It seems as if the Marlins have continued their shopping spree, spending on a one-year deal on Javier Vazquez as expected, pending a physical examination. The news was broken by Jon Paul Morosi of Fox Sports and confirmed by quite a few other sources, so I’d say that at this point it is safe to assume that the Fish have acquired Vazquez.
We’ve already discussed Vazquez is some detail in this blog, so Marlin Maniac readers should be well aware of the risks and potential rewards of this deal. Barring the physical, Vazquez should become a Marlin, but I think this physical, typically a mere formality for these deals, is highly important for the Fish in this case. Vazquez’ arm didn’t look the same in his second disastrous stint with the New York Yankees, and if he performs in a similar fashion this season, the Marlins will have thrown away a good deal of cash (terms of the price were not disclosed as of now).
But if he does perform well, and if last season’s issues seem to be resolved, the Marlins will receive a windfall of benefits.
(EDIT: Ken Rosenthal reports that the Vazquez deal is in the range of $6-7M. Pretty good deal.)
(EDIT: More from Ken Rosenthal. The Marlins have him under a no-trade clause, which I think is understandable. Unfortunately, they also wrote in that they cannot offer arbitration, which makes one of my later points null and void. Still is a decent deal, but now it’s more strictly “boom or bust.”
Vazquez brings value in different ways, but one of the biggest ones that has to attract the Marlins is his durability. The Marlins saw last season that their farm system has been depleted with regards to starting pitching talent. After the release of NatE. Robertson, the team was struggling to find another pitcher to insert into the rotation, and the injury to Sean West forced the Marlins to expose that lack of depth further. Yes, Alex Sanabia looked better than we could have expected in his brief stint, but that is not something the team can depend upon next year. After Sanabia and West, the Marlins have no capable starters who can step in and contribute in 2011 at a useful level. Indeed, it is questionable whether the team should expect above-replacement performance from either West or Sanabia themselves.
Vazquez’ durability brings a huge benefit to the club. He could be half the pitcher he was in 2009, when he was a Cy Young contender, and still be a solid contributor simply by eating innings. Before 2010, Vazquez had thrown 200+ innings in five consecutive seasons and in nine of the previous 10, falling two inning shy in 2004 (ironically with the Yankees). If the Marlins see no problems with his arm, I have decent confidence that the Fish can squeeze another high innings count of Vazquez’ lone season with the team. As we all know, having a sure-fire bet for almost 200 innings of above-replacement play brings value in and of itself, especially in an organization with few options remaining.
I had Vazquez projected at a 4.35 ERA, which in 185 innings pitched would be worth about 2.0 WAR. If you put the same amount of weight into last season as you normally would, this deal is a solid win for a Marlins team that is likely paying for production equal to around 1.2 – 1.8 WAR. Of course, the Marlins are paying less because they perceive more risk and because one-year deals often earn less. But here is where the team’s scouting department, coaches, and training staff can make their money. Whatever was ailing Vazquez last year, be it physical, mental, or otherwise, needs to be pinpointed. This group needs to find a resolution to those problems if possible. Doing so will yield even more benefit to this Fish team.
The benefits can even extend beyond 2011. If the Marlins and Vazquez work together brilliantly and he comes off an excellent 2011, the Marlins could be in line to receive draft pick compensation for his likely departure. Vazquez has said that he is more interested in going year-to-year with his deals now in order to remain more flexible with his career, meaning there is little chance either side would want to talk about an extension, even after a good season. And if Vazquez revitalizes his career in South Florida, he’ll most certainly be heading off to greener pastures, making an arbitration offer a good bet to be rejected. Now, as friend of the Maniac R.J. Anderson correctly points out, the Marlins likely will agree not to offer arbitration if Vazquez qualifies as a Type A free agent. However, if he falls short and hits Type B status while still being a valuable player, there’s a good chance the Fish will end up with a supplementary pick (worth around $2-3M in surplus value) in addition to Vazquez’ 2011 services.
This doesn’t mean that there isn’t risk in this type of move; as mentioned before, there is a chance Vazquez isn’t close to the same pitcher that he was in 2009. But as long as he isn’t as bad as he was in 2010, the Marlins should be able to recoup some value in this deal. Chances are the team isn’t paying much for Vazquez in 2011 and gambling that he will pay off big time. Indeed, this is exactly what a low-budget team with playoff aspirations should be looking to do with their roster. I approve of this move.