley, 2B—Philadelphia Phillies

He might be worth a claim since he’s signed through 2013 at $15 million. His knees are a major issue, but he can hit.

Jonathan Papelbon, RHP—Philadelphia Phillies

$13 million guaranteed annually through 2015 with a $13 million vesting option. It would take a lot of courage for a team to claim him and for the Phillies to simply let him go. They have designs on contending in 2013, so they won’t dump Papelbon.

Jimmy Rollins, SS—Philadelphia Phillies

Take him and watch him plummet.

Placido Polanco, INF—Philadelphia Phillies

He’s a free agent at the end of the season and is hurt. If he’s healthy by late-August, someone might take him if the Phillies pay his buyout.

Kyle Kendrick, RHP—Philadelphia Phillies

He’s set to make $4.5 million in 2013 and isn’t very good.

Clint Barmes, SS—Pittsburgh Pirates

He’s hitting .211 and is signed for 2013 at $5.5 million.

Francisco Rodriguez, RHP—Milwaukee Brewers

K-Rod will get through and be traded for nothing in late August. Perhaps being in a pennant race as a set-up man will get him back in form—possibly with the Angels or Rangers.

Randy Wolf, LHP—Milwaukee Brewers

He’s a free agent at the end of the season and could help a contending club as a back-of-the-rotation veteran.

Aramis Ramirez, 3B—Milwaukee Brewers

He has a guaranteed $30 million coming to him beginning next season and no one’s taking that.

Alfonso Soriano, LF—Chicago Cubs

The Cubs will have to pay his salary of $36 million in 2013-2014 or take a similar contract, but he still has power and someone would take/exchange him.

Carlos Marmol, RHP—Chicago Cubs

A $9.8 million salary for 2013 makes him essentially unmovable unless the Cubs pay it. He still strikes people out, so someone would probably take him for free.

Barry Zito, LHP—San Francisco Giants

There’s $27 million remaining on his contract in 2013 with the buyout.

Juan Uribe, INF—Los Angeles Dodgers

What a disaster. And he’s got $8 million on his deal for 2013.

Rafael Betancourt, RHP—Colorado Rockies

He’s an effective reliever, but has $4.5 million due him in 2013 with a buyout for 2014. The Rockies probably won’t move him whether he’s claimed or not.

Ramon Hernandez, C—Colorado Rockies

He’s a backup making $3.2 million in 2013.

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The Phillies Need Cole Hamels

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Ruben Amaro Jr. has no intention of giving up on this season or the next several seasons. He said as much—link. Privately he knows the situation is bleak for 2012, but given the age and guaranteed contracts on their roster, how can they conceivably let Cole Hamels leave as a free agent without a viable offer? It’s getting close to the point where the Phillies have to realize that this simply isn’t their year. They’re not there yet, but it’s a few weeks away—conveniently coinciding with the July 31st trading deadline.

After what happened with Cliff Lee having been traded away and then choosing to re-sign with the club a year later, it’s conceivable that the Phillies would check with Hamels to see if he’d be willing to be traded to a contender for the remainder of 2012 so they could re-stock the system and then go after him as a free agent.

Let’s look at the contracts, the guaranteed money owed for 2013 and beyond and the viability of re-signing Hamels.

Lee is owed $87.5 million through 2016.

Roy Halladay will be paid $20 million in 2013 and has a club option for $20 million at 2014.

Ryan Howard is signed for $95 through 2016.

Chase Utley is owed $15 million next season.

Jonathan Papelbon is owed $13 million annually through 2015 with a vesting option at $13 million for 2016.

Jimmy Rollins is guaranteed $22 million through 2014.

Hunter Pence is a free agent after 2013.

All-Star catcher Carlos Ruiz has a ridiculously cheap $5 million option for 2013 that, barring catastrophe, will be exercised.

Kyle Kendrick is signed for $4 million next season, but they can find a taker for him.

Shane Victorino, Joe Blanton and Placido Polanco are free agents after this season. Forget Blanton and Polanco coming back and it’s hard to see Victorino being re-signed either.

The Phillies’ current payroll is $172 million.

Lee’s getting a $3.5 million raise next year; Papelbon slightly less than $2 million. Pence will get a raise in arbitration of $4-5 million. They’re slashing between $28 and $36 million (give or take) after Victorino, Blanton, Polanco, Ty Wigginton, Jose Contreras and Kendrick are gone.

Their payroll is going down, so technically this talk that they can’t “possibly” keep Hamels is inaccurate. They can afford to keep Hamels.

The question is will they do it during the season? Will they trade him and hope to re-sign him? Will they trade him and just let him sign wherever? Or will they keep him and take their chances retaining him in free agency?

If what Amaro said is true in terms of keeping the team together until they disintegrate, the Phillies don’t have much of a choice: they have to have Hamels in a Phillies’ uniform.

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A Halladay Injury Might Make Hamels Available

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Pain in the back of the shoulder sounds pretty bad to me.

Phillies’ ace Roy Halladay left today’s start against the Cardinals with those symptoms and the ominous clouds continue to accrue around the Phillies.

Am I the only one who’s noticed that when a pitcher is seriously injured, he rarely grabs his arm falls to the ground writhing in agony and has to be helped off the field?

This of course is different from the clearly devastating injuries sustained by Joel Zumaya, Tony Saunders, Tom Browning and Dave Dravecky when they broke their arms while performing the stressful activity of throwing a baseball. Most of the time we hear them say: “there’s a pulling feeling”; or “it’s clutching”; or “it locked”; or “it’s a dull ache”; or “I feel weakness”; or “I can’t get loose”. Rarely does a pitcher’s elbow or shoulder explode for everyone to see.

If the Phillies lose Halladay for an extended period or—perish the thought—the entire season, then there might be an opening for the oft-mentioned and heretofore silly talk of auctioning Cole Hamels.

There’s no making up for Halladay’s innings, stuff, presence and dominance. If the Phillies had their regular offensive troops at their disposal, then maybe they’d be able to hang around contention and hope to get one of the Wild Cards. But they don’t. There’s no indication that Chase Utley is going to be ready to play soon. Ryan Howard is beginning baseball activities. Their pitching is gutted without Vance Worley and now Halladay. Kyle Kendrick is already in the rotation as a replacement for Worley and in Triple A the Phillies have the veterans Dave Bush and Scott Elarton pitching well along with former Met Pat Misch. If it’s a short stint on the disabled list for Halladay, they can get by with one of those journeyman stopgaps. If it’s long-term they can forget 2012.

The talk of Roy Oswalt (which is apparently never, ever going to stop) will ramp up in earnest, but he’s not going to be ready until mid-late June and might wind up on the DL himself after one start. The Phillies could be 10 games out by then. It’s easy to reference their comeback in 2010 as proof that they can do it, but that’s sabotaged by reality and human nature. Will Hamels want to overexert himself in a lost cause of a season when he has $160 million riding on his left arm? Will Shane Victorino want to pull a hamstring when he’s going to be a free agent and plays a difficult to fill position of centerfield? These aspects can’t be ignored and they happen more often than we realize.

I said recently that the Phillies won’t clean out the veteran players unless they’re 20 games out of first place at the trading deadline. Losing Halladay would be its equivalent and if teams want to get their hands on Hamels, they should call Ruben Amaro Jr. and see if he’s willing to listen.

He might not have a choice.

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“The Collision”—In Quotes

Games, Hall Of Fame, Management, Media, Players

Baseball has off-field hierarchies.

Certain players receive special treatment and are given more leeway by their clubs because of who they are.

It occasionally extends to the field.

Chipper Jones is going to get a close call while batting whereas Diory Hernandez isn’t.

Greg Maddux would get a slightly wider strike zone than Kyle Kendrick.

I don’t even think the umpires are doing it intentionally; it just is.

But there’s a limit.

And that limit is in the heat of battle. When a play is occurring, nobody’s looking to see who’s running; who’s hitting; who’s catching; who’s throwing.

They’re trying to do their jobs.

When something unfortunate but clean like what happened to Buster Posey happens, to denigrate the player who is seen to be “responsible”—Scott Cousins—is a reactionary and foolish response that’s rapidly reaching critical mass and a logical conclusion of fanned flames of derangement.

Cousins is getting death threats.

No one would say a word if it wasn’t a star player who was injured.

In 2003, Derek Jeter was injured in a collision at third base with Blue Jays backup catcher Ken Huckaby; many callers to WFAN in New York were outraged that a “garbage” player like Huckaby dare injure their captain as if he did it with intent.

It was a play in the heat of action; it was unintentional.

People want Cousins to apologize; to trade places with Posey; to die. It was a clean play and he has nothing to apologize for.

It happened because baseball is sometimes a contact sport played by large men running at full speed.

Johnny Bench—class act and one of the best and toughest defensive catchers in history—has said that Posey was at fault.

Now Posey has released a statement to try and put the issue to bed once and for all—link.

This thing is about 2 days away from reaching media circus levels in which there’ll be people selling T-shirts outside the stadiums with images of Cousins with a bullseye on his face; and stop motion clips of the collision.

Henceforth to be called, “the collision” in quotes.

Let it go. And grow up.

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Overkill, Overreaction Or Both

Hot Stove
  • No harm in asking/why are they asking?

Much is being made of the report that the Phillies inquired with the Rangers about Michael Young. Naturally, the initial reaction was, “What are they gonna do with him?” and “How can they afford his salary?”

Admittedly, that’s how I responded.

Such is the nature of the rapid dissemination of information before any context has been provided.

So did the Phillies “pursue” Michael Young? Was there some plan in place that they were going to trade a Joe Blanton for him and use him as a roving utility player? Or was it simply a “check-in” call to see what the story is?

I’m inclined the think that the Phillies called just to see what the Rangers were willing to do in terms of finances; what they wanted for Young; and, much like the Cliff Lee negotiations, to let them know to contact the Phillies before doing anything with another club.

The Phillies are on Young’s no-trade list, so it would have to be worked out; presumably, he’d agree to a trade to Philadelphia to get a chance at a ring provided he knew he was going to get significant playing time.

Hypothetically, if the Rangers took Blanton and kicked in a load of money to pay Young’s salary, the Phillies could do it; plus Raul Ibanez, Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Madson are coming off the books after this season, and Brad Lidge has an option for 2012. If the Rangers took Blanton’s $8.5 million and the Rangers gave up around $15 million to pay Young, the Phillies could absorb Young financially; and practically, Young could play the outfield next year.

This wasn’t as much of an overkill, George Steinbrenner-style “oh, I recognize his name, let’s get him” as it was a “keep us in mind” message from the Phillies.

There’s no harm in it if it’s financially feasible.

That said, I wouldn’t go down this road if I were the Phillies. They may want to unload Blanton for financial reasons, but with the age and wear on their starting rotation (Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt are about to turn 34; Lee, 33), there’s a good chance they’ll need Blanton to provide innings.

No, he’s not great and nor is Kyle Kendrick, but they’re functioning arms and in the event that one or more of the veterans misses a few starts, they’ll be happy they had the extra starting pitching.

I highly doubt that the Phillies are going to trade for Young and they probably weren’t all that interested in him anyway. They called in and it became a story because the Phillies are a star-studded team and their presence in a story inspires chatter.

Things happen when executives have a dialogue and sometimes they begin in the most innocuous, benign ways. In 2000, Yankees GM Brian Cashman called the Indians to ask about sending a championship ring to a former Yankees employee; one thing led to another and the next thing you knew, David Justice was a Yankee. This was while Sammy Sosa and his baggage were rumored to be heading for New York. Justice hit 20 homers over the final three months of the season to help the Yankees win their division and then hit 3 homers in the post-season as they won the World Series.

The overwhelming reaction to the Phillies looking into Young was over-the-top on all ends of the spectrum; in fact, it’s much ado about nothing.

Any club that wants to win would be remiss if they didn’t examine any and all players they think might be able to help them in some capacity. It doesn’t mean they’re going to follow through; it never hurts to ask.

  • Viewer Mail 2.10.2011:

Jeff at Red State Blue State writes RE Albert Pujols and me:

Been thinking about the Pujols sitch a lot (obviously). I have formulated my own thoughts and will post them later today…

In the meantime, what’s the ETA on the PoNY 2011 Baseball Guide?  AND… if you’re looking for a great title to another book you could write, I found it at the top of this post:

“Dire Consequences: The Pittsburgh Pirates, 1993-2011”

Jeff’s link is up above to see a Cardinals fan’s perspective on the Pujols machinations/burgeoning disaster.

Regarding the book (the uninitiated can have a look at the versions from prior years on Amazon here if you’d like to get the gist of what’s coming), I finished the first draft last night; I edit faaast; and would like to send it out by tomorrow.

Last year was frenetic in that I had to cajole and charm (I can be the most charming guy in the world when I want to) for the book to be ready for purchase as quickly as possible. It’s done three weeks earlier this year and I’m aiming for mid-March.

Let’s hope.

With the Pirates, I have but this to say: Ah, the Pirates….

Jane Heller at Confessions of a She-Fan writes RE Michael Young:

I wish the Yankees had a spot for Michael Young. I like him a lot. But, alas, they don’t. He’s paid his dues with the Rangers and now he’s been pushed out. I hope he lands with a team soon.

Given the events of the last few months I seriously doubt we’ll be seeing a deal between the Yankees and Rangers anytime soon.

Joe writes RE Jose Reyes and David Wright:

How is that even a debate? Wright has not been perfect, but he has been good, and able to stay on the field.  Its been a few years since Reyes could consistently stay on the field.  Wright has a huge advantage, even if they are very similar when both are healthy.  I like Reyes, and hope he bounces back, but Wright is more reliable.

It’s a meaningless argument as if they’re either/or. Their value is relative to, as you said, injuries amid a myriad of other things. Wright is hampered by the expectations as the “face” of the franchise; that Alex Rodriguez is across town; and there’s the constant media play of how great Evan Longoria is.

What’s the difference? The Mets have Wright; he’s signed; and he’s still a top 5 third baseman in the game. Focus on the negative and that’s what you get.

John Seal writes RE PECOTA:

Prince,

Have you seen this season’s PECOTA projections yet? Get excited! Mike Hessman is going to slug 23 dingers for the Mets in 2011.

I hadn’t seen this year’s PECOTA until you mentioned it, but I found it in all its glory on a Pirates forum—link.

And not to worry: I screenshot it for when they start making their daily alterations based on…whatever they use to come to their ridiculous conclusions, probably numbers and nothing else.

I’d be truly enthusiastic about Mike Hessman hitting 23 homers for the Mets: A) if he was going to get a chance to play regularly enough to hit 23 homers; and more importantly, B) if he was still a member of the Mets organization at all.

PECOTA must not be aware that Hessman signed with the Orix Buffaloes in Japan—link.

Their rampant inaccuracy is now extending to off-season transactions.

Coordinate!!!!