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