The answer to the question is an old friend from the past…
It was no secret that the Yankees were actively seeking to fill an open spot in the rotation and the word was that it would be accomplished by year end. As it were, the Yankees wrapped the package up prior to Christmas. The result is the return of Javier Vazquez….
When I first heard the deal, I was a little upset at what the Yankees gave up (Melky Cabrera, Michael Dunn, and Arodys Vizcaino). However, after having time to let it sink in, I am okay with it so long as the Yankees can come up with a decent alternative for left field. Brett Gardner is not an every day player, and at this point, neither is Jamie Hoffmann. Perhaps Gardner can be part of a platoon, but the other half is not currently on the roster.
Vazquez was a Yankee for one brief season. But it was a very painful season. For years, we had grown up knowing that the Boston Red Sox had been suffering from the Curse of Babe Ruth prior to our own births. However, in 2004, the Red Sox finally shook the curse and defeated the mighty Yankees despite being down 3 games to none in the American League Championship Series. The defining moment occurred in Game 7 when Johnny Damon hit a grand slam off Javier Vazquez. The win propelled the Red Sox to the World Series and an eventual championship that could have belonged to the Yankees. After the season, the Yankees packaged Vazquez in a deal to Arizona that netted Randy Johnson. At the time, Vazquez didn’t want to leave the Yankees but “public opinion” was clearly against him and the Yankees fans didn’t cry too much as Vazquez headed for the Sonoran Desert.
Nevertheless, spin forward 5 years, and Vazquez has proven consistency and durability. 2009 was perhaps his finest year with Atlanta Braves as he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA. Injuries, including pink eye, kept 2009 from being even more successful. When you are throwing around names like Ben Sheets, Justin Duchscherer, Aaron Harang, and others, I have to admit that Vazquez is the best case scenario. Admittedly, I would have preferred a Bronx return by Ted Lilly but there probably wasn’t any way that the Chicago Cubs were going to let him go. The Yankees tried hard for Cliff Lee, but the Phillies felt they needed to send Lee as far from Philly as they could given the backlash they’d receive by dealing him. Understood. So all things considered, Javier Vazquez as your number 4 starter is a pretty good situation. I’d take Vazquez in a head-to-head match up against John Lackey so I think the move was a good counter to Boston’s free agent signing.
Curtis Compton/Atlanta Journal Constitution
It is ironic that Damon’s departure is met by Vazquez’s return. It is equally ironic that Vazquez and DH Nick Johnson will be teammates given they were once traded for each other. Hopefully, this ends the Yankees’ attempt at a 2003-04 reunion tour. We really don’t need to see a return performance by Jason Giambi. Sorry, G, I loved you in pinstripes but that day has passed.
The Yankees did manage to secure a bullpen part with the Vazquez trade. They also acquired pitcher Boone Logan. Gotta love the name. Logan is a lefty but is probably more of a one batter specialist. The Yankees are hopeful that Damaso Marte will continue at the level he displayed late in the season. Logan was acquired by the Atlanta Braves in the same trade that brought Vazquez from the Chicago White Sox. So, once again, Logan and Vazquez are intertwined…and hopefully the duo will prove to be very successful in the Bronx. Vazquez is a free agent after 2010, so it’s possible that this is another one-and-done Yankee performance, but it is my hope that he proves he belongs in pinstripes.
The Yankees also signed free agent catcher Mike Rivera (formerly of the Milwaukee Brewers). So long as Rivera is slotted for the third catching spot, I am okay with the move. I feel that Francisco Cervelli deserves the primary shot to be Jorge Posada’s backup, but a veteran influence like Rivera can’t hurt.
So, now the question is what the Yankees will do about left field? The Vazquez trade brings the payroll to nearly $200 million which is the alleged budget for 2010. Perhaps they’ll need to offload Chad Gaudin and/or Sergio Mitre (among others), but room can be made for a capable left fielder. Alas, it won’t be Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (or even Johnny Damon), but I have confidence that GM Brian Cashman won’t leave the team shortchanged.
All these moves do have the potential of disrupting team chemistry so I am hopeful that the team is able to mesh in spring training. From a character standpoint, I have no reservations with Curtis Granderson, Nick Johnson, or Javier Vazquez, so I think they’ll be fine. But as they say, the proof is in the pudding…