After the Winter Meetings, somebody put it best when they said "with Twitter, now more people have the opportunity to be wrong, sooner" about rumored baseball trades and signings. That person was right.
I went to bed last night without the slightest clue who the newest Yankee might be, and Javier Vazquez was the last person I expected. And while it seems that some minor details are left to be worked out (conflicting reports have Arodys Vizcaino included or not included in the deal), I want to take a look at what we might be able to expect from Vazquez in 2010 and where he fits in the starting rotation.
It's important to remember that back in 2004, Vazquez was hyped far more than he should have been, and we should avoid repeating that mistake. Don't expect a repeat of his 2009 season - 9.8 K/9, 143 ERA+ - especially not pitching in the AL East, but pitching in Chicago from 2006-2008, in an offense-friendly ballpark and in front of a defense that ranked in the bottom half of AL twice, Vazquez posted an ERA+ of 106, never pitching fewer than 202 2/3 innings in a season or striking out fewer than 184 batters. I can see Vazquez easily putting up an Andy Pettitte-type season in 2010 - 200 innings, an ERA around 4.00 - albeit with more strikeouts and fewer walks.
A quartet of C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte, and now Vazquez gives the Yankees four above-average starting pitchers who are all capable of going deep into games and making opposing hitters swing and miss, which is critical against some of the tougher AL lineups they'll face. Furthermore, even allowing for a minor injury or occasional missed start, this group could easily combine for 800 innings in 2010, which further reduces the likelihood of guys like Sergio Mitre or Chad Guadin having to toe the rubber.
One thing this trade is not likely to do is quell the debate over how Phil Hughes and Joba Chamberlain should be used. My gut tells me that Chamberlain will start 2010 in the bullpen with Hughes going to the rotation, but with both Vazquez and Pettitte potentially gone next offseason, questions may linger. In hindsight, it seems like Joba's 2007 move to the bullpen may turn out to be the worst thing that happened to his career. Expectations will always be unrealistic as a result of that, and some people will forever see him as the successor to Mariano Rivera, as if you can groom somebody to take over for the greatest relief pitcher who ever played the game. But that's another conversation.
Overall, the acquisition of Vazquez (with or without Arodys Vizcaino) improves the Yankees for 2010, keeps them on pace with the Red Sox, and comes at a relatively low cost. I like it. If everything breaks right, they could wind up getting nearly 1,000 above-average innings from their rotation next year, which would put them in excellent position to repeat as World Series champions.