2008 Offseason: SP Vazquez as a trade target
November 3, 2008 1 Comment
The Red Sox rotation features three potential aces, but could benefit from a little bump in terms of stability and performance, I think we can all agree. Instead of sinking tons of money into CC Sabathia or A.J. Burnett, what if we look at trading for someone like Javier Vazquez? The White Sox have basically said that they will be looking to trade his salary elsewhere this offseason, and I propose that we nab him while the nabbing’s good.
Why we want him
He’s underrated. Theo Epstein is always preaching about value signings and getting value back in trades. Vazquez is seen as an underachiever of sorts, because he’s had some very good seasons, but is a .500 pitcher. Indeed, his ERA+ is just 105, but that belies his career 7.99 K/9 and strong 3.32 K/BB ratio. His career FIP ERA is 3.93, almost 0.40 runs below his actual 4.32 ERA. Look at his PITCHf/x data, he is very stable in terms of velocity and break, so he is not slipping as a pitcher. At 32 years old, Vazquez will be the reliable, proven veteran we need, and a lot better than a Paul Byrd-type who we can pick up at the trading deadline.
He’s the definition of a workhorse. Call him an innings-eater if you must, but Vazquez has made at least 32 starts EVERY YEAR since the 2000 season, and he’s failed to reach 200 IP just once in that time (198 IP in 2004). No more Bartolo Colon being unable to start because he pulled a muscle reaching for the barbeque sauce. He’s pretty equally good against righties and lefties, and he will get you deep into games, resting your bullpen and improving their overall performance as well.
He complements this rotation. Vazquez is a different style of pitcher from what the Sox feature in this rotation. He relies on changing speeds and mixing up his pitches in order to succeed. At the same time, he’s the kind of high-strikeout, low-walk pitcher the front office loves.
He’s signed for short years. Instead of committing to a 5-year, $100M deal with a free agent, the Sox would be getting a good pitcher who’s signed for 2 years and $23M. With pitchers like Clay Buchholz, Justin Masterson and Michael Bowden knocking at the door, we don’t want to sign our whole rotation long-term for big dollars.
Why a deal could work
He’s available. The White Sox are trying to dump his salary, and we can afford it. The Yankees, who also need pitching, can afford it too, but they gave him a shot in 2004 and didn’t like him; Brian Cashman is not going to try and require him. The Angels could be players for Vazquez, but they will be tight on money after re-signing Mark Teixeira, and they don’t want to trade Chone Figgins. Kenny Williams would love to land Brian Roberts, but it doesn’t make that much sense for the rebuilding Orioles to trade for a veteran starter like Vazquez unless they plan to extend him beyond two years, and that seems unlikely.
The needs match up. GM Ken Williams has shown interest in Coco Crisp in the past, and Manager Ozzie Guillen likes him too. Williams has stated a desire to get faster and more athletic this offseason. They could use him in centerfield, as Nick Swisher should be more of a corner guy at this stage in his career. Chicago needs a middle infielder, and we happen to have one available in Julio Lugo. Lugo paired with Alexei Ramirez could be a good 2B/SS combo for them. Guillen has a clubhouse that is very Latino-friendly, so if the Sox were to pay some of Lugo’s money, they might take him.
These are two players that are kind of expendable in the Boston organization. At the same time, they fill a lot of the holes in the White Sox roster, while making them younger (but not too young) and athletic all at once. The White Sox suddenly become a basestealing team if they add these two guys, and would greatly improve their outfield defense. If the Red Sox offer up Crisp, Lugo and cash, they should be able to get the White Sox to bite on this deal. If Williams doesn’t want Lugo, they could explore adding a pitcher in there as well.