Jan
27

Hindsight makes the Vazquez deal look better

By

The Yankees made it clear when the off-season began that they planned to sign a starting pitcher. In 2009 they dealt with a constantly fluctuating fifth starter spot, plus Joba Chamberlain‘s growing pains. The team understandably wanted to solidify that rotation rather than placing both Chamberlain and Phil Hughes in the rotation, especially after the former pitched more innings than previously in his career, and the latter faces an innings limit in 2010. As we moved through the off-season’s beginning stages, most of us thought that the Yankees would sign Justin Duchscherer or Ben Sheets. Instead they traded for Javier Vazquez.

At the time I argued it was a good move. Vazquez has been a solid pitcher in most seasons of his career, mixing average seasons with excellent seasons. At worst he’s the best fourth starter in the league, and probably a mid-range third starter. At best he complements A.J. Burnett as a No. 2. That sounds like an acceptable range of outcomes. The price was right on Vazquez, too. In addition to his $12 million salary, the Yankees traded the exact type of player they should in this case. Melky Cabrera, while a solid contributor last season, has shown himself a league average player during his Yankees tenure. Arodys Vizcaino is a young prospect a few years away from the majors. Mike Dunn was a throw-in, offset in a way by Boone Logan.

In Vazquez, the Yankees not only received a potentially excellent starter, but also a durable one. Only once in the last decade did Javy miss the 200-inning mark, and even then he hit 198 innings. That, I think, represents a large part of the decision to trade for Vazquez rather than sign one of the free agent starters. Both Sheets and Duchscherer are coming off injuries which kept them out of action in 2009. Perhaps the year off rejuvenated them, but that’s still a hefty bet. Maybe Sheets pitches 170 innings in 2010. But is that a bet that, as a GM, you’d be willing to make?

Now we see where Sheets and Duchscherer have landed. Duchscherer signed a one-year, $2 million deal that can pay him up to $5.5 million with incentives. That seems like a steal, and perhaps the A’s did get a familiarity discount. The Yankees could have easily made that move, but Duch has never crossed the 150-inning mark in his life. The price might have been low, but the Yankees had no way of expecting the kind of production they wanted from a rotation signing. It was a nice thought — Duchscherer did, after all, dominate in his first full season as a starter, allowing under one walk plus hit per inning pitched. But with the history of low inning totals and a completely missed 2009 campaign, the Yankees wanted something of a better bet.

Sheets got $10 million plus incentives, not quite the $12 million he sought but closer than I thought he’d get. The Yankees reportedly like Sheets, but in this case I can see why they weren’t willing to wait him out. It was pretty clear at the winter meetings that Sheets wasn’t signing any time soon, and the Yankees wanted to get their situation in order. They couldn’t know what kind of contract Sheets would eventually command, but it figured to be substantial. The Yankees apparently deemed him not worth the wait. It wasn’t because of ability — at his best, Sheets is a better pitcher than Vazquez. Durability certainly played a role in the decision to trade for Vazquez rather than wait out Sheets.

I know a number of fans did not like the Vazquez trade, and I doubt anything will convince them that it was the right move. But upon seeing how the free agent pitching market played out, I have a hard time arguing against it. The Yankees traded the type of players they can afford to part ways with for a pitcher who fits their mold — durable, possibly dominant, whereas Sheets is dominant, possibly durable. When considering all other possible options and outcomes for that open rotation spot, the Yankees did well for themselves.

Categories : Hot Stove League

68 Comments»

  1. A.D. says:

    Mike Dunn was a throw-in

    Figure the Yanks needed to include some ML-Ready bull-pen pitcher.

    Otherwise with regard to health, past performance, and realistic expectations this year, the Yanks should be projected to get the most for their dollar from the 3 pitchers in the post (or at least right around even).

  2. Hindsight makes the Vazquez deal look better

    (fighting the urge to make a butt joke)

  3. Dan says:

    Couldn’t agree more with the idea the Yankees needed an innings eater – the likelihood of their top three pitchers repeating their 2009 inning load is pretty slim.

  4. I know a number of fans did not like the Vazquez trade, and I doubt anything will convince them that it was the right move. But upon seeing how the free agent pitching market played out, I have a hard time arguing against it.

    Personally, I won’t say I “didn’t like” the Vazquez trade. I would have slightly preferred adding Sheets or J-Douche and keeping Vizcaino, because I’m willing to gamble a bit more with that 5th pitcher in the rotation since I’m already pretty confident in CC-AJ-Andy-Joba as the other 4 starters with Hughes as the 5th. What we had in place already should have afforded us the security to gamble on the bigger upside + smaller prospect cost of Sheets or Duke over the prospect cost of Vazquez.

    Having said that, however, I return to my original point: I don’t dislike what we actually did. I would have done the opposite, but the Vazquez deal is in no way, shape, or form a “bad” acquisition. He’s a stud as well, and we didn’t give up all that much when you consider Melky’s limitations, Dunn’s rawness, and Vizcaino’s distance from the bigs and corresponding extremely unpredictable future.

    I would have kept the kids and added the free agent, but the Vazquez “consolation prize” is a damn good one that I’m very, very happy with.

    • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

      Agree with everything you wrote….except….Melky has no limitations. His ladder is endlessly high, it’s just that his rungs are really close together, so it will take him a lloonngg time to reach the top.

    • KayGee says:

      I also like the fact that Vazquez will most likely end up a Type-A free agent, netting the Yanks some picks should he walk after this year…helps offset the loss of Dunn and Arodys

      • True… if he actually leaves, however.

        The wild card in all of this is Andy Pettitte. If he retires after this season, then the second pitcher we added–whether Vazquez, Sheets, or J-Douche–would be a guy we’re probably looking to keep rather than looking to offer arb to and let walk.

        But yes, Vazquez has a much better chance of landing us two draft picks instead of just one (or zero) if we don’t bring him back.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona says:

        He just said in a recent interview that he doesn’t want to play for a long time. I believe you can find some of the transcripts here,
        http://riveraveblues.com/2010/.....tte-22687/

        So, he may just accept any arbitration offered him.

        • Also true.

          If he’s good enough to warrant an arb offer, though, Vazquez accepting and making somewhere around 11-14M per season isn’t intolerable. It’s pretty reasonable, actually.

          Sheets, ironically, would be a much safer bet to get a pick from had we signed him instead. He’s probably not going to end up a Type A, but a healthy Sheets season is most definitely a Type B and he’s a mortal lock to decline arb and go in search of a multi-year deal. Cheaper 2010 salary too, so a smaller financial risk.

          Actually, Sheets may even be a Type A. There’s an injury allowance of some sort, so he wouldn’t be over-penalized for missing 2009. And his 2008 was dynamite. A solid 2010 may still land him a Type A.

        • KayGee says:

          Which again…wouldnt be the worst thing in the world considering its a year commitment to a very good pitcher at a reasonable price…also, if his production remains near his current level, same FA scenario applies the year after…I think its Win-Win for the Yanks

    • Ed says:

      Well said there. I agree completely. Vazquez wasn’t the course of action I would have picked, but that’s just out of personal preference.

      Cashman gets the big bucks because he can step back and weigh all the options. He seems to be far less attached to any one course of action than any of us are, which is a huge asset for his job.

    • Jamal G. says:

      I actually disagree with your first paragraph – I thought the possibility of CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett being the only above-average starters for the Yankees in 2010 was more likely than people had thought.

      In 2010, Andy Pettitte will be two weeks shy of playing in his age-38 season. Last season, he basically regressed across the board – he saw drops in K/9 and BB/9; a higher HR/9 rate despite a decrease in HR/FB%; batters made more contact against Pettitte’s pitches despite a decrease in the number of hacks batters took; despite having the second lowest BABIP in any full season of his career (.301), Pettitte saw significant drops in a vast majority his peripherals and tRA. For a guy that will be 38 on June 15th, I don’t see how we can project him to bounce back – or even maintain the level of production from 2009 – as he plays in the AL East with a below-average K/9 rate and K:BB ratio.

      As for Joba Chamberlain, his 0.9 WAR in 2009 tells us exactly what he was: a well below league-average starting pitcher. There is not much need to go into the intricacies of his metrics as I’m sure you are privy to them. Now, as tantalizing as his potential is, projecting such a vast increase of production to the point of being a ~2-WAR pitcher as early as 2010 is a risk that is not exactly wise to take when you consider the competition of within the division and the championship aspirations the organization has.

      Moving on to Phil Hughes, again, it would be folly to make personnel decisions based on projections of him as a league-average starting pitcher in this league and division.

      I really think the Yankees needed a surer bet of an above-average starting pitcher, and they got the only pitcher in Major League Baseball to post five-plus-WAR seasons in each of the last four years; so, yeah, they had a problem that was more of an issue than what was being portrayed, and completely took care of business.

  5. All Praise Be To Mo says:

    I thought this was a great deal from the start. Vazquez is at worst a durable great 4th starter for us with the possibility of more. Also, he’s on a 1 year deal and almost assured of being a type A free agent, we’ll offer him arbitration next year and then get 2 1st rounders back as well. Melky was good 4th outfielder, nto the type of guy you pay 3.5 million for though. Viz is at least 3-4 years away, with the possibility of so many things going wrong, and dunn is a throw-in.

  6. Jim says:

    I don’t understand why fans would complain about this trade. Yes, he had a bad 2nd half in 2004 and a terrible game 7. Get over it.

  7. Jake H says:

    I would rather have Jazy for his salary then Sheets. Javy has never had a big injury and while Sheet’s arm might be the freshiest it’s been in some time I wouldn’t trust him to make all his starts.

  8. Reggie C. says:

    Since nobody’s expecting Javy to replicate his ’09 success, and instead, ably fill in the 3 spot with a sure-fire 200 inning campaign, I think we’ll get our money’s worth. I wouldnt be surprised if Vazquez out-pitched AJ.

  9. Januz says:

    There is no question that Cashman did EXTREMELY well with the Vasquez and Granderson trades, and by re-signing Andy (Particularly when you see what Sheets and Nady got). As for Sheets, I think that Oakland giving a guy $10m after missing a year, with a history of injuries, and not being a serious contender in the AL West is plain nuts, and it will be a move that they regret. Almost as bad, is Nady’s contract from the Cubs (TWO Tommy John surgeries). This will empower Boras even more to drive a hard bargain with Damon (There is little doubt in my mind Damon is worth more than Nady because of the injury risk involved, and their level of productivity).
    There is little doubt in my mind, the earlier moves by Cashman look better and better.

  10. Bo says:

    What hindsight????

    Anyone expecting Sheets to be a good mid rotation starter in the Al East after a full yr of arm issues isnt paying attention.

    And trading Melky for a starter like Vazquez is robbery.

  11. ledavidisrael says:

    How is Sheets better at his best than Javy?

    Javy’s Top 5 Seasons
    According to WAR
    6.6, 6, 5.1, 4.8, 4.8
    Ben Sheets Top 5 Seasons
    According to WAR
    8.0, 4.4 ,4.0, 3.8, 3.7
    Javy has averaged 4.7 WAR a season since the 02
    Sheets has averaged 4.25 WAR since 02
    NOTE JAVY has spent 50% of that time in the DH league.

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