Sep
30

Requiem for a risky trade

By

Javy wasn't having too many nice days in pinstripes this year. (Photo by Amanda Rykoff)

Yankee fans went to sleep on the night of December 21, 2009 with rumors swirling. We knew that the Yanks were on the verge of acquiring a starting pitcher, but we didn’t know, until the next morning at least, that Javier Vazquez would return to the Bronx. Even though our last meeting with Vazquez was an infamous one and we knew Brian Cashman was rolling the dice on a risky trade, we liked the deal.

And how could we not? For Melky Cabrera, an overrated player on the verge of making more money than he’s worth, the replaceable Michael Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino, a live arm years away from making his Major League debut, the Yanks landed a lefty reliever and one of the top National League hurlers. Lest we forget with the bad taste of 2010 still in our mouths, Javier Vazquez won 15 games with a 2.87 ERA in 2009 with a 9.8 K/9 IP, a 1.8 BB/9 IP and just 20 home runs allowed in 219.1 innings. He deservedly finished fourth in the Cy Young voting.

What a difference a year makes. If last night was Javier Vazquez’s final appearance as a member of the New York Yankees, his season totals are abysmal. He’s 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA and a FIP even higher than that. In 157.1 innings, he struck out 121, walked 65 and gave up 32 home runs. His home run rate more than doubled over 2009 while he lost over three strike outs and walked two more batters over nine innings. He hasn’t won a start since July 26.

Vazquez couldn’t have been much worse for the Yanks, and few pitchers have. In two seasons six years apart, Vazquez has gone 24-20 with a 5.09 ERA. His rate stats — strike outs, walks and home runs per 9 innings pitched — than compared with his career totals, and he again seems to have lost the ability to get men out. No pitcher in Yankee history has made as many starts as Vazquez while being so prolific at giving up the long ball, and only Sterling Hitchcock, Tim Leary and Andy Hawkins have as many innings pitched with higher ERAs than Javy.

For a brief spell in the middle of the season, it appeared as though Javy had figured it all out. After starting the season 1-4 with an 8.10 ERA in his first six games, Javy went 8-5 over his next 16 games with a 3.39 ERA. He allowed just 13 home runs over those 95.2 innings and kept runners off base. His last 10 appearances though have seen him allow 11 home runs in 38.2 innings while opponents are hitting a Robinson Cano-like .302/.387/.549 against him while walking 4.5 times per nine innings. Somewhere it all went wrong.

Maybe it’s Javy’s head or maybe it’s something else. Maybe he can’t pitch in New York as many would have you believe or maybe he’s just not physically up to the task any longer. It’s not unheard of for 34-year-olds with 2500 innings under their belt to fall off a clip, and I think Javy’s problem can be summed up in graph form.

His velocity, as we can see, has dipped significantly this year. During his time with the Braves, he threw in the low-to-mid 90s; with the Yankees, he’s barely cracked 89, let alone 90. He stopped being able to blow hitters away, and he stopped being able to mix his pitches effectively. It was a long hard fall.

So as Javy has likely thrown his last pitch in a Yankee uniform, Joel Sherman threw an obvious pitch into the mix this morning. The Yankees, he says, will not offer Javy arbitration. The Yanks swallowed hard and traded Arodys Vizcaino last winter because they hoped to turn Javy into a first-round draft pick. Now that Javy’s been worth below replacement level according to Fangraphs’ WAR, the team won’t be offering him and his $11.5 million salary arbitration, and they won’t recoup some of the cost it took to acquire him.

The inevitable question then concerns the trade. Was it a good one? Without the luxury of hindsight or a crystal ball, there’s no way to know that Javier Vazquez’s 2010 would be this bad, and the cost to acquire him is high only if Arodys pans out. I can’t fault the Yanks for trying in December, but no one should whitewash Javy’s poor finish. One thing is certain: I’ll be calling this the Boone Logan trade from now on.

Categories : Musings

150 Comments»

  1. The Evil Empire says:

    Is he better than Burnett?

    • No. Somehow, Burnett was worth 1 win above replacement level while Javy was below.

      • Dream of Electric Sheep says:

        Speaking of that, I looked up Jonny Gomes , my off season choice of Randy Wynn or Thames. Somehow that dude has accrued -.1 WAR value with 17 hr and 84 RBIs. What gives? I noticed Fangraph rated his defense as horrific. But what gives ? I think Fangraph value defense a bit too much sometimes.

        • Having a Jose Guillenesque .264 BA and .327 OBP helps.

          The 17 homers are nice, but the 84 RBI doesn’t mean he’s had a good year. It just means he’s been in a good offense.

          • Dream of Electric Sheep says:

            I think he also has 24 dbls and 3 triples. The point really is , I think the guy is an above replacement level player. His defense value contributed mightily to his negative WAR stats.He also plays in a bandbox of a stadium which masks his defensive flaws.
            I just think in a team specific context, the dude warrants at least 1 win and is above an replacement player.

            • I’m still saying you’re overvaluing his offense a bit.

              Sure, the 44 XBH is nice, but it’s not otherworldly. It’s his inability to get on base at more than a 32.7% clip that drags his production down. His wOBA is only .328, his wRC+ is only 101.

              Give an average big leaguer 556 PA, and he’ll probably give you around 44 XBH. Like, for example, the aforementioned Jose Guillen, who is his statistical doppleganger this year.

              No, seriously, go look it up.

              • Dream of Electric Sheep says:

                I don’t think he swings a mighty stick by any stretch of imagination. But I think he is an above replacement level player offensively.

                But main problem is how Fangraph came up with -14.7 fLd where his previous worst is -6.1 in 2009. There lies my ultimate struggle in how truly does UZR accurately assess an player defensive value and in what proportionality is attributed to that player’s total value in a unified stat such as WAR.

                • Dream of Electric Sheep says:

                  I just looked Guillen’s stat , they are very similar except he has accrued .7 WAR with the help less atrocious fld of -1.5. I can only assume that is a direct result of him DHing in KC.

                  If that assumption is correct, I can assume Gomes has more value statistically as a DH rather than an every day Ofer.

  2. Pete says:

    Was it a good one?

    yes.

    runs and hides

  3. Rey22 says:

    Honestly, I expected slightly worse numbers than he had in his years with the White Sox, which would have been fantastic for us this year as a 4th starter.

  4. Dream of Electric Sheep says:

    Knuckler ballers and Jamie Moyers aside , I wonder there is a lower bound in velo ( say 85-89) ,where majority of pitchers start to lose their effectiveness unless they have pinpoint command.

  5. That graph makes Tommie the opposite of “very aroused”.

  6. Benjamin P. says:

    [T]he cost to acquire him is high only if Arodys pans out.

    That’s not quite right. The Yankees didn’t just lose Arodys’s upside, they lost the chance to trade him for something better.

  7. If you were to chart Javy’s WAR over the course of the season I bet it would look something like a Bell Curve. He started awful, was awesome for a couple months, then declined into awfulness again as the summer wound down.

    As awful as he is now and how bad he was to begin the season shows how good he must have been in the middle months to have a WAR that sits around replacement level. Too bad he couldn’t turn it around again.

  8. MikeD says:

    Is it a good trade? No. Yet that’s only because we now know what Javy delivered. We’d have been better off with Joba remaining in the rotation instead of being used as a 7th-inning man. I’m quite comfortable in believing that Chamberlain would post an ERA below 5.30 and would have given us more innings.

    Yet I’m not knocking the trade. Sometimes trades just don’t work out, no matter how good they look on paper. Javy has always delivered 200-innings and he has pitched well pretty much every year. Even his off seasons have brought value. He’s never pitched as well in the AL as in the NL, but it seemed reasonable to expect 32 starts, 200 innings and 4.00 or lower ERA. Fantastic for a 4th starter, and then we’d get a top draft pick in a very rich upcoming draft. No one could predict a loss of 3 to 4 mph on his fastball.

    Melky doesn’t matter. Neither does Dunn. Fungible. Years from now this deal will be based on what Arodys Vizcaino ends up doing, or if Boone Logan (also fungible) ends up contributing something significant to a Yankee championship team.

    If a similar situation popped up again with a different pitcher, I’d hope that Cashman tries it again.

    • If a similar situation popped up again with a different pitcher, I’d hope that Cashman tries it again.

      Yup.

      Perspective FTW.

    • The Big City of Dreams says:

      “We’d have been better off with Joba remaining in the rotation instead of being used as a 7th-inning man. I’m quite comfortable in believing that Chamberlain would post an ERA below 5.30 and would have given us more innings.”

      That’s the same thing I think about which is how different would if be if Joba was pitching instead of Javy. From the outside looking in it seemed like a good trade because of the yr that Javy was coming off of but he didn’t live up to it and Joba spent the yr in the pen. He went from 8th inning guy to middle reliever which are a dime a dozen

  9. Dream of Electric Sheep says:

    btw, I never thought Melky was ‘overrated’, I like him because he produced a few walk off wins and is kind of scrappy (meaning : a small dude who does everything marginally) . But I always thought he was a fourth Outfielder .

  10. TERPSandYANKSfan says:

    Melky has been less valuable than Vazquez this year (according to Fangraphs). Logan has been solid. Dunn is a non-factor and is due to get hit really hard any day now. If Arodys turns into anything, then this is a loss for the Yankees. If he busts, this trade really wasnt that big a loss for the Yankees.

  11. Jerome S says:

    If we win the WS, no one will care about this down the line.
    If we don’t, we’ll look back on this trade again and again and irrationally curse ourselves, forgetting that he really didn’t cost us more than 5-6 games this season and kept us in about 4-5 games over the summer.

  12. I don’t think you can say, unequivocally, that this was a good trade when it was made. There were plenty of people who, when the trade was made, weren’t so crazy about it – for reasons other than an insane overreaction/lack of perspective about the 2004 season. Like you said in the post, they Yankees traded for a 34 yr old pitcher with 2500 IP under his belt (and, I’d add, a not-wonderful track-record in the American League). Did I want the Yanks to hold onto Melky? No. But Arodys was/is a really good prospect, and Dunn is, at the very least, a guy who will probably spend some seasons as a LHP in an MLB bullpen. So… Look… I’m not killing the trade, nor did I kill it when it happened… But let’s not act like it’s a black-or-white issue and that it was definitely a good trade when it was made. I totally get the reasoning behind the trade and why people liked it, but I didn’t like it when they made it and I’m not totally surprised with how it’s turned out.

    (And before anyone accuses me of practicing revisionism, go back to the RAB posts about this trade from last offseason and I promise you’ll find me, and some others, expressing the same sentiments back then.)

    • Like you said in the post, they Yankees traded for a 34 yr old pitcher with 2500 IP under his belt (and, I’d add, a not-wonderful track-record in the American League).

      Nah, he really only had a not-wonderful track record for the second half of one season with the Yankees in the American League. His three years in Chicago were solid. Two league-average campaigns (’06 and ’08), one stellar campaign (’07), 32 starts and 200+ IP in all three of them.

      He had a 106 ERA+, a 1.249 WHIP, and a 3.57 K/BB in his three years on the South Side. The concerns about him not being an AL pitcher were overblown, IMO.

      • That’s totally fair… Really, I know this is very arguable… But look at his AL seasons (I’m just using ERA+ because it’s easy, I’ll leave it to others to delve into the numbers if they’d like to):

        04: 92
        06: 98
        07: 126
        08: 98
        10: 81

        The ’07 season skews the numbers you provided (his numbers with ChiSox).

        I get that we don’t know why his AL seasons don’t look so great in comparison to his NL seasons, etc. But the argument against my line of thinking isn’t that he actually has been good in the AL, I think that argument has to be against cherry-picking seasons, stuff like that. He just hasn’t been so good in the AL, for whatever reason.

        • And as noted below, those ’04 and ’10 seasons have some medical asterisks on them. That’s not Javy at his full complement of powers.

          It sucks that some of his injuries have coincided with his AL stints; people gloss over that and assume correlation = causation.

          • Well ’04 does, we don’t really know about ’10 (even if he’s hurt it does just seem that he passed his prime this season). Either way, take out ’04 and ’10 from my comment and I still stand by it (I actually regretted including ’10 anyway, since my point was that he had a poor track-record in the AL coming into ’10, so including ’10 was really a mistake).

            You’ve still got 2 average to meh seasons, and 1 good season. Point still stands, in that regard.

            • And again, just to clarify (not that you’ve mistaken my point, just clarifying where I’m coming from in general)… I get why people liked the trade, and I get why people disagree with me on this… And I got it back then, too. All I’m saying is that it’s unfair for people to say, unequivocally, that this one of those ‘well it was definitely a good trade when they made it’ situations. I think this is a much closer call than some people allow for.

        • MikeD says:

          We shouldn’t include ’10 in the assessment since the trade had to be based on what he did prior in the AL. (2010 seems like he just hit the wall). He pitched well in ’04 the first half, until he had some medical issue. ’06 and ’08 are just at league average ERA+, and since he pitched quite a few innings, he was better than league average on the overall impact to the team/bullpen. ’07 was his best. I’ll take it.

          Not that any of us are really disagreeing on this.

    • Steve H says:

      I don’t think you can say, unequivocally, that this was a good trade when it was made.

      Totally agree with this. It was, at the time, a very fair trade from both sides. It wasn’t unequivocally good or bad. It made sense, even if it wasn’t a Swisher for Betemit fleecing.

  13. j_Yankees says:

    I’ve never been one to ride the ‘he can’t pitch in NY’ train…i certainly didn’t when the Yankees traded for him. Though i was surprised he was the mystery guy we had been speculating about for hours on end. But He was coming off a GREAT year and as you noted Ben, Melky was due a raise and wasn’t worth it. He was/is grossly overrated but some fans and i didn’t mind trading Vizcaino.

    With that said, if there was ever a guy i believe can’t handle New York, it’s Javier Vazquez. Twice now the Yankees have traded for him and twice now it has ended poorly.

    3 times in his career Javy posted +6.50 ERA second halves. His rookie year and BOTH his years in pinstripes.

    • And both of those two years in pinstripes, he’s dealt with physical issues that have hampered his production. The first time he was pitching through injury for the second half of 2004; this time he’s had dead arm periods and a marked loss of velocity (which probably lead to the mechanical issues/tinkering and thus the control).

      Javy not being able to handle NY is much more physical than mental, IMO. He can deal with the pressure; his body is betraying him.

      • j_Yankees says:

        Can’t argue with the injuries playing a factor in his first stint here. But by his own account he down played an injury that he really shouldn’t have been pitching with. In doing so he put the Yankees in a bad spot. I guess we can debate whether that’s admirable or really stupid and selfish.

        This year he sucked something wicked when healthy at the start of the season. So i’m not going to give him an out. Dude sucked this year. He was able to string together some good starts against some sub par hitting teams but other than that he sucked.

        and i disagree with him being able to handle pressure. There is nothing in his body of work that tells me he can pitch well under pressure.

        • Observer283 says:

          How about the fact that he made it to the major leagues and succeeded their for over a decade?

          I don’t know about Javy’s background, but I would guess he didn’t grow up wealthy. Meaning, he’s probably never pitched under more pressure than when he was pitching for scouts as a young kid.

          All of this is to say that what fans view as “high leverage” or “pressure situations” aren’t that much pressure packed than the situation elite baseball players have been dealing with since they were in their teens.

          That’s why if you have a large enough sample size, you will find that players perform eerily close to their career averages in “clutch” situations.

          If you don’t believe me, why don’t you compare A-Rod and Jeter’s playoff numbers to their career averages. Not much daylight.

    • ROBTEN says:

      With that said, if there was ever a guy i believe can’t handle New York, it’s Javier Vazquez. Twice now the Yankees have traded for him and twice now it has ended poorly.

      I still think that it is an unfortunate case of circumstance rather than causation. Given that the results were the effect of injury in 2004 and what seems to be diminished abilities this year, I think that in both cases he probably would have had similar struggles regardless of what team he pitched for.

      For instance, we could go further and speculate that in 2004 if he had pitched for a team out of contention rather than in NY and thus was not called upon to be the workhorse on staff, he might have been put on the DL instead of feeling like he had to continue to pitch through an injury.

  14. Anthony Murillo says:

    Apart of me is disgusted with Javier Vazquez, apart of me is extremely sadden for him. When we re-acquired him this off-season, I was all for it. I wanted him to do well, to prove he could pitch well in New York and be an anchor to our starting rotation. But his performance this season is quite possibly the worst season I’ve ever seen from a starting pitcher of Vazquez’s caliber. He’s been awful this season and, sadly, all of us will remember him as one of the biggest failures in Yankee history.

  15. Avi says:

    Fans were happy with the trade??
    Anybody who was happy with the trade clearly wasn’t following the Yankees in ’04.
    Cashman traded for Vazquez while another pitcher name Curt Shcilling was available; Arguably the single biggest move that contributed to the yankees loosing to Boston in ’04.
    Vazquez was so bad that Cashman and the yanks had to pay the D-backs millions of dollars just to take him and his $45 million contract off their hands. A contract that BTW Cashman gave him before he ever threw a pitch for the yankees!
    Even if Vazquez wasn’t a Yankee catastrophe it still wouldn’t have made any sense. I mean a right handed, EXTREME fly ball pitcher is not exactly the type a guy you want making HALF his starts in Yankee stadium. Furthermore, he’s a career .500 pitcher. So while it would have been possible for him to have an effective season (OUT OF yankee stadium) he was just as likely to pull off a stinker as he had done for the D-backs and White Sox in three separate recent seasons (’05,’06 and ’08). Vazquez was an AWFUL acquisition even if the Braves had given him for FREE (no players back).

  16. larryf says:

    If we win the series and Javy doesn’t throw another pitch from here on out, the man will get a full share.

    With all the frustration about our lineup not being able to hit good changeup pitchers, it is also frustrating that other lineups seem to hit Javy the changeup specialist so well. To me, the 2-4 mph slower fastball and inability to control the inside part of the plate is/was his downfall.

  17. Dream of Electric Sheep says:

    I had reservation about Javy.

    But my reservation was how he performed down the stretch in 2008 with the White Sox. He had a 4.8ish era that year in AL Central and imploded in the last six? starts.In thinking always with playoff in mind as a Yankee fan , I definitely had reservation about him down the stretch and in a big spot.

  18. At Work says:

    If Javy doesnt come to NY via this trade, then who is the 5th starter? Who is the lefty in the bullpen? While the lefty is no big deal, Logan has been a stud and replaced Marte pretty well. Thus far Cash gave up nothing but hopes and received Javy and Logan who helped the club right away. So, who would it have been in the 5th spot? (or 4th as it was at the beggining of the year with Phil 5th).

    • I’d say Joba, but it’s clear the team didn’t want that insecurity going into the season.

      That’s the other side of this coin: for the people who didn’t want the team to trade Arodys/Melky/Dunn for Javy/Logan, who would you want us to trade for? Because clearly, we were going to trade for a starter come hell or high water; we weren’t going to give 2 spots to Hughes and Joba with no veteran fallback plan.

      It’s either trade for Javy, trade for some other innings-eating 4th starter (preferably on a one-year, low-risk contract) or sign John Lackey. Simply keeping the prospects and rolling with Phil and Joba in the rotation together was eliminated as an option.

  19. Dick Whitman says:

    Melky Cabrera is an inferior baseball player relative to other major league baseball players.

    He also has inferior potassium.

  20. JohnathanCold says:

    Bad trade? No.

    Did I want to see him pitching for the Yankees again? Hell no.

    I’m sure he will settle in very nicely with the Marlins next season.

    A dream would be for Boston to pick him up. Wait, that won’t work. They’d have SIX aces now!

  21. Dick Whitman says:

    Javier Vazquez is a better baseball player than Melky Cabrera.

    Boone Logan has performed better in the year 2010 than Melky Cabrera, Javier Vazquez, Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino, combined.

  22. Dick Whitman says:

    Arodys Vizcaino has never pitched a day above high-A ball.

    Melky Cabrera has been in the major leagues on and off since 2005 and has a career wRC+ of 90 and -11.1 UZR in over 700 games.

    Javier Vazquez has a career 51.6 fWAR, where the established number is around 60 WAR for HOF consideration.

  23. Dick Whitman says:

    Arodys Vizcaino FIP 2010:

    A ball: 1.99 in 71 2/3 IP
    A+ ball: 3.42 in 13.2 IP

    Graham Stoneburner FIP 2010:

    A ball: 2.46 in 39 IP

    A+ ball: 2.83 in 103 IP

    Melky Cabrera still sucks.

  24. Big Stein says:

    Moral of the story: Beware of NL pitchers

  25. When the Yankees made this trade I looked at Javy and said “eno enoa juang.”

  26. UncleArgyle says:

    Can’t believe I’m saying this, but would it have made more sense to make the same trade for Derek Lowe? Yankees probably could have kept Arodys too, and put in a lessor prospect. Then again, I could see that trade having an equally disasterous outcome.

    • Dick Whitman says:

      I can’t believe you just said that either. Wow.

    • Johnny O says:

      Javy was a 1 year commitment, which turned out poorly. Lowe was a 3 year commitment which would have turned out 3x as poorly.

      • Johnny O says:

        I know as fans we like to second guess Cashman (we could all do better than him of course), but when we’re complaining about an older pitcher with diminished stuff who succeeded only because he was in the NL…the alternatives shouldn’t be an older pitcher with diminished stuff who succeeded only because he was in the NL WITH 3 MORE YEARS ON HIS CONTRACT (at $15M per).

    • bexarama says:

      Supposedly the trade there was Lowe for SWISHER, which… no thank you, for the reasons others have stated.

      • He clearly wasn’t talking about an actual rumor but a hypothetical ‘well this is what we gave up for Javy, so maybe we could have given up a depleted version of that package for Lowe.’ His comment has nothing to do with this Swisher rumor (which I don’t even remember, maybe I’ve repressed the memory).

        • UncleArgyle says:

          Thank you, thats exactly what I was thinking out loud about. Funny but Lowe probably has the better fastball at this point. Anyway he sucks too. But its hard to suck more than Javy did this year

  27. Dick Whitman says:

    Vazquez + Cervelli + left handed Pendleton for Santana?

    Huh? Huh?!?!

  28. Icebird753 says:

    Javy has been awful. It seems like whenever he pitches, batters crush the ball as though it were Ted Williams’s head. Okay, crude reference, but you get the picture.

  29. toad says:

    Besides the question of what else the Yankees could have gotten for Vizcaino there is the question of what else they could have gotten for $11.5 million.

    Their supply of money is large, but not infinite. In evaluating the deal you have to consider the financial cost as well as the obvious player cost, because the money could have been spent on another player(s)

    Was it a good trade from that point of view? I don’t know, but you can’t leave the money out when evaluating it.

  30. EndlessMike says:

    Let’s not forget Vizcaino had a shoulder injury this year and Boone Logan has been one of our best bullpen options. You can also make the claim Javy has been pitching bette then Pettitte and Burnett.Since Pettitte has done nothing in over a month besdides one good outing and Burnett has been worse then Javy.

    Even Hughes hasn’t been good untkil he’s last two starts.If Javy pitched for the Mets inn that big stadium he would have pitched way better.

  31. king of fruitless hypotheticals says:

    Final thought on this trade? It was crap. It kept us from making the playoffs.

    #waitwhat

  32. Jerome S says:

    Vazquez has a 0.0 WAR this year. meh?

  33. Chris says:

    Cashman should be fired if Vizcaino turns out to be a stud He should have known Javy would turn out to be a dog. After all, Javy already bombed out the first time with the Yankees and then had a lousy year in Arizona and 2 of 3 mediocre seasons with the White Sox during which his own manager accused him of not being a big game pitcher. Any novice baseball man knows not enough to be fooled by stats pitchers put up in the NL. Right now, Vizcaino would be the yankees number 1 pitching prospect if he were still with the organization and Javy was so putrid, the Yanks can’t afford to offer him arbitration to get something back.

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