Earlier this morning, a pretty big deal came together, as the Yankees agreed to acquire righty Javier Vazquez and lefty Boone Logan in exchange for outfielder Melky Cabrera and pitching prospects Arodys Vizcaino and Michael Dunn. This is the second time that Vazquez and Logan have been traded together in a single package, as last year they were sent to Atlanta from the White Sox in exchange for a package headed by Tyler Flowers.
The basis for the deal is pretty simple. The Braves needed outfield help, payroll flexibility and had a surplus of expensive starting pitching. The Yankees wanted another top tier starter and clearly have been willing to give up talent this offseason. The big question around baseball really seems to be whether the Braves got enough in exchange for Vazquez, who's coming off the best season of his career and one of the best performances in the game last season.
Vazquez, 33, has quietly been one of the best pitchers of the decade, culminating with a 6.6 WAR performance last year in Atlanta, his fourth straight year with a WAR of 4.8 or higher. But the Braves essentially cornered themselves into dealing either Vazquez or Derek Lowe after resigning Tim Hudson, and it appears that they found a very underwhelming market for the aging Lowe. This led to the apparent alternative, which was to extract as much value as possible from Vazquez's career year.
The deal obviously makes sense for the Yankees, who apparently have plans of established a new dynasty. Vazquez has been one of the most durable and consistent pitchers of the past decade. He's pitched in at least 198 innings in every season since 2000, and he's posted FIP numbers below 4.00 in eight of those ten seasons. He's consistently been a 4.5-6.0 WAR pitcher in recent years, although it should be noted that his worst season as a full-time starter came in 2004- his one previous season with the Yankees, during which he posted a 2.2 WAR. Still, most projections put Vazquez into the 4-5 WAR range for next season, making him one of the better starters in the game. It's also worth mentioning that Vazquez has developed a bit of a reputation for pitching at his best in low leverage situations, which is a big part of why he's never really gotten the Ace label before.
Cabrera didn't really have a clear spot in the lineup after the additions of Curtis Granderson and Nick Johnson, but he's good enough to play everyday somewhere so his value wasn't being maximized as New York's fourth outfielder, a spot that likely will be taken by Rule 5 pick Jamie Hoffmann, unless the Yankees resign Johnny Damon. Cabrera's only 25, he's an approximately league average hitter, and he's an above average corner outfielder, making him a solid bet to give Atlanta solid production from right or left field at a cheap rate. And while Vizcaino and Dunn are two of the best arms in their farm system, neither is close to MLB-ready, they managed to keep both Joba Chamberlain and Phil Hughes, and they still have numeous other quality arms like Dellin Betances and Zach McAllister. Between Vazquez, CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Hughes or Chamberlain, the Yankees have put themselves in a position to have one of the best pitching staffs in the game.
For the Braves, the trade seems like a way to kill three goals with one move: free up payroll for a first baseman, free up a rotation spot for Hudson, and fill one of the holes in the outfield cheaply with Cabrera. Considering that they did a pretty solid job of completing those goals and added some great pitching talent to their system, I think that Atlanta actually comes out of this deal alright. Between Vizcaino, Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado, the Braves now have three of the best young power arms in the game, which is certainly something worth acknowledging. They still have a great rotation with Lowe, Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson and Kenshin Kawakami, and they likely can afford to retain Adam LaRoche now if they are interested. Certainly, being able to dump the three years and $45M remaining on Lowe's deal would've been ideal, especially considering the signs of decline that he showed in Atlanta, but that likely wasn't possible without eating a significant chunk of the contract, as indications out of Atlanta were that the Braves preferred to keep Vazquez.
Considering what the Phillies landed for one year of Cliff Lee, arguably a superior pitcher, at a cheaper salary, I think that Atlanta got a pretty solid return for Vazquez, even if it doesn't include the impact bat that Atlanta sorely needs. And with all of the moves that teams in that division have been making, it looks like the race for the AL East crown is getting really hot and Javy, eh?