Yanks interested in Chien-Ming Wang, had “major interest” in Vazquez

As expected, the Yankees had someone on hand to scout Chien-Ming Wang during his World Baseball Classic start on Friday night and remain interested in signing him according to Joel Sherman and Jon Heyman. George King says his fastball was clocked in the 88-92 mph range, which is pretty good considering a) the extent of his shoulder injuries, and b) it’s only early-March. Wang, 32, held a weak Australia lineup to four singles in six scoreless innings despite the mandatory 65-pitch limit.

Meanwhile, Nick Cafardo says the Yankees were one of five teams with “major interest” in Javy Vazquez before he blew out his knee and required surgery. The 36-year-old reportedly threw the ball very well during his winter ball stint in Puerto Rico and was considering a return to MLB after sitting out last summer, though the knee injury is likely to keep him out all year. Despite Wang’s lack of success since his mid-2008 foot injury and Vazquez’s ugly stints in pinstripes, the Yankees aren’t leaving stones unturned as they search for a veteran starter to stash in Triple-A for depth. Wang looked pretty darn good the other night, I’d be cool with giving him a minor league deal if the medicals check out.

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Cafardo: Yankees monitoring Javy Vazquez in winter ball

Via Nick Cafardo: The Yankees are one of several teams who have been watching Javy Vazquez‘s recent winter ball outings in Puerto Rico. Bob Nightengale says he’s throwing 92-95 mph and scouts are raving.

Vazquez, 36, has pitched to a 3.52 ERA with 30 strikeouts and six walks in 23 innings across six winter ball starts. He sat out the 2012 season after pitching to a 3.69 ERA (3.57 FIP) with the Marlins in 2011, a season that included an utterly dominant second half and a mid-summer velocity spike. I guess he either got healthy or fixed his mechanics. A few clubs have been all over Javy recently and although the Yankees are expected to bottom-feed for rotation depth this month, I would be floored if they brought Vazquez back for a third tour of duty, even on a minor league contract. Doesn’t hurt to watch his starts though.

Past Trade Review: Javier Vazquez, Part II

(Photo by Andrew Burton/Getty)

TYA/Yankeeist readers may recall a semi-regular offseason feature I always greatly enjoyed doing, “Bizarre Moves from Seasons Past,” in which I’d examine a particular move or non-move the Yankees made and try to make sense of why they opted to go the way they did. For your reading enjoyment, here’s the full roster of previous “Bizarre Moves” posts:

I’d been racking my brain for some new entries in this series, but kept coming up blank until it finally hit me why: Brian Cashman and the Yankees haven’t really made any so-called “Bizarre” moves during the last few seasons. I won’t go so far as to say the transaction record has been flawless, but, for the most part, the trades, free agent signings and non-moves made by Cash since the 2008-2009 offseason have been understandable/defensible. Sure, we can all decry the A.J. Burnett contract now — and it certainly had its detractors back when it was signed — but the 2009 Yankees needed pitching, and though it may have been an overpay, Burnett filled an important need on the team that season.

Off the top of my head, the only flat-out terrible moves made by Cash — and here I’m defining flat-out terrible as “completely obvious to the entire world that they wouldn’t work out” — during the last couple of years were the additions of Randy Winn and Chan Ho Park. And even though they were pointless signings, it’s still hard to kill Cash for trying to bolster the bullpen and bench on the relatively cheap. I think we can all agree that nothing better underscores Cash’s restraint than his (non)activities during the previous calendar year (save Pedro Feliciano), which include remaining calm in the face of growing unrest regarding the pitching staff last January, and passing on unrealistic trades for questionable pitchers at last July’s trade deadline.

However, as quiet as Cash has been, we also know he won’t hesitate to pull the trigger on a deal when he thinks he’s found a good one. Being that the Javier Vazquez/Boone Logan for Melky Cabrera/Arodys Vizcaino/Mike Dunn deal was the last blockbuster trade Cash orchestrated, I thought I’d take a look back at it from RAB’s “Past Trade Review” perspective, as it really doesn’t fall under the “Bizarre Moves” heading. One other note — in fairness, Mike and Joe were a bit hesitant about me reviewing this deal seeing as how the book is still out on Vizcaino, but I think we can take a look at how the trade worked out given the other players involved while keeping Vizcaino in the backs of our minds.

Anyway.

Not content to rest on the laurels of the franchise’s 27th World Championship, Brian Cashman quickly went to work in the 2009-2010 offseason to bolster (stop me if you’ve heard this one before) the pitching staff, as the Yankees managed to win it all despite being just the second team in the last 20 years to utilize a three-man rotation throughout the entire postseason.

Noted workhorse and one-time Yankee Javier Vazquez — who Cashman had previously traded three players (Nick Johnson, Juan River, and Randy Choate) for in November 2003 following a superb season by Vazquez in which he struck out 9.4 men per nine, walked 2.2, and put up a pitcher triple slash 3.24 ERA/3.31 FIP/3.41 xFIP worth 6.0 fWAR, only to have Vazquez come apart at the seams in the second half of the 2004 season after an All-Star first half and subsequently get shipped out of town for Randy Johnson — was coming off a superb 2009 campaign with Atlanta, in which he racked up his fifth straight season of 200-plus innings (and 9th in the last 10 years), 2.87 ERA, and 9.77 K/9 and 1.81 BB/9, which led to a matching 2.77 FIP and xFIP, the latter of which led the entire National League.

With Brett Gardner showing that, at the very least, he was a reliable 4th outfielder if not outright platoon player, and the execrable Melky Cabrera coming off his 4th straight season of below-average offense (wRC+es of 98, 89, 69 and 94), the Yankees correctly made the no-brainer move of dealing from a position of strength in shipping the ever-underwhelming Cabrera to the Braves as the centerpiece of a deal that reunited Vazquez with the Yankees. Of course, Melky alone wasn’t enough (1.6 fWAR in 2009) to get a player of Vazquez’s caliber (fresh off a 6.5 fWAR campaign), and so the Yankees added the highly touted, right-handed, flame-throwing Arodys Vizcaino (who had just come off a 2.13 ERA/2.49 FIP season in 42.1 innings with Staten Island) and left-handed reliever Mike Dunn. The Braves also chipped in a lefty reliever of their own to complete the deal, sending Boone Logan to the Bronx.

After putting up a 4.91 ERA/4.78 FIP/4.51 xFIP in 198 innings (worth 2.2 fWAR) for the 2004 Yankees, there were high evenly tempered hopes that Home Run Javy’s second tour of duty as a Yankee would turn out significantly better. Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, as HRJ battled A.J. Burnett for much of the 2010 season to see who could be more historically awful. Javy wound up winning this ignominious battle with flying colors, putting up a 5.32 ERA/5.56 FIP/4.69 xFIP in 157.1 innings (worth -0.1 fWAR) and posting career-worsts in just about every major category.

However, for as wretched as Javy was in his second go-round with the Yanks, Melky was arguably even worse for the Braves, tying Carlos Lee for the least-valuable player in all of MLB in 2010. Somehow, both men found new employers for 2011 and each enjoyed an absurd amount of success relative to their 2010 failures, with Vazquez recording a 3.69/3.57/3.87 year in 192.2 innings (worth 3.2 fWAR) for the Marlins, while Melky had the year of his life in Kansas City, boasting a .305/.339/.470 slash in a season worth 4.2 fWAR. Suffice it to say, I don’t think either player would ever have put those respective seasons up at any point as members of the Yankees. Melky maybe, but Vazquez pretty clearly needs the National League to be a successful pitcher. In any event, if you look at the trade primarily as a Melky-for-Javy swap, I’d still say the Yankees wound up ahead even with Javy’s terrible season, as he out-fWARed Melky by 0.9.

What about the secondary components of the trade? For all the griping about Boone Logan, he’s actually been pretty effective as the Yankees’ sole left-handed reliever these last two seasons, putting up 0.7 combined fWAR across just over 80 innings (yes, I know fWAR is near-worthless in assessing relievers, but I’m using it anyway). Mike Dunn threw 19.1 frames for the Braves in 2010 (1.89 ERA/3.61 FIP) and walked 8.05(!) men per nine, before hooking on with the Marlins this past season and hurling 63 innings of 3.43 ERA/4.30 FIP ball, almost halving that absurd walk rate (though it still checked in at an unsightly 4.43 per nine) but not enough to provide positive value to the team (-0.1 fWAR). I’d say the Yankees got the better end of the left-handed reliever swap as well.

Unfortunately for the Yankees, while they may not regret losing Melky or Dunn, they almost certainly regret including Vizcaino — who ranked 16th on Baseball America’s midseason Top 50 list this past season, and currently checks in as the Braves’ second-best prospect overall on both BA’s list and John Sickels‘, behind only Julio Teheran — in the deal, as Vizacaino rocketed through the Braves’ system and reached the big league club this past August, throwing 17.1 innings of 4.67 ERA/3.54 FIP ball out of the bullpen with an 8.83 K/9. Vizcaino — still just 21 years old —  is expected to compete for a rotation spot on the staff come Spring Training. While the Yankees have their share of minor league pitching talent knocking on the door, having Vizcaino — who our own Mike Axisa would have slotted as #3 in between Manny Banuelos and Dellin Betances on his  Top 30 Yankee Prospect list — in the mix for a potential rotation spot would certainly make the team’s 2012 starting rotation picture a bit less fuzzy.

Catching Up with Some Ex-Yankees

He looked nice in pinstripes, but he looks at home in the Cubbie blue & white, no? (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin)

Aside from the clean-slate record, an awesome thing about the start of the new season is the batch of new players that comes in. Whether they be rookies coming up from the minors, off-season trades or free agent/pre-arbitration signings, it’s always interesting to see who’s becoming a Yankee this year.

Of course, with the arrival of new Yankees, others depart. Some of which we’re glad to see go, be that due to injury or ineffectiveness, and others we long to have back. I’d bet there’s a pretty strong correlation between who’s performing away from the Bronx and who would look better if they were back for another year in pinstripes. Considering the attention paid to the Yankee rotation and some recent bullpen drama, I thought it would be interesting to look at some of the pitchers the Yanks let go and see how they were doing around the league.

Kerry Wood

Wood rode into the bullpen like a knight in shining Cubbie armor in the 2010 season, wowing everyone. It’s imagine everything aligning better for Wood during his short stay in pinstripes: none of his bequeathed runners scored, his stuff was great, he was saving rear ends left and right. Though Wood had an expensive option, there was no way the Yankees were paying closer money to a man who would almost certainly not repeat his unsustainably good 2010 performance. Wood raced back to the Cubs and signed for $1.5M. He’s racked up an impressive 2.15 ERA and 4.49 FIP, though the 95% LOB is likely to drop. Even so, the 2:1 K/BB ratio is extremely promising.

"How about some support?" (AP Photo/Jim Prisching)

Dustin Moseley

The spot-starter/longman for the Yankees signed at the pitcher’s heaven of Petco Park and has found himself a home in the Padres’ rotation. He’s making a comfortable $900k and is, uh, pitching his brains out, to say the least. In his five starts, he’s pitched to a 1.99 ERA (3.90 FIP). The Adrian Gonzalez-less Padres offense, which is slightly feebler than a dead rabbit, has really gotten behind his strong performance, and helped him go…… 0-3. In his five starts, the Padres have scored him a total of two runs. Pretty sad. Although his numbers are likely to go up (Moseley isn’t likely to hold down his .243 BABIP or hold up his 81% strand rate), it’s pretty freaking impressive as is.

Chad Gaudin

Gaudin also making $900K in the NL, though his home is located across the country in Nationals Park. The man’s picked up right where he left off with the Yankees, throwing spectacularly mediocre stuff and getting knocked all around because of it. In his 8 innings, he’s given up 12 hits, six ER (one homer), and eight walks. The only positive thing about his line is the 10Ks, but it’s not helping anything else. I wonder if Riggleman will have the same fascination with him that Girardi did.

Sergio Mitre

All right, I know you’re really interested in hearing about: the man that Marc Carig of the Star Ledger calls The Experience. Although he technically started off the year as a Yankee, Mitre’s been shipped over to the Brewers in exchange for Chris Dickerson. In his tiny 9 IP sample, he’s managed to give up six hits, three ER and a homer, and walk more batters (3) than he’s struck out (2). Of course, this is a tiny sample, and Mitre could get his act together and become the Rolaids Relief Man Closer we all know he could be. Right? Right?

(AP/Dave Martin)

Alfredo Aceves

The man they call Ace fought injures all through 2010, and because of that (and who knows what else), Cashman decided not to tender him a contract. The Red Sox picked Aceves up for a microscopic $650k. He’s been pretty effective for them too, making six appearances and racking up a 2.25 ERA. Way less impressive is his 5.80 FIP, helped out by the two home runs he’s given up. It’s hard for me to want a guy in Boston to succeed, but Ace was pretty awesome for the Yankees when they needed him, and I don’t know if I’m quite ready to let him go just yet. Silly sentimental me.

Javier Vazquez

Two trips to the Bronx still couldn’t cure Javy’s problems: a dead fastball and a reputation that wasn’t going to leave once it stuck his first time around. Vazquez has over 2,600 IP on his arm – I don’t even want to know how many pitches he’s thrown – and that wear and tear is becoming evident. Vazquez signed with the Marlins for $7M and he’s basically the same old Javy: a junkball and some other stuff being whomped around by better hitters. He’s made four starts and walked more than he’s struck out, even if his h/9 is still under one. 20 IP is too small a sample to really paint a picture, but here’s some food for thought: his average fastball velocity was 89 MPH in 2010. His average fastball velocity in 2011 so far is 88.4.

* * *

The Yankees pitching staff is pretty band-aided together right now, but quite frankly I don’t have a problem with it. If Nova wants to go 6.1IP and feel good about, awesome. If Colon wants to show off his amazing two-seamer and a 96 MPH fastball, even better! Honestly, if the worst thing that happens to Freddy Garcia is that he gives up a home run to Jose Bautista, things are going pretty well. Yeah, Garcia is going to throw some crappy pitches. But luckily, there are lots of crappy hitters out there to compensate. Plus, it’s basically impossible not to have Bautista homer off you these days. That should not be the standard of judgment. Also, go Freddy. And someone give the guy a towel, will you? He’s looking kind of shiny out there on the mound.

Vazquez lands with the Marlins

Via MLBTR, Javy Vazquez has agreed to a one-year deal for some unknown amount of money with the Florida Marlins. It makes sense, NL team in a big park nice and close to his home in Puerto Rico. Javy still has to pass a physical before the deal becomes official and the Yankees get their extra draft pick, and I guess that’s not a given considering his utter lack of stuff at the end of the season. Either way, I wish him luck and hope the Yankees get to face him in the 2011 World Series.