Yanks' rotation gets stronger with Vazquez
Righty returns; Melky heads to Atlanta in five-player deal
NEW YORK -- The Yankees' search for another starting pitcher has led them back to an old friend, reacquiring right-hander Javier Vazquez from the Braves on Tuesday as part of a five-player trade.
New York sent outfielder Melky Cabrera, left-hander Mike Dunn and Minor League right-hander Arodys Vizcaino plus cash considerations to the Braves in exchange for Vazquez and left-hander Boone Logan.
"I'm glad to be back," Vazquez said. "I'm excited to be part of this team again. Everybody that knows me knows that I didn't want to leave my first time out. I'm just glad that I can be back."
Yankees general manager Brian Cashman had been looking for an experienced arm to add to the rotation, and Vazquez fits the bill in terms of being affordable as the club looks to come in under $200 million in payroll.
Vazquez is owed a workable $11.5 million for 2010, the final year of his contract. He was an American League All-Star during his one year with the Yankees in '04, going 14-10 with a 4.91 ERA in pinstripes.
Battling arm fatigue, Vazquez struggled in the second half of that season, including serving up a grand slam to Johnny Damon in Game 7 of the AL Championship Series. He was dealt to the D-backs in January 2005 with Brad Halsey and Dioner Navarro for Randy Johnson.
"He's a tremendous pitcher that has a long career of success and durability," Cashman said. "Really, the second half of '04 -- which was poor -- cannot erase the long success that he's had as a Major League pitcher, both in the American and National Leagues.
"When you sit down and listen to the scouts and have them describe his abilities and look at his production and how he's performed, he is one of the better pitchers in the game. We look forward to having him join our staff."
The 33-year-old Vazquez was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts for Atlanta this past season, allowing 181 hits while striking out 238 and walking 44 in 219 1/3 innings and finishing fourth in the voting for the NL Cy Young Award.
Since 2000, Vazquez has recorded at least 10 wins and 150 strikeouts each season, making him just the 10th pitcher in Major League history to accomplish the feat, according to the Elias Sports Bureau. Eight of the other nine pitchers are in the Hall of Fame.
"Obviously, I have more experience than the first time there," Vazquez said. "I guess I know how to pitch a little bit more and I know what to expect a little bit more. I think all the years of experience pitching in the big leagues, you learn a lot from the mistakes that you've made in the past."
The Vazquez deal will move either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes back to the bullpen, as the Yankees have CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte already installed to head their starting rotation.
Cashman said that the Yankees aren't looking to Vazquez to be a 20-game winner or a staff leader; if he stays healthy and and helps to eat innings, that will be plenty.
Vazquez said that one of his disappointments from 2004 was not being able to pitch with Pettitte, and that he was excited to finally be teammates with the veteran lefty.
"Obviously, the Yankees have a great team," Vazquez said. "Everybody knows that, they won a World Series. They have a great pitching staff already with Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte. It's going to be fun to be part of that staff."
The 25-year-old Logan was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in 20 relief appearances with Atlanta after being acquired from the White Sox before the season. Logan should figure into a Yankees bullpen that has already shed Brian Bruney and Phil Coke from the World Series roster.
Cabrera, 25, was the Yankees' regular center fielder in 2009, batting .274 with a career-high 13 home runs, 68 RBIs and 10 stolen bases in 154 games. The arbitration-eligible switch-hitter was the poster boy for the Yankees' walk-off victory rush in '09, collecting three such hits, and hit for his first career cycle on Aug. 2 in Chicago.
Dunn, 24, is a hard-throwing converted outfielder whom the Yankees had considered a candidate to move into a setup role at some point. Vizcaino, 19, pitched at Class A Staten Island and was recently named the Yankees' third-best prospect by Baseball America.
Cashman said that he had spoken to Braves GM Frank Wren earlier in the winter and learned Vazquez potentially could be moved, and expressed interest early on -- not a new development, as Cashman also discussed reacquiring Vazquez from both the D-backs and White Sox.
In the last week or so, discussions picked up steam as Cashman began making phone calls on trades and free agents, hinting that there was a deal to be made. Adding Vazquez as the No. 4 starter has a domino effect in not only bolstering the rotation, but also helping the bullpen by moving Chamberlain or Hughes there.
"The main focus of what we've done today was to solidify, strengthen and deepen our rotation," Cashman said. "We went with a three-man staff as we went for the jugular in the World Series. This staff, if it can stay healthy, is a lot better equipped right now as we move forward to not be in a position to have to give the ball on short rest to someone too often."
By removing Cabrera from the Yankees' outfield mix, the club would head into the season today with Brett Gardner and Rule 5 Draft pick Jamie Hoffman as their left-field combination, with Curtis Granderson in center and Nick Swisher in right.
Cashman did not rule out an upgrade there, saying that it is more difficult to strengthen the rotation with quality pitching than finding someone to play left field, but admitted any Yankees upgrade would not be of the big-ticket Jason Bay-Matt Holliday variety.
"We have less areas of need on Dec. 22 than we did not too long ago," Cashman said. "This team continues to change over time here. We were the world champs and now we're going to try to defend that, and slowly but surely, we're going to be defending it with some different pieces."
Bryan Hoch is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.