El Duque trade looks to be done deal
D-Backs trade Vazquez in deal for White Sox starter
PHOENIX -- It appears the Diamondbacks and White Sox are close to a deal that would send Javier Vazquez and cash to Chicago in exchange for pitchers Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino and highly regarded outfielder Chris Young.
The trade is contingent upon players passing physicals and the approval of the Commissioner's Office since Arizona is including cash -- reported by WSCR Radio in Chicago as being $5 million -- in the deal.
Arizona acquired Vazquez last January in a trade that sent Randy Johnson to the Yankees and the veteran exercised his contractual right to demand a trade last month after going 11-15 with a 4.42 ERA in 33 starts in 2005.
Diamondbacks general manager Josh Byrnes, who has worked tirelessly for the past month exploring the market for Vazquez, declined to confirm or deny the trade when reached on Tuesday night.
The potential move would help the D-Backs fill Vazquez's spot in the rotation, but the real key to the deal was Young, a center fielder that has both speed and power.
Last year with Double-A Birmingham, the 22-year-old hit .277 with 41 doubles, 26 homers and 32 stolen bases in 38 attempts. The year before for Class A Kannapolis, he had 24 homers and 31 steals.
Baseball America, which ranked Young as Chicago's sixth-best prospect before his outstanding 2005 season wrote, "Designated as the best athlete and quickest baserunner in the organization, Young is blessed with tremendous speed and is blossoming into a power hitter as well."
Hernandez was 9-9 with a 5.12 ERA for the White Sox last season and probably made his biggest contribution to the world champions in Game 3 of the American League Division Series against the Red Sox.
Hernandez entered the game in the sixth inning with the bases loaded, no outs and the White Sox clinging to a one-run lead. The right-hander got Jason Varitek and Tony Graffanino to pop out before fanning Johnny Damon to end the frame and the White Sox went on to win the game and sweep the series.
Hernandez, whose age has been reported to be anywhere between 36 to 40, defected from Cuba in December 1997 and pitched for the Yankees from 1998 through 2004 before signing a two-year contract with the White Sox last year. His base salary for next season is $4.5 million, while Vazquez will cost Chicago $11.5 million in 2006 and $12.5 million in 2007. The White Sox were interested in Vazquez because he gives them insurance in case starters Jon Garland and/or Jose Contreras leave the club after next year when they will become free agents.
"We are looking to get better, and we don't want to put ourselves in a position where our first priority is compromised and that's pitching," White Sox GM Kenny Williams told reporters before word of the deal leaked. "We are not trying to break up anything. We are looking to add to the equation, fortify it, and not anything else."
The Diamondbacks' initial reluctance to pick up any part of the money owed Vazquez was believed to be a deal breaker for some teams, but they have reportedly softened on that stance with the White Sox. The Diamondbacks received $9 million from the Yankees to help offset Vazquez's contract when they acquired him last year. Vazquez is set to earn $11.5 million in 2006 and $12.5 million in 2007.
Arizona also bolstered its bullpen a bit on Tuesday when they signed free agent pitcher Jason Grimsley to a one-year contract. The deal is contingent on Grimsley, who pitched for the Orioles last season, passing a physical.
"He's a guy that has a lot of experience, has a tough mindset and is a ground-ball pitcher, which fits well in our ballpark," Byrnes said.
The 38-year-old had Tommy John surgery in October of 2004 and was out of action until mid-July of last season. Grimsley also was on the disabled list in August with a strained left Achilles' tendon. He did, though, pitch well down the stretch, compiling a 1.23 ERA in eight September outings.
Overall, in 22 games for the Orioles, he was 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA. The Diamondbacks have been looking for a veteran in their bullpen to fill the setup role that Tim Worrell did so well in September of last year. The D-Backs had wanted to bring Worrell back, but he recently signed a two-year contract with the Giants.
Grimsley has pitched parts of 14 seasons in the big leagues, going 41-56 with a 4.76 ERA in 533 lifetime games. From 2001-2004 he appeared in an American League-best 292 games.
Steve Gilbert is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.