The Jorge Vazquez Option

Yanks have been in contact with Hideki Matsui
Introducing Michael Pineda
(N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg)

With the rotation questions answered (pending physicals), the attention has shifted to the Yankees’ now vacant DH position. It didn’t take the team long to get in touch with Johnny Damon, Carlos Pena, and Hideki Matsui, but with limited room in the budget they might look for an even cheaper solution. Buster Olney, Bryan Hoch, and Andy Martino each reported over the weekend that the Yankees consider Triple-A masher Jorge Vazquez a potential DH option heading into the season.

As Marc Carig recently explained, the Yankees found Vazquez when Michael Fishman, their in-house stats guru, got a whiff of his impressive stats in the Mexican League. From 2005-2008, the man they call Chato — Spanish for “short and chunky,” according to Carig — hit .352/.405/.698 with an average of 25 homers per year in a league where the season is less than 110 games long. Lee Sigman is the team’s top scout in Mexico, and he swooped in to sign Vazquez after he popped up on the team’s radar.

Unsurprisingly, Vazquez has done nothing but mash during his two and a half years in the organization. He owns a .284/.327/.555 batting line with 63 homers in 261 games between Double and Triple-A, and he goes back to Mexico for winter ball every year and does more of the same. This winter he put up a .330/.397/.618 line with 18 homers in 56 games. In 174 games between the regular season and winter ball, he hit 50 balls out of the park.

“He can hit homers everywhere,” said Ramiro Pena to Carig after playing with Vazquez for a number of years in Mexico. “Everybody down there in Mexico knows Chato … Tremendous power. He makes it look so easy.”

Yankees fans caught a glimpse of Vazquez last Spring Training, when he hit .412/.444/.765 with three homers in 35 plate appearances, including this mammoth blast over the batter’s eye in dead center. He few months prior to that he was named MVP of the Caribbean Series.

“He’s a major-league bat,” said Brian Cashman to Carig. “But he’s blocked more than anything else.”

Being blocked is just a small problem because Vazquez is a true DH without any defensive value, and now that job is wide open. He can stand at first base and receive throws from other infielders as well as fake third base in the way Eric Hinske can, but that’s about the extent of his defensive skills. Playing him in the field is a non-option for a contending team. But like I said, that’s just a small problem. There’s a much bigger one.

As great as Chato’s minor league and winter ball performance has been, and he has really been superb, his plate discipline numbers are a major cause for concern. In his 1,096 plate appearances since signing with the Yankees, Vazquez has struck out 314 times and unintentionally walked just 47 times. That’s a 28.6% strikeout rate and a 4.3% walk rate. The only big leaguer with a 25%+ strikeout rate and a sub-5% walk rate in single season over the last three years was Miguel Olivo (27.6 K% and 3.6 BB%) in 2011, who has the advantage of being a pretty good defensive catcher. JoVa put up those rates in the minors as a defensively challenged first baseman approaching his 30th birthday (he’ll be 30 in March).

The strikeout and walk rates indicate some kind of problem, but we don’t know exactly what it is from here. It could be breaking balls, inside fastballs, first pitch changeups, who knows. Whatever the problem is, it’s resulted in extreme strikeout issues and plate indiscipline. For what it’s worth, ZiPS projects a .235/.275/.449 batting line with 23 homers, 20 walks, and 138 strikeouts given 400+ at-bats next season while CAIRO v0.2 pegs him for a .231/.281/.439 line with 28 homers, 33 walks, and 177 strikeouts in 500+ at-bats. Remember, projections are not predictions, just a reasonable estimate of talent level.

In a recent ESPN Insider-only piece, Kevin Goldstein looked at the concept of Quad-A players like Vazquez, the guys that are too good for Triple-A but not good enough for MLB. He notes that one of the main reasons why these guys are limited is because of an inability to make adjustments, especially when advanced scouts start picking the guy’s game apart. Some players shed the label like Nelson Cruz did, but most aren’t so lucky. Vazquez has very real power, but given that his strikeout rate has gotten worse every year since signing with the Yankees, we have reason to believe he can’t make those necessary adjustments and contribute to the big league team.

Barring something unexpected, we’ll see Chato in Spring Training one way or another. He might be a replacement in the second half of games like last year, or he might be competing for the team’s DH job. Hey, maybe there’s value in having a guy who will sabotage a first pitch fastball hidden in a lineup of patient hitters, but I have a hard time buying that argument. Vazquez has significant flaws both at the plate and in the field, and on top of that he’s not a great fit as a right-handed hitter, assuming they’re looking for someone to split time with Andruw Jones. There’s always a chance something will click and JoVa will figure it out, but I’m not counting on it and neither should the Yankees.

Yanks have been in contact with Hideki Matsui
Introducing Michael Pineda
  • Soriano Is A Liar

    I’ve been saying this over and over the past few days, thank you! After so many articles of “The Yankees should see what they have in Jorge Vazquez!” I was getting tired of yelling at by computer screen about his strikeouts and OBP.

    • CJ

      Better chance of prince fielder on opening day than JoVa

  • jsbrendog

    it makes sense to give him a shot though, especially since he is so cheap, he has options, and at least has proven he can hit hr. worst case you go sign someone who is still a free agent if he bombs. I mean, guys like nick johnson, manny ramirez, etc can’t really believe they’re going o get signed so if you go to them in May and say take a prorated 1 mil contract they’ll probably jump at it and then you dump them as soon as something better comes along.

    • Soriano Is A Liar

      It definitely makes sense to give him a shot in ST, sure. But a lot of national writers saw his AAA home run numbers and immediately jumped straight to “Why don’t the Yankees just start the season with him at DH, he will be perfect!”. Maybe he’ll prove us wrong and come up and rake, but I’d be way more comfortable with an option that doesn’t have worse K and BB numbers in AAA than some of the worst major league hitters do.

    • Ted Nelson

      The downside to that is you’re probably going to pass up better options. Manny is an interesting option who may stay available… but banking on one guy not finding a home is a lot riskier than just signing Pena or even Manny right now so you know that they’re on your team and don’t have to wait until they don’t find a home or fail out of another organization.

      • TomH

        Manny? THE “Manny”? What a toxic “ass-et” he would be.

        • jsbrendog

          no one has better veteran presents than manny. i hear he is the best wrapper ever

        • Ted Nelson

          I was responding to the comment above mine, which specifically said that Manny is likely to be available mid-season… my point was that if you want to sign him should he still be available mid-season, why not just sign him now and mitigate the risk that he signs elsewhere.

          The Manny, though, who had wOBAs of .382 and .396 the last two seasons he played. The one who handles RHP very well and could be a platoon-mate for Jones… allowing Jones to still sub for Gardner or Granderson (or even Swisher if he needs a day off) against RHP should the need arise.

          • pat

            He’s also facing a 50 game suspension should he decide to un-retire.

            • Tom Zig

              isnt it 100?

              • MannyGeee

                no, Selig cut him a break since he sat out 2011. not a bad gig, run from the law and come back to only face 1/2 the punishment.

            • Ted Nelson

              I wasn’t sure if that was still hanging over him or not, but that strengthens the case to sign him now rather than later to me (if you’re going to sign him ever).

              He missed a lot of time in 2009 and 2010, but mashed when he played. Not starting until 1/3 of the way through the season and only playing a few days a week at the DH spot might help keep him healthy.

              I would much rather sign a Fielder or Pena if the Yankees want to spend the money, but as far as budget options go I don’t see Manny as much worse an option than the other guys out there.

              • Robinson Tilapia

                We’ve seen aging, troubled sluggers ride the pine for the team to success before. I’m not dismissing the idea entirely. My only thought here is that, by the time he serves his 50 games, the team may have already figured out another solution, and that solution may be “hey, nothing worked out just fine so far.”

                I’d advocate “wait and see” with Manny.

                • Ted Nelson

                  If he’s got a suspension looming when he signs, though, wait and see is a tough strategy… You sign him when you identify a need at DH and then have to wait another 50 or 100 games or whatever it is for that problem to maybe be solved if he can still hit… or maybe not be solved.

                  I think having a solid DH AND having an aging HOF slugger returning from injury (probably only making a couple of mill) is a great problem to have. Worse case they cut the guy. Best case they have too many bats or make a trade.

                  • Adam Parker

                    Why would a team pay him for the privilege of sitting out 50 games?

                    • Ted Nelson

                      For the other 112 games…

                  • Jumpin’ Jack Swisher

                    Whooops. Forgot he serves it AFTER he signs.

  • Matty Ice

    Nick Swisher–1B
    Jorge Vazquez–DH
    Bubba Crosby–CF

    Who’s going to play the other positions?

    • jsbrendog

      chad curtis is probably available

    • Mister Delaware

      “I can take 3B right after I drive past this guy for a layu… OW!!!” – Aaron Boone

  • TheOneWhoKnocks

    Jorge Vasquez strikes out too much, doesn’t draw any walks and doesn’t hit for average. He’s pretty much only good for the occasional bomb. I’d rather the yanks sign Pena. He’s a slick fielder(i know tex won’t miss many days, but at least pena can offer that versatility, the other options are pure DH), will come at a reasonable cost and kills righties. He’s got a pull approach that will be great at yankee stadium and if you platoon him and jones you’ve got essentially a .900 OPS DH.

    • Ted Nelson

      Pena is a strong option to me too, but the Yankees may have to be willing to pay him $10 million for next season. He got about $10 million in free agency last season and had a better season than he had in 2010.

      • Scully

        I’m a big Pena fan as well for his defense and his righty mashing. I keep thinking that he’s the 2nd best free agent 1st baseman on the market though after Fielder, which leads me to believe he can command a multi-year deal.

      • Craig Maduro

        The Yanks need to pony up and pay Pena (within moderate reason). That’s my take.

        • Cris Pengiucci

          Pena may be looking for a full-time gig. Will he be willing to accept a part-time DH role with very limited time at first? And he doesn’t seem to make sense on a multi-year deal for the Yankees (although seeing that he hasn’t been offered one yet, maybe no one is willing to give him one).

          • Ted Nelson

            Agreed. There is a chance things play out in such a way that Pena makes a lot of sense, but also a chance that they play out in such a way that he doesn’t.

        • Monterowasdinero

          Pena will play 1B for the Brewers in 2012/13 and 14.

          • BK2ATL

            Makes the most sense for Pena and the Brewers. Fulltime 1B gig for a contender in a lineup that will be complete when Braun returns from PED suspension. Brewers get a quality 1B stopgap after Fielder.

            The Yankees can only offer Pena a platoon DH/backup 1B gig…. There’s only so many years in a player’s career. Can’t waste your pay days and diminish your own value.

            • Ted Nelson

              Might not diminish his own value in NY… might have a career year in YS3 getting limited PAs against LHP.

  • Bacciagaloop

    I don’t see why he would be an option as a right handed hitter, when they have already signed Jones. We need a lefty, or someone who doesn’t have terrible splits. Really like the Billy Butler talks.

    • Ted Nelson

      He’s a better long-term option at 25 signed through 2015, but Butler’s going to make $8 million next season… so I’d probably try to sign Pena got ~$10 million if he’s amiable to a one year deal rather than pony up prospects for and pay Butler.

  • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

    I’ve been seeing many people mentioning Bubba Crosby. I really only remember Damon giving him a Rolex to change his number from 18 to 19.

  • Reggie C.

    Jova probably has a shane spencer like streak or two in that bat. That’s the man’s ceiling if he can’t adjust.

    • ThatstheMelkyMesaWaysa

      So to make it modern, he’s a longer term Shelley Duncan? Without the brutal high fives, of course

      • Rick in Boston

        Duncan at least had a bit of defensive value.

  • paul a

    How about Vad Guerrero.He might be had pretty cheap.

    • jsbrendog

      jermaine dye is probably still alive

      • MannyGeee

        Barry Bonds…

  • Paul VuvuZuvella

    A World Series Contender with means should not go into the season with a Question Mark at DH. Put him back in AAA and bring him up if there is an injury. He should be Plan B, not Plan A.

  • Ted Nelson

    To me Jones is really a key to the whole thing. While Jones being the 4th OF and a DH option might allow them to carry Chato on the roster for a while to see what he can do in MLB… he’s probably better at the same position (DH).

  • CP

    Wouldn’t it be better to just have Andruw Jones DH and keep a defensive outfielder on the roster?

    • Monterowasdinero

      Golson is still out there!

  • Elmgrovegnome

    I wonder if Kevin Long has tried working with Vasquez.

    • Fishjam

      Read the Kevin Long article by John Norris. Didn’t say if he really worked with him but said the organization has tried to get him to be more selective but it hasn’t worked.

      He was not very complimentary of JoVa. Basically said his .250 batting average in AAA would translate to a .200 BA in the Majors because of his terrible strike zone discipline.

  • Luisergi

    All for it, just give the guy a chance to compete, if he comes out of spring training the way he did last year, i think would be very hard to not put him in the roster…

    Just FYI; “Chato” doesn’t mean short and chunky.
    Chato is word used tu describe the shape of a person’s nose, as snub nose, or a smashed one.

    • Ted Nelson

      I have no idea how Jorge Vazquez came by the nickname, but the term is also used for body type.

      • Andy in Sunny Daytona

        It’s because he has a flat face.

      • inpinstripes

        The term for short and stocky body type is “Chapo”. “Chato” is about one´s nose…

    • Tom Swift

      Just curious — what’s a typical (Spanish) nickname for someone short and chunky?

      • Luisergi

        Gordo y Chaparro :)

      • Fishjam


      • Peter North

        “Luis Sojo”

        • Luisergi

          I actually laughed when the image of luis sojo came to my mind jeje.

  • Whizzo the Wize

    Whizzo likes one of these guys.

  • JohnC

    How bout Russell Branyan? He strikes out alot, like Pena, but he will hit some absolute bombs in Yankee Stadium, and can play 1st base like Pena

    • MannyGeee

      so the older more expensive JoVa? meh

    • MannyGeee

      also, I think there’s a 1 Russell per team rule in the by-laws somewhere. I think its in the new CBA right under ‘Lets Screw The Yankees.’

  • mike

    Damon makes so much sense its essentailly a no-brainer.

    Pena will want to play every day and command big money, and wasn’t excited to be a DH on this team / the best team in baseball during a pennant race last year to the point he nullified a trade. there is little chance of him chosing to do so for a full year at less monies.

    matsui is just being called to drive the price down on Damon

    Damon doesnt have a pronounced split issue, will hit for power at YS, can move all over the lineup, has plus baserunning skills and showed he can DH last year. Knows NY, knows the media, knows half the team already so little transition. He can go in the outfield and not embara…., ok- that me getting excited, but he certainly can play the OF in a pinch, unlike Pena.

    1/4mm + incentives

    • Darren

      You make a lot of good points. Especially about Pena, I didn’t realize that he nullified a trade to the yankees last year

  • BronxBomber987

    Does anyone else see the comparisons to Trumbo and JoVa? A player that can crush pitches but can’t get on base more that 30% of the time. I don’t see why everyone loves Trumbo but hates JoVa, I hate them both.

    • GardnergoesYardner

      I agree, and I also think Trumbo is in for a major decline this year. But people are suckers for the long ball more than OBP. Guess Moneyball didn’t do enough to popularize the concept.

      • jsbrendog

        somewhere steve balboni is cheering while he binge eats hot dogs

    • vin

      Trumbo and JoVa have similar production… except Trumbo’s came in the big leagues, while JoVa’s occurred in AAA. That’s a tremendously huge difference.

      • vin

        Not to mention the fact that Trumbo is 4 years younger and has that much more wiggle room to develop as a hitter.

        In Trumbo’s only season in AAA, his walk rate was 3% and his strikeout rate was 12% better than the 29 year old Vazquez.

        There’s virtually no comparison between these two players.

  • Craig Maduro

    I’ll reiterate what someone said above…

    The Yankees, a perennial World Series contender, have no business at all rolling into the season with slop at the DH spot.

    • pat

      The Yankees, a perennial World Series contender, have no business at all rolling into the season with slop at the DH spot in the starting rotation.

      • MannyGeee


        • Robinson Tilapia

          Yet, sometimes, both are going to happen.

          • Sweet Dick Willie

            And despite both occasionally happening, they will still contend.

      • Craig Maduro

        I’m not refuting your point at all. Not only that, but I agree. I’m just saying that there are halfway decent options out there. Maybe they’re a bit pricey, but there is still no reason to roll out with the JoVa’s and Matsui’s (with all due respect) of the world.

        • Fishjam

          I agree….no way on JoVa. Matsui is unlikely also although I think he would have a bounce back season in NY.

          Damon seems like the perfect fit although I’d love to see them make a trade. The guy I really wanted was just traded to Oakland…Seth Smith. He clobbers RHP and has 3 years of team control to potentially play RF next yr.

          IMO they need a LH bat since the team had a pronounced platoon split and wasn’t as good vs RHP. Would also prefer someone with a .300+ average vs RHP not another low BA guy with some power.

          A LH bat that could play some 3B would be very interesting….Daniel Murphy, Chase Headley?

    • GardnergoesYardner

      Yet they found it perfectly acceptable to open up the season directly after their 27th championship with Nick Johnson at DH.
      Say what you will about him, he wasn’t going to be good even if he miraculously stayed healthy.

      • Ted Nelson

        Yeah, because he didn’t have a .373 wOBA the season before… oh, wait… he did. He doesn’t own a career .401 OBP… oh, wait… he does.

        Are you really the same guy who just cited Monetball on OBP above?

        • Craig Maduro

          Thanks. I would have responded in a similar fashion, but you saved me the time.

      • thenamestsam

        That is some serious revisionist history. Nick Johnson sports a career .370 wOBA. He was never going to be healthy, but he’s actually extremely good when he’s on the field.

        • GardnergoesYardner

          Ok he’s a useful player, so what I said was wrong. I just don’t consider him one, mostly due to health. Still, it’s not like the Yankees haven’t had useless players at DH before.

  • pat

    Konerko for Adam Warren and George Kontos plz.

  • GardnergoesYardner

    What do you think Sterling’s home run call for him would be?
    Chato uses his bat-o?

    • jsbrendog

      wouldnt he just stick with jorgie juices one?

    • Rainbow Connection

      I wish: “Suzyn! My left arm hurts!”

  • Ariel Dava

    Give JoVa a chane !

  • Robinson Tilapia

    While I’m for giving guys like Vazquez a shot, I feel like we’ve seen this movie a zillion times before, dating back to that turn-of-the-century Highlander slugger with the giant hole in his bat, Stanislav Maas Duncan.

    He shouldn’t be “Plan A,” but I suppose you could make for a worse “Plan B” or “C.”

    I’m not opposed to the retread option, but I think “nothing” would be just fine as a “Plan A” as well.

  • MannyGeee

    So the poor man’s Russell Branyon? the homeless man’s David Ortiz? with 3 options left??

    Fuck it, I’m game.

  • Kosmo

    Warren or Phelps for KCs Clint Robinson. A lefthanded hitter who has mashed all the way thru the minors. He may be the reason Billy Butler´s name is being mentioned in trade talks.

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      He may be the reason Billy Butler´s name is being mentioned in trade talks.

      If that’s the case, don’t you think it would take more than Warren or Phelps to land him?

      • Kosmo

        Sickels ranks Robinson as the Royals 18th best prospect and he is 26 years old .He seems to be a very good hitter but has flown under the radar, it might be because he was a low draft choice plus he´s blocked. I think Warren, a decent prospect, for Robinson would be a very even deal.
        On the other hand Butler is making 36 million over 4 years to DH while Robinson would be at league minimum. If KC frees up the Butler money they could conceivably, for example go after Edwin Jackson.

  • ADam

    Id love to see JoVA on the big league roster, He can play the cheaper Marcus Thames role and if you sign up Chavy you have a really deep bench in Jones, Nunez, Chavez, Vasquez, Cervelli.

    This allows the yanks to employ the rotating DH on a dime

  • Monterowasdinero

    One thing JoVa is:

    A tremendous batting practice hitter.

    I have seen him put on a show in BP at ST a few times. He’ll hit balls with power to all fields and do it in a progression. 5 shots to right, 5 to center, 5 to left. Best I’ve seen.

    Other players were watching and cheering.

    Alas, no one strikes out in bp.

  • CJ

    Jorge Vasquez option = bubba Crosby option


    I am just going to say, why would you bring in Pena and pay $8-10mil when you have someone from your own organization who can do the same. If you look at the projected ZIPS for 2012. Pena and Vazquez are very similar. If you gave both players 550ab’s Pena would hit .230, 35hr, 96rbi, and 181K’s. Vazquez would be at .235(but he will be higher), 31hr and 107rbi with 188K’s. Plus he hits righties just as good if not better than lefties! Why pay 8-10mil when we have the same production for minimum! Plus ZIPS has both Pena and Vazquez as ‘average’ at 1b. Vazquez was at .993% last year. He is good at first. At third he is playable with a very good arm, and will make the routine plays, but not a lot of range. All everyone ever says is why cant we just use home grown players like we used to with Jeter, Posada, Pettitte. You have a chance now with just a DH, and everyone just wants to keep spending!! Also, he will hit better when he gets to the Bronx. You have to realize that Chato is a National Superstar in Mexico. He is like Matsui is to Japan. Except the Japanese players get to the show right away. Chato was signed and was supposed to be a callup his first year, and then lucky him, Tex was signed two weeks later. Then he does what he did last spring, leading the Yanks with .412avg and a 1.200+ops, then sent down. Then in Scranton the first 37g (152ab) he hit .303, 16hr, 41rbi…insaine!! Then Chavez got hurt…ARod got hurt, and lesser players were getting called up. Every time he was skipped over he went in to a slump. It was very hard to focus when he was expecting a chance. In the Bronx he will be totally focused, and make more contact, which will bring up his obp because his BAC was .412 last year in AAA. Give Chato a chance to start the season. If he doesnt work out pick someone up at the trade deadline, if not sooner. And why Damon? I guess just for sentimental reasons? He is projected at .260 12hr, 57rbi. Your DH is supposed to be a run producer. Damon is not. And he cant play anywhere either! Again, try Vazquez. You can pick up anyone at anytime for what Damon will produce. Vazquez’s season totals in AAA and winter league, which is similar to AAA, in 177 games, including first round of playoffs, he has a .290avg, 52hr and 161rbi!!! If that isnt a reason to give him a chance at DH, I dont know what is!!!!!

    • Sweet Dick Willie

      If this was the answer to “Please explain why you are totally unqualified to be a MLB scout, citing specific examples”, you would get an A+.

  • RobertGKramer@AOL.Com

    If I’m correct, Chato has also missed significant time due to injury!

  • Matt DiBari

    I’ve always been a believer in “there’s probably a reason he’s 30 years old and in AAA”

    It used to be that the EVIL Joe Torre was up in his tower blocking these people out of spite (which didn’t explain why none of the other 29 teams seem to want them either). Of course, as it turned out, Andy Phillips just can’t hit a curveball.

    Yeah, maybe you stumble into Matt Stairs. They’re usually Andy Phillips.


      Lets find out!!!!!!!!!

  • Charles

    Give him a shot to compete with Matsui/Damon on a minor league deal. Let the guy who preforms the best win the platoon job with Jones.

    You could probably get Damon/Matsui to do this by giving them an opt out clause in Spring Training.

  • William Tasker

    Fantastic article. One small quibble. Miguel Olivo, according to the latest data that includes pitch framing, blocking pitches and such, was the 22nd best defensive catcher in 2011.

    But back to the topic at hand, I agree with the final assessment that Vazquez will struggle in the majors due to the plate discipline factor. I don’t expect the Yankees will take that route with their DH.