View From The Bleachers

October 10, 2011

Could He Be A Cub: Javier Vazquez

Filed under: Featured,General — Buddy @ 2:00 pm

It goes without saying that the 2011 Cubs were starting-pitching challenged. Assuming the new GM won’t get suckered into the C.J. Wilson bidding war, where can the Northsiders find help on the mound?

One intriguing option is free agent starter Javier Vazquez. 2011 was a tale of two seasons for the 35-year-old Vazquez.  His first half numbers were dreadful: 18 starts, 5-8 (if you care about record), 5.23 ERA, 1.50 WHIP, 1.94 K/BB ratio.

I watched more than my share of Marlins games last year, and Vazquez looked like he was done from April to July.  His missing velocity returned in the second half, and the results followed: 14 starts, 8-3 (again, if you care about record), 2.15 ERA, 0.86 WHIP, 6.00 K/BB ratio.

The current rumor is that Vazquez plans to retire, but could he be enticed by a one-year pay raise? He made $7 million in 2011, so it might take $8 to $10 million to bring the veteran righty to Chicago. Will that be too rich for the Cubs’ blood?

Vazquez is under appreciated in my humble opinion. Early in his career he racked up impressive “under-the-radar” numbers in Montreal. A couple forgettable campaigns for the Yankees and White Sox tagged him with the label of “choker.” Former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen went out of his way to publicly rip Vazquez. Classy!

Is Vazquez a Hall of Famer? Of course not. But he’s racked up 2,800 respectable big-league innings during his 14-year career. Vazquez is a strike-throwing machine who always takes the ball (he’s never made less than 26 starts in a season). Not too shabby for a potential third or fourth starter.

The next GM has many important decisions to make. From a philosophical standpoint, he has to decide if 2012 is a complete rebuilding year or a quick-fix opportunity. If he goes with option B, a pitcher like Vazquez could be the perfect fit.

I’m certainly not smart enough to predict the future, but I’m willing to bet that the Cubs new GM won’t sit on the sidelines this off season. Prince Fielder is almost certainly leaving Milwaukee, which obviously weakens the NL Central. Albert Pujols could leave St. Louis, but I honestly don’t see that happening. The Cardinals should be competitive either way. The Reds could be in the hunt, but Dusty’s team has plenty of weaknesses. The Pirates and Astros? Well, they’re the Pirates and Astros.

In this era of baseball parity, the Cubs are unlikely to give away the 2012 season. In order to compete, they have to drastically improve the starting rotation. Signing the under appreciated Javier Vazquez to a club-friendly deal could be a big step in that direction.

Javier Vazquez Career Numbers

Year Age Tm W L ERA GS IP SO ERA+ WHIP H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
1994 17 WSN-min 5 2 2.53 11 67.2 56 0.768 4.9 0.0 2.0 7.4 3.73
1995 18 WSN-min 6 6 5.08 21 102.2 87 1.519 9.6 0.7 4.1 7.6 1.85
1996 19 WSN-min 14 3 2.68 27 164.1 173 1.187 7.6 0.7 3.1 9.5 3.04
1997 20 WSN-min 10 3 1.86 25 154.2 147 0.989 6.6 0.6 2.3 8.6 3.68
1998 21 MON 5 15 6.06 32 172.1 139 69 1.532 10.2 1.6 3.6 7.3 2.04
1999 22 WSN-min 4 2 4.85 7 42.2 46 1.430 9.5 1.5 3.4 9.7 2.88
1999 22 MON 9 8 5.00 26 154.2 113 90 1.332 9.0 1.2 3.0 6.6 2.17
2000 23 MON 11 9 4.05 33 217.2 196 119 1.415 10.2 1.0 2.5 8.1 3.21
2001 24 MON 16 11 3.42 32 223.2 208 130 1.077 7.9 1.0 1.8 8.4 4.73
2002 25 MON 10 13 3.91 34 230.1 179 109 1.268 9.5 1.1 1.9 7.0 3.65
2003 26 MON 13 12 3.24 34 230.2 241 139 1.105 7.7 1.1 2.2 9.4 4.23
2004 27 NYY 14 10 4.91 32 198.0 150 92 1.288 8.9 1.5 2.7 6.8 2.50
2005 28 ARI 11 15 4.42 33 215.2 192 101 1.247 9.3 1.5 1.9 8.0 4.17
2006 29 CHW 11 12 4.84 32 202.2 184 98 1.293 9.1 1.0 2.5 8.2 3.29
2007 30 CHW 15 8 3.74 32 216.2 213 126 1.140 8.2 1.2 2.1 8.8 4.26
2008 31 CHW 12 16 4.67 33 208.1 200 98 1.320 9.2 1.1 2.6 8.6 3.28
2009 32 ATL 15 10 2.87 32 219.1 238 143 1.026 7.4 0.8 1.8 9.8 5.41
2010 33 NYY 10 10 5.32 26 157.1 121 81 1.398 8.9 1.8 3.7 6.9 1.86
2011 34 FLA 13 11 3.69 32 192.2 162 106 1.183 8.3 1.0 2.3 7.6 3.24
14 Seasons 165 160 4.22 443 2840.0 2536 105 1.249 8.8 1.2 2.4 8.0 3.32
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  • Dusty Baylor

    Well if Vazquez would sign a $8mill/1 year deal…sure? $9 mill? Any more than that? No thanks. He’s always had good to great stuff, but his results are not always fantastic.
    Garza
    Dempster
    ?
    ?
    Wells
    I don’t know if spending a ton of money on CJ Wilson is the right answer either….but the Cubs have so many holes…I’d damn near punt 2012, and see if there’s any on the AA-AAA pitchers the Cubs have that will have some success. Trial by fire baby!

  • Buddy

    I hope the Cubs pass on C.J. Wilson. That will be another gigantic mega-contract.

  • Norm Bothwell

    He *could* be, but I’d bet that he retires. Pretty good career for Vazquez.

  • Jedi

    Double-digit wins and losses in virtually every year of his career; that can’t be a coincidence. He’s basically a .500 pitcher. Don’t we have enough mediocre pitchers that are cheap?

    Now if the price was something more reasonable it might be worth it. But didn’t we just do the “one-year contract for a mediocre player” dance? I wasn’t thrilled with how that worked out…I’d rather have the money to help us jettison Zambrano and/or Soriano.

    Only if Vasquez comes cheap! $10mil is not cheap.

  • Buddy

    Jedi, you’re just stirring the pot/messing with us regarding pitcher records, right?

  • Jedi

    No, look – I know someone’s going to go there and start something. But Vasquez’s career numbers are 4.22 ERA, 1.249 WHIP; he tends to have decent strikeout rates and he’ll eat innings. What about that sounds better than average/mediocre? He’s basically Randy Wells with a slightly lower WHIP.

    And yes, I fully acknowledge that wins/losses for pitchers don’t always tell the full story. But that doesn’t render them useless. Vasquez is average, and his record is average, and it’s roughly the same every year; why is it that we immediately have to subscribe to the “wins and losses don’t tell you anything” camp? Just because they don’t tell you everything doesn’t mean they tell you nothing. Vasquez’s trend tell me a lot – he’s an average pitcher, throws a lot of innings (which tends to make his record more meaningful).

    I think his next team can expect to be getting a guy who will eat innings, stay relatively healthy, and probably deserve a win just as often as he deserves a loss.

  • Jedi

    Buddy – let me put it this way.

    Hypothetically, is it possible that Vasquez should’ve had a 20-3 record in 2007 instead of 15-8? Sure, that’s very possible. Matt Garza’s 2011 should help indicate that such a swing in a single year is very possible. Wins and losses don’t always go to the right guy.

    Are you going to convince me that instead of a 165-160 career record that Vasquez really deserves a 190-135 record? Not likely. Unless there’s a specific reason for the huge swing (like if you’re Rich Harden and you pitch an incredible 5 innings, but every start your bullpen is forced to pitch the other 4 innings and consequently you lose a lot of wins when the bullpen blows leads). Vasquez pitches deep into games generally anyway, he’s often around when the game is decided. I would bet that over his career that as often as he’s screwed out of a win, he’s also bailed out of a loss.

  • Buddy

    I don’t have it in front of me, but I’m willing to bet the league-average ERA over those same 14 years is higher than 4.22. Anyway, it doesn’t really matter. Nobody is saying he’s Roger Clemens. Just a useful starter who…

    A) Will almost certainly be durable
    B) Has a reasonable chance to be better than league average
    C) Would likley only require a one-year deal

    However, as I said in the article, and as Norm also commented, Vazquez is hinting that he may retire. We’ll see.

  • Buddy

    My purpose for writing the article wasn’t to convince anybody of anything. Basically, I just wanted to profile an interesting (and IMO underappreciated) free agent pitcher who might be a fit for the 2012 Cubs. As always, the comments and discussion are appreciated!

  • mjp86

    Career 8 K/9 and last season’s 7.6 K/9 is better than average, especially for a durable guy…

  • Norm Bothwell

    His ERA was 5% better than league average, but durability makes him better than average. However, that isn’t a skill that’s very projectable, especially at his age.

    But I don’t understand how not signing an $8M free agent helps the Cubs get rid of Soriano or Zambrano. Someone want to clue me in?

  • Chuck

    A mediocre pitcher that will pitch a lot of innings does have value.

  • Jedi

    Norm, Soriano is a credit card. The Cubs ran up the bill and committed to payment terms. Two ways to deal with it at this point, keep paying the balance down and don’t worry about how it affects your credit score (the current path); or pay the balance off sooner and restore your credit (my preference). The sooner we are freed from Soriano and Zambrano the sooner we have two roster spots, the sooner we have a clearer picture about what future annual budgets can/will be, the sooner we can plug in a new player to an everyday position. The more cash we have, the more leverage we have to negotiate their departure (a team trading with the Cubs would find it a lot more attractive if we were agreeing to pay 75% of Soriano’s remaining deal within one year, instead of spread over 3 or 4 years).

  • http://swantron.com jswanson

    You made a very strong argument for a very average pitcher…here’s to Buddy

  • Norm Bothwell

    So Soriano is owed 3 years, $56 million.
    You want the Cubs to trade him with, say, $39 million up front rather than $13M per year?

  • Buddy

    Not to sound like a broken record, but nobody is taking Soriano off the Cubs’ hands. I don’t even think the Cubs could pull off a Soriano-for-Bay, or a Soriano-for-Zito swap. Believe it or not, there’s still three years and $54 million left on Soriano’s deal. If you think Soriano sucks in LF and on the bases now, wait until we get to watch him at age 39!

  • Jedi

    I’d rather have us negotiating with as much as possible.

    For instance, let’s say right now Ricketts is prepared to pay 50% ($28mil) of Soriano’s deal in a trade. If we don’t sign Player X for a one-year $10mil deal, doesn’t that mean that perhaps Ricketts could offer potentially $38mil for someone to take Soriano off our hands? It should. Because by not signing Player X he will have more cash in 2012 to get out from under these bad deals.

    And yes, if the difference in timing of payments gets Soriano or Zambrano out the door, then absolutely I want that. Doesn’t everyone want them gone sooner rather than later?

  • http://swantron.com jswanson

    I am personally not offended by three more years of .250 / 25 HR / 75+ RBIs. It could be a lot worse.

  • Chuck

    There are other more pressing lineup issues that need to be addressed before getting too worked up over Soriano. Maybe if he was blocking somebody in the minors it would be a bigger issue. Bigger issues than Soriano right now: 1B, 3B, 2B to a lesser extent, backup C and the starting rotation. When those other issues are resolved, then we can start to fret about Soriano.
    Please do not mistake this post as me thinking that Soraino is or will be a good player.

  • nhanna68

    I agree with jswanson. Soriano is terribly overpaid and his defense sucks but at least he still hits and drives in some runs. Its not a total loss. Vasquez doesn’t perform until your team is out of the race typically. He should be avoided. Also Wilson should be avoided. Hes had what 1 or 2 good year? Not worth risking a huge megacontract on. We need low cost high reward pitching and to develop younger guys. Let Samardzija try starting, use up what we have before we spend money on more parts. If 2012 becomes a waste year so be it, it will be worth it in the long term.

  • Noah

    If the Cubs make moves that it looks like they are going to try and compete in 2012, then I’d be fine with a Javier Vazquez pick up for the middle of the rotation. I also think that looking at win loss record for Vazquez is even less indicative than it would be for most players, since he spent 6 of his 14 major league seasons playing for one of the worst teams in baseball. Vazquez has 55 fWAR and 39 rWAR for his career. He’s not in the discussion at all as a Hall of Famer, but he is in essentially the Mark Grace tier of player.

    With that said, I’d prefer for the Cubs to look for younger and cheaper options instead, since I don’t think there is a really reasonable way for the Cubs to be competitive in 2012 without raising payroll.

  • Norm Bothwell

    Jedi I don’t think that’s ever been done in the past and I don’t even know if that’s legal to do. The commissioner’s office needs to approve all deals that include money, I don’t ever remember a case where a team sent something like $30 or $40M up front with a player. Not saying it isn’t possible, but is there any precedence of that happening?

  • Jeremiah Johnson

    According to Mike Quade, Soriano is blocking Blake DeWitt.

    Buddy, whether it’s Vazquez or a cheaper/younger version of him, I think these are the kinds of guys the Cubs need to be looking at for short-term help on the mound. They won’t make us a playoff team, but they won’t necessarily kill us, either. Nice work.

  • Jedi

    Norm, it happens a lot when a guy has several years left. A team, the Cubs, would pay 100% of Soriano’s 2012 and 2013 salary, the team acquiring Soriano would pay his 2014 salary. It’s possible – but again, how often do guys like Soriano get moved?

    There was talk of it in the first days of the Vernon Wells trade – then everyone realized that Reagins had been hornswoggled.

    Buddy makes a good point about the chances of Soriano being traded – but what frustrates me is that the reason the Cubs are in this situation is because they’ve refused to think outside the box. They don’t TRY anything that’s halfway inventive. And they’re not in a position right now to even consider it.

    You are right that the Commish has to approve the cash in all deals, so he might nix it even if the Cubs could get someone to move on it. But the Cubs have lacked a sense of urgency about such things for a long time now. I can only hope that a new GM would bring it about.

    And if we were to pay our problems to go away (as we might wind up doing with Zambrano), cash on hand would be of the utmost importance.

  • Jedi

    nhanna68 – agree with a lot of that. But go look at Samardzija’s number when he throws roughly 25 or fewer pitches. Then go look at his numbers when he throws more. You won’t be advocating him in a starting role after that – he’s somewhere between hideous and Jim Theismann-injury bad to watch when he’s on the mound for any length of time.

    Samardzija’s a one-trick pony. His trick is getting off the mound quickly before people realize how hittable he is.

  • Jedi

    Norm – realizing that didn’t come across as I wanted it to…”it happens a lot” is basically my way of saying “there aren’t many Soriano deals out there to compare it to.” Normally Sorianos get dealt for other Sorianos. (Bradley for Silva).

    Soriano would be his own type of precedent.

  • BLPCB

    If we were going to be playoff contenders in 2012, I would consider it, because he can be a useful part on a playoff team. But this team, forget about it. It would just be a waste of money. 10M not spent on him is 10M Ricketts can use to pay off the purchase, renovate Wrigley, or get rid of Soriano and Bozo.

  • Dusty Baylor

    Soriano getting 26 HR and 88 RBI…that’s ok. For what he’s paid, that and his .289 OBP is not nearly enough production. He should be platooned with a lefty hitter. 11th in the majors in OPS (left fielders), for $18 million…ugh.

  • Doc Raker

    Buddy- What is it with you, average players past their prime and $10M one year contracts? You always want to over pay a player because you find a glimmer of hope somewhere within their stats. Pena hit .196 but he had a good OBP so let’s give him $10M. Vasquez had half a good year in 2011 so let’s pay him $8-10M for an entire year like he is going to be good the entire year. How about you get off the scrap heap of 3rd rate free agents make some trades and develop the youth. And if Vasquez is really a good fit for the Cubs offer him no more than he is worth which is $3-4M in my opinion. Why pay for an entire year of production when he is in decline and just had only half a good year. Please Buddy, come into my office so I can sell you a pair of over priced glasses. ” Mr Buddy sir, the only draw back to these magnificent $3000 glasses is that they will only work every other day, but when they work you will see better that 99% of the people in the world. The other days you will be non functional but imagine how good those days of seeing will be.” Buddy, “Sold! My market analysis values them at $4000 so I will give you no more than $4000 for them.” Pleasure doing business with you Buddy.

  • Buddy

    I’m not necessarily saying they should or should not sign the players from our offseason “Could He Be A Cub” series. Just discussing many different possibilites. More discussion to come, so stay tuned…And thanks for the offer Doc, but with your track record of reliability, I think I’m much safer purchasing my glasses elsewhere!

  • Jedi

    Buddy, I tend to think it’s an impossible task to find free agents that most fans are going to want. And for good reason, the price tag is almost guaranteed to be too high for the production on a flailing team. We’re not the D-Backs, this thing isn’t turning around overnight with Ian Kennedy and a few minor league bats.

    The Cubs have lacked a general creativity in management for some time now. While we sit and watch Josh Hamilton get traded for Edison Volquez or the Red Sox turn malcontent Manny Ramirez and fledgling star/headcase Hanley Ramirez into a Jason Bay rental and Josh Beckett after which they go and get Adrian Gonzalez at a bargain, or even team’s like the Dodgers, Rays, and Marlins who seem to have an endless supply of young talent – it’s frustrating. The Cubs solution is and has been for quite a while, 1) review list of possible free agents, 2) sign free agent(s) at positions of need, 3) disregard price tag.

    So yeah, there will be a gag reflex to any free agent signing in all likelihood.

    Only one team has success doing it the way the Cubs are trying to do it – the Yankees. And the Cubs won’t commit to the necessary payroll to play in the Yankees end of the pool (nor should they). Our approach, more often than not, will leave us like the Mets. We might have a year of success in 2012, but it’s going to take SEVERAL years to build the foundation of a regular contender…you don’t build a foundation on the backs of “bargain” free agent signings.

  • Buddy

    When it comes to personnel decisions, I hope the new GM doesn’t give a damn what fans want. Fans are the people who do the wave. Fans are the people who “boo” when a pitcher throws to first. Fans are the people who purchase giant foam fingers and clown for the camera.

  • Jedi

    Interesting that you thought my point was we need a GM who does what the fans want.

    That’s almost exactly what Hendry did – tried to deliver on the “popular decision” so as to cover his rear.

    I’d prefer more creativity than that. I don’t think most fans want another GM who waits to fill roster spots with overpriced free agents. So in that regard, the Cubs would do well to be in agreement with the fans.

  • Buddy

    Didn’t mean to put words in your mouth. Just trying to inject a little humor. Very little maybe!

  • chris in illinois

    Enough of the Pena hate, the guy had the 25th BEST OPS vs RHP in all of baseball last year…AL and NL. It’s not his fault he can’t hit lefties and his manager couldn’t put 2 and 2 together and platoon him and Baker. Isn’t a hitter like that worth a medium-sized one year deal?? Vasquez could be the same or he could suck…better him than freakin’ Casey Coleman 32 times.
    .
    .
    .
    Also Casey Coleman over Vaaquez won’t rid us of Soriano any sooner…I’s rather give Soriano 350 ABs each year over the next three year than pay Tony Campana to do it. Campana would be more expensive anyway, Soriano is a sunk cost where Campana can and should be cut this offseason.

  • Norm Bothwell

    I don’t think Hendry did what was “popular”.

    Trade DeRosa, sign Milton Bradley, choose Quade over Sandberg, trade prospects for Garza…

  • Norm Bothwell

    but Chris, he had a bad batting average!

  • Dusty Baylor

    Campana is only going to make the MLB minimum…not like that’s a big expense to dd to Soriano’s $18 million next season.

  • Jedi

    If only that was all Hendry did, Norm. He’d have been batting better than Pena!

    For a man with a .175 RISP, Pena gets a lot of love.

    And chris, Soriano is a sunk cost only if no other team would ever trade for him and pick up part of his deal. I bet there’s an AL team that would take Soriano as a DH for $5mil/year for three years (maybe even more). Would the Cubs do better to save $15mil on Soriano and let the expensive Tony Campana (among others) play in LF; or just be resigned to being “stuck” with Soriano?

    Could the Cubs find a replacement in LF for less than what another team would be willing to pick up on Soriano? That’s the real question.

  • Buddy

    Perhaps the two Pena camps should just agree to disagree and move on? I think everybody knows where everybody stands.

  • Doc Raker

    Chris- It is Pena’s fault he can’t hit lefties. It is the managers fault for playing Pena against lefties.
    *Buddy- I didn’t know I had any reliability problems. I will work on it, whatever it is.
    Go Blackhawks!

  • Buddy

    Just kidding Doc. If I ever need eyeglasses in whatever town you live in, you’ll be near the top of the list of people I consider calling!

  • chris in illinois

    Last word on Pena: Agree Doc, Pena can’t hit lefties and I don’t care. I’m afraid that Pena will be the replacement for Fielder and bash the Cubbies next year…
    .
    .
    .
    As far as Pena’s BA in RISP situations, Price Fielder hit .233 and ‘slugged’ .301 in 2010 and hit .314/526 this year…that stuff is just random.

  • chris in illinois

    I’d rather give Soriano 1100 ABs over the next three years than save 15 million on a payroll of 420 million from 2012-14.

  • BLPCB

    I would rather get rid of him and save what I can and open a roster spot

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