Interest in Vazquez makes sense

November, 4, 2008
An interesting bit of news from the GM meetings ...

    DANA POINT, Calif. -- While White Sox GM Ken Williams has gone underground on responding to trade rumors, one from a well-placed source at the general managers meetings said the Mets had interest in Javier Vazquez.

    The source did not know what the Mets were offering in return, but it might not be much if they would take the entire $23 million owed to the right-hander for the next two seasons. The Mets are looking for at least one starting pitcher and maybe two.

    All Williams would say Monday at the opening of three days of business meetings for GMs was, "There are some things in preliminary discussions, but I don't expect anything to materialize. … I'm going to explore all the possibilities to win."

    Vazquez became expendable after a late-season meltdown in pressure games when he went 0-3 with a 13.50 ERA. He finished the season 12-16.


    Vazquez, who has a no-trade clause to West Coast teams, was fourth in the American League in strikeouts, but his only winning season in the last four was 2007, when he finished 15-8. He also had winning records in Montreal in the early 2000s when current Mets GM Omar Minaya worked there.

Here's a question: Which teams wouldn't have interest in Javier Vazquez?

Yes, it's true that Vazquez pitched poorly at the end of the season. It's also true that a lot depends on how you define "end of the season."

But in his previous nine starts -- all of them coming with the White Sox locked in a death match with the Twins -- Vazquez went 5-4 with a 2.79 ERA, giving up only two home runs (both in the same game). Granted, three of Vazquez's better games were against the Royals (twice) and the Athletics, two teams that simply couldn't hit. But for six weeks down the stretch, he was good and the White Sox might not have won the American League Central without him. When he did struggle in those last three starts, twice he was pitching on short rest; some pitchers can probably handle that, and some probably can't.

Those last three games certainly aren't a point in his favor. But in the context of his complete body of work, they're just one small data point. Vazquez' body of work includes 127 wins, a career ERA somewhat better than league average, and -- here's the best thing -- he's now made at least 32 starts in nine straight seasons. Over that span, only Greg Maddux and Livan Hernandez have started more games.

What's that worth? I mean, a pitcher who goes every five days every year and posts an ERA better than league average. Well, last winter Carlos Silva signed a four-year, $48 million contract. A few weeks ago, Kyle Lohse signed a four-year, $41 million deal. Now, Kyle Lohse has taken some unfair hits over the years, including a few in this very space. But Kyle Lohse dreams of being as good as Javier Vazquez.

The White Sox will trade Vazquez to any team that will simply take on the remaining $23 million on his contract? There's going to be a line around the block. But this is not a salary-dump situation. If somebody gets Vazquez it'll cost them $23 million and a solid prospect or two. Maybe he's not the guy to win the big game for you. But he's definitely one of the guys who will get you to the big games.


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