Javy Vazquez and the arbitration question


I posted the following at MLBTR on Thursday, but it’s relevant to the Yankees so I’m going to syndicate it here for discussion purposes …

(AP Photo/Tony Gutierrez)

The Yankees haven’t offered a single free agent, Type-A or B, arbitration in either of the last two years because they were afraid of getting stuck with an unwanted player at an unwanted price (had they accepted), but it stood to reason that they would make such an offer to righthander Javier Vazquez. As one of the game’s few true workhorses with a long track record, he was all but a lock to decline arbitration after 2010 and seek a multi-year deal (perhaps his last) elsewhere. Now four months into the season, suddenly that scenario doesn’t seem as likely.

Vazquez’s season has been quite the roller coaster. The 34-year-old posted a 9.78 ERA in his first five starts, a 2.75 ERA in his next 11, and then a 6.43 ERA in his last five outings. The team has indicated that he’s currently battling through a “dead arm” period, and last night Vazquez himself acknowledged that he’s got a lot of miles on his arm and they may be catching up to him. Only Livan Hernandez has thrown more innings since the start of the 2000 season, and Javy’s fastball velocity is down noticeably this season.

In the grand scheme of things, Vazquez’s strikeout (7.0 K/9) and walk (3.5 BB/9) rates this season are among the worst of his career, and he’s on pace to throw slightly more than 176 innings, which would be his lowest total since 1999. Still, he’s well on his way to being a Type-A free agent after the season, but given his underwhelming performance and that aforementioned workload, an arbitration offer becomes a much riskier proposition.

With an $11.5MM salary this season, the Yankees would have to consider the possibility of Vazquez accepting arbitration and receiving a salary upwards of $13MM next season. We laugh at the idea of the Yanks having a budget, but that could put a serious dent in the payroll with the team expected to heavily pursue Cliff Lee.

When the Yankees re-acquired Vazquez from the Braves in the offseason, they apparently considered two draft picks part of the package since he comfortably projected to be a Type-A free agent. It’s easy to understand why they’d think that following a season in which he placed fourth in the Cy Young voting, but as it tends to do, time may have changed things.

* * *

That’s the dumbed down version of the situation awaiting the Yankees and Vazquez after the season, but you all know what’s going on. Personally, I wouldn’t offer him arbitration because there’s so much risk involved right now. Javy’s clearly not the guy he was White Sox any more, let along the guy he was with the Braves last year. The velocity’s down, he’s obviously very aware of it, and the potential of getting stuck with him for $13M+ next year (even on a one year deal) is too great for my liking.

I like draft picks as much as anyone, especially when you’re talking about next year’s epiphany draft, but I like not overpaying for declining players even more. If Vazquez can’t find a multi-year deal on the open market, which is not out of the question given the current market and economy, he’ll accept arbitration like Carl Pavano and Rafael Soriano did last year. I wouldn’t risk it, but that’s just me.

Categories : Players


  1. TERPSandYANKSfan says:

    If we do not offer arbitration, we still get a compensation pick, right?

  2. bexarama says:

    Yep, I was on the borderline before this season but now I’m pretty firmly against it. I really like the guy, and I like draft picks of course, but it’s not worth the risk at all at this point, even for just one year.

    I mean, of course he could rebound in 2011 and be what he was in 2009, but there just seems to be a lot of “uh oh” going on this year between the velocity and strikeouts being down. Pitchers can certainly learn to pitch with lower velocity but I mean… it takes them time. Oh, and that line I read about him saying he has a lot of innings on his arm and it could be catching up to him just outright terrified me.

    • Bryan says:

      Same boat for me. Not worth the risk.

    • Not Tank the Frank says:

      Oh, and that line I read about him saying he has a lot of innings on his arm and it could be catching up to him just outright terrified me.

      Yeah, that was one of the worst things he could have said. Not that it wasn’t apparent already. Not much else needs to be said that Mike and Bexy here haven’t already said. Whether you think he’ll accept or not is getting into a guessing game. It’s too risky.

      One thing needs to be said; there’s stil plenty of season left. Let’s see if Javy can rebound from his “dead arm” period and make adjustments to pitching with lesser stuff ala Mussina.

      • Gonzo says:

        I wondered about him saying that. Maybe he said that knowing full well that it would give the Yankees reason not to offer arb.

        • Tom Zig says:

          why would he do that

          • Steve H says:

            Could be so that he doesn’t have Type A status tied to him which would hurt his offers? That’s the only advantage I can see for Javy if he just wants to get out of town.

          • Gonzo says:

            Billy Wagner used the media to try and get the Sox to not offer arb after he made the faux paux of making it clear that he would not accept arb. I am saying, as a business move, it would be in his, and his agent’s, best interest if the Yankees were disinclined to offer arb.

      • poster on a different computer who happens to be a deuce bag says:

        IDK, I think a bigger deal is being made out of this than should be made. He said sort of jokingly at the time, and it was pure speculation, not any type of definitive declaration.

  3. RIYank says:

    I don’t think Javy would accept arbitration. The risk is great to him, too. Any year he plays under a one-year contract is a year he could get injured and cost himself a fortune.

    Also, the risk to the Yankees of offering arbitration is not as great as you’re suggesting, since if he accepts they can still cut him and pay a fraction of the arbitration salary.

    • Gonzo says:

      Also, Javy has been on record saying he wants to play only like 3-4 years. If you were him, wouldn’t you want that to be at a place of your choosing?

      • Steve H says:

        wouldn’t you want that to be at a place of your choosing?

        Which he has never truly done in his career. He’s signed extensions with his current team(s), but has never been a free agent. That’s probably a big thing for him.

        • Gonzo says:

          Exactly. I could see him wanting around a 3 year $21mm+ contract and retiring. I could see him getting that in the NL. I could also see that being more money than if he went year to year and struggles in the AL East. Like $13mm next year, then if he bombs out, he would get very little the next year.

          • Dirty Pena says:

            Under your scenerio (3 for 21), I find it highly unlikely that anything short of TJ surgery is going to cause Javy to get less than 2 years for 8 million starting in 2012.

            • Gonzo says:

              Ok, put yourself in his shoes. I can get 3/21(+) with a team of my choosing, possible no-trade protection, absolutely guaranteed. Or, I can gamble (at the age 34), not know which team I will be traded to, in what role they envision, just to try and squeak out more than $21mm in three years. And if I really suck, get injured, or get put in the bullpen, I have to sign with a really crappy team to beat $21mm over 3 years if at all.

              If it were me, the choice would be pretty clear. I’ll take the guaranteed $21mm everytime. Javy may be different, but I think the rational choice is the same as mine.

      • kosmo says:

        I thought he said he might retire after 2010.Did I hear wrong ?

      • Poopy Pants says:

        Hasn’t he also said he’s very close to retiring every year?

  4. Gonzo says:

    I don’t think they will, but I would offer. Javy can still be traded. Soriano was traded on December 10th. If they can trade Javy before Cliff Lee signs, likely weeks after December 10th, the money won’t hurt them. If they accept a b/c prospect they probably won’t have to eat money either. If he doesn’t accept, well that’s a win.

    Javy might not accept because he’ll have no security in his contract and won’t have any command of his future at all. Remember when people were saying no way Wagner would not accept arb? He would likely sign for more total money than $13 mm and possibly have some type of no-trade protection. Also, that $13 mm is not guaranteed even though the MLBPA would essentially make it guaranteed.

    Think about this. The Yanks don’t offer, and the Jays offer Downs and he rejects. Something ain’t right with the compensation system, and Theo has made a living off of taking advantage of it.

  5. Obviously, there’s an easy answer right now. No way do you offer him arb. The problem is if he just kicks ass for the rest of the season, though this isn’t highly likely. No matter what happens, though, you can guarantee the MSM will second guess Cashman.

  6. Steve H says:

    I have been in the “of course you offer” camp for a looooong time. However, with the recent dip in velocity (as well as his comments), if I had to make the decision today I wouldn’t offer. If, however, he picks it back up and closes the year strong I would probably do it. If he accepts he’d be tradeable on just a one year deal, and if you let him know he’ll be in the bullpen if he accepts, he might decline anyway.

  7. If Pettite retires Javy should be offered arbitration.

  8. Jamal G. says:

    I would offer Vazquez arbitration because even if he’s not the 3-3.5 win pitcher projections saw him as in 2011 prior to this season’s events, at 2-2.5 WAR, he would be overpaid by a non-significant amount (let’s say a half-win to a full win for argument’s sake) when you factor in everything.

    As of this moment, the Yanks 2011 rotation is CC Sabathia, Phil Hughes and A.J. Burnett. The two best in-house options are Joba Chamberlain and Ivan Nova, and the free-agent market offers Tim Hudson, Cliff Lee, Ted Lilly, Jorge de la Rosa and Brandon Webb. Of that group, Hudson and Lee are the best in terms of health and effectiveness, and Lee has, from all reports, been identified as a target for the Front Office.

    The Yankees are in no way certain to land Lee. Without him they are looking at two rotation spots open for the unproven Chamberlain and Nova, and the uncertain future (and health) of Andy Pettitte.

    If the deadline to offer arbitration (I believe it’s the first week of December) is approaching and Lee is not close to signing and Pettitte has yet to decide on his plans for 2011, are you guys not willing to bite the bullet and risk overpaying a workhorse such as Vazquez by $5M (at most, in my opinion)? Doing so would offer some sort of safety net if Lee rejects the Yanks’ offer and Pettitte retires.

    • Dirty Pena says:

      I was going to say we should offer, but I can’t word it any better than this.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      What makes you think he’ll be a 2-2.5 win pitcher next year? He’s on pace for something like 0.6 WAR this year.

      • Dirty Pena says:

        If we aren’t moving in on Lee, and if Pettitte retires, isn’t Javy on a one year deal better than the alternatives listed, on multi-year deals for decent salaries? The only one who might take a one year deal at a low salary is Webb, and that’s obviously a huge risk.

        • Mike Axisa says:

          You could always trade for a starter. They got Javy for a ML spare part, a LOOGY prospect, and a prospect who had yet to pitch in a full season league. I’d rather do that than compromise future payroll and sign someone to a multi-year deal.

          • Reggie C. says:

            Cash could trade for a Edwin Jackson. I think its our turn to get Jackson anyway. Here’s hoping the abuse points on EJ aren’t too high!

          • Jamal G. says:

            Yeah, we’d all rather do that. However, it’s not really fair for anyone to argue that point because we have no idea who the Yanks are targeting and not a clear picture of who is truly available.

          • Dirty Pena says:

            That’s true, but there’s only two candidates I can think of that are good, well-paid, and on a team that figures to not contend next year (I still can’t understand why the Braves traded Javy, unless they knew something no one did): Greinke and Dempster. It’s not like there’s a long list of options there either.

            • Ed says:

              The Braves traded Javy because:

              1) They had too many starters

              2) They wanted to shed some payroll

              3) No one wanted Derek Lowe (at least not with his contract)

              • Dirty Pena says:

                1) There’s no such thing as too many starters.

                2) There’s ways to shed payroll that don’t involve trading away your best starter who only has one year left, including…

                3) Chipping in some money to get rid of Derek Lowe.

          • Gonzo says:

            To be fair, Arodys was a pre-season top-75 prospect that never played full season ball.

      • Jamal G. says:

        I know 2011 will be his age-34 season, so a one-year sample should definitely cause more concern compared to a guy in his prime. However, coming into this season, he posted four consecutive years of at least 5 scWAR (StatCorner) – something no other pitcher in MLB had done.

        While his season has had some dreadful, dreadful parts to it, he has not been that awful as a whole. His strikeout rate, swinging-strikeout rate and swing-and-miss rate are still above that of a league-average starter. Also, his 4.25 SIERA is still above average.

        Obviously, these could all continue to decline in 2011, but I think he’s shown that he can succeed at a damn-good rate with his diminished stuff. It’s not a no-brainer, but I think enough evidence is there to make a strong case to offer him arbitration.

        • Jamal G. says:

          Also, I am not arguing for NY to just simply offer Vazquez arbitration. This is the fall-back plan if either Lee and Pettitte have made it known they will not be in the Bronx in 2011 or the Yanks are uncomfortable with the information they have (could be lack thereof or clear indications that the two will not be coming) regarding the duo’s future in the Bronx.

          • Mike Axisa says:

            That’s a good point. They don’t have to offer arbitration until Dec. 7th (I think, somewhere around there), so by then they should have a feel for what’s going on with Lee, Pettitte, and Javy.

    • Mike Axisa says:

      Also, Tim Hudson =/= free agent after the season. He signed an extension at the end of last season.

  9. kosmo says:

    One suspects if NY can´t lure Lee into the fold they will offer Pettitte good money to come back and plug Nova into the 5th spot.

    Didn´t Vasquez state at some point in ST he was considering retiring after 2010? I seem to recall such a statement.

  10. miami frank says:

    I think they should offer. If he accepts, they are not losing 13m but maybe half that. The reason being is I think he still would be worth maybe 6-7mil for a one year contract and a shot at getting back to where he was so the rest would be lost if you could not trade him.

    • Gonzo says:

      Hey, if Jamie Moyer can get a GM to give him a 2/13 contract, Javy at $6.5, if not more, is tradeable.

    • Reggie C. says:

      You do that and you seriously run the risk that the cash-conscious Hal Steinbrenner turn around and end the pursuit of Lee allowing Lee to sign with a Detroit or Texas. I might be in the minority, but I don’t see Hal green-lighting both a Lee signing and Vazquez arbitration only to see the budget balloon to 220 million.

  11. Reggie C. says:

    I bet you Javy rediscovers consistency with a return to the NL in 2011. I’d hope that some NL GM would view Javy as a solid 2 year, 20 million dollar bet to serve as a good #2, but maybe that’s just me being ridiculously optimistic. Maybe Hoyer is game to take that chance.

    • Gonzo says:

      Three contracts make me think Javy could get money on the open market. Jamie Moyer, Randy Rolf, and Ben Sheets. He’s a different animal than all three, but they make me think he can get a decent contract in the open market.

  12. sjt says:

    Would think with the bounce back year in the Yanks farm system, they could pull together a trade for a quality young starter, maybe headlined by Garnder and a couple of premium prospects. Then sign Lee and Crawford as FA’s.

    • Tom Zig says:

      Lee = 210M payroll at least

      Lee + Crawford = 225-227M at least

      Lee + Crawford + Whoever you trade for = 235M

      Lee fits. I doubt they trade for anyone though. Who would you trade for?

      Quality young starters:

      King Felix

      Obviously not a complete list. But what do they all have in common? They are either completely unavailable or the price would be astronomical.

  13. larryf says:

    Agree on it hinging on Andy coming back. He is saving his arm lots of pitches with his injury. If we sign Lee and Andy comes back then it is bye bye Javy and hello Ivan Nova in 2011.

  14. This just provides more motivation to hope he kicks ass in the remainder of the season/October. Here’s hoping he pulls an ’06 Jeff Weaver.

  15. southeryankeefan says:

    Screw the risk. Let it ride baby. Red hot. Red hot.


  16. Matt :: Sec105 says:

    I can’t believe Javy would be a Type A right now..

  17. mike c says:

    i think javy would have success with the mets… that ballpark would cut down on his HR rates since he’s much more of a fly ball pitcher this year

  18. Brian in NH says:

    I know that this is more of a “what if” scenario and that perhaps at first those draft picks were considered part of the trade, but realistically the Yankees just don’t really seem to do this in their recent past. I also think that risking the commitment to Javy for a year vs a couple draft picks, even if it is the “epiphany draft” that could very well not pan out…just not worth it. The yankees have always seemed to be a team that, while they don’t discount the draft and see that it has value, they are more likely to take what’s a sure thing. Javy declining arb next year is not a sure thing, draft picks are not a sure thing. They’ll just let him walk and sign Cliff Lee to replace him

    • JobaWockeeZ says:

      One of the reasons they got Javy was to offer arbitration.

      • mike c says:

        they also expected javy to be a type-a free agent/be somewhat deserving of a $13MM contract next year… they are going to sign lee/andy to another year before they offer javy anything on paper

        • Brian in NH says:

          exactly. at this point its too much of a gamble to offer arb, and even then its a gamble in the draft. they almost always take the proven track record over the unproven (austin jackson traded for granderson as an example)

  19. Reacher says:

    It is highly unlikely that Javy will be offered arbitration. He would undoubtedly accept as there will be no line forming for his services, and who wouldn’t to play in “baseball heaven”. It’s really a non-issue given his inconsistency, age and the probability he would be given a substantial award. All of Cash’s issues should be this easy to resolve.

  20. Fred Arena says:

    The Yankees should offer him arbitration if he accepts they can either trade him or release him before the season starts and they are only responsible for a small fraction of his salary.

    It would be idiotic to not take that chance when we have as much money as we have. Grab those two picks in a great draft and if you tell his agent that if he accepts you most likely will release him, you know he will sign somewhere else.

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