Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Yankees Seal up Rotation with Vazquez

Brian Cashman had spent the current off-season on the lookout for another starting pitcher. Today he landed one. The Yankees GM reacquired right-handed starter Javier Vazquez from the Atlanta Braves for popular outfielder Melky Cabrera. In addition, the Yankees received left-handed pitcher Boone Logan and sent pitchers Mike Dunn and Arodys Vizcaino to the Braves.

Vazquez was originally acquired by the Yankees prior to the 2004 season. Ironically, recent free agent signee Nick Johnson was part of a package (along with Juan Rivera and Randy Choate) that landed Vazquez from the Montreal Expos.

Vazquez started out like a house afire in the Bronx, winning 10 games and was selected to the 2004 AL All-Star team. But a sore shoulder, which he kept hidden from the team, contributed to a miserable second half (6.92 ERA in 14 starts). He sealed his fate in pinstripes when he gave up a pair of home runs to Johnny Damon (more irony), including a grand slam, in Game 7 of the '04 ALCS. Vazquez was sent to the Arizona Diamondbacks in January, 2005 as part of a deal for Randy Johnson.

The right-hander is a work-horse, having averaged 216.1 innings over the last decade. He's in the final year of a free agent deal he signed with the Chicago White Sox prior to the 2006 season (he was dealt to Atlanta - even more irony - with Logan during the last off-season.). Since he'll be a back end of the rotation guy, this was a good move by Cashman.

Cabrera had his ups and downs in the Bronx. He bounced back from a rough 2008, which included a minor league demotion, and losing his starting job, to posting career bests in home runs (13) and OPS (.752) in 2009.

He helped the Yankees to several walk off wins in 2009, hit for the cycle against the White Sox, and was a solid contributor to the Yankees 27th world championship. He became expendable with the recent acquisition of center fielder Curtis Granderson from Detroit. A solid defender with a strong accurate arm, Melky's value was never going to be higher and Cashman was smart to move him before his offense had a chance to take a dip next season.

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