Our main rival acquired one big-name pitcher this off-season. So did our team. Which was the better acquisition?
It's not as simple as determining who will have the better 2010, but who will perform better beyond and what the cost was to acquire each.
John Lackey had FIPs of 3.54, 4.53 and 3.73 over the last three years, pitching 224, 163 and 176 innings. His WARs were 5.6, 2 and 3.9. He'll be 31 this season.
Javier Vazquez had FIPs of 3.80, 3.74 and 2.77 with innings totals of 217, 208 and 219. His WARs were 5.1, 4.8 and 6.6 - he'll turn 34 in July.
Encouraging. Vazquez' worst year (of the last three) was only slightly below Lackey's best year. .8 WAR to be exact. Vazquez' three-year average (5.5) is almost two wins better than Lackey's (3.8). It looks as though the guy wearing pinstripes will have the better 2010, not necessarily because of ERA, but because of durability. Despite Lackey's reputation as a 'bulldog,' he's hit the DL each of the last two years with elbow injuries (which has to be worrisome for Boston). Vazquez hasn't made less than 32 starts in any year but one (way back in 1999). I don't mean to bash Lackey, who is durable, but he's no Javy Vazquez, whose durability borders on supernatural.
So Vazquez gets the edge for 2010.
Unfortunately, that is the most tangible part of the equation. What the pitchers do beyond 2010 (and what the teams gave up) requires far more speculation.
Lackey is signed for five years at $82.5 million ($16.5 million/year). He'll pitch for the Red Sox through 2014. His deal will encompass his age 31-35 seasons. He is entering the (historically speaking) decline phase of his career. As expected, his best seasons came at ages 26-28 (WARs of 5.9, 6 and 5.6). It would be fair to presume Lackey will accrue 3-4 WAR/season for the life of his contract with Boston.
Vazquez is signed for one year at $11.5 million. He'll be a free agent after 2010, his age-33 year. Since we don't know where Vazquez will pitch beyond 2010 (if at all), this category goes to Lackey, who is signed four years longer than Vazquez. Vazquez could exceed Lackey's production from 2011-2014, but if it's not for the Yanks, it has no bearing on this debate.
There's also the question of what was given up to acquire each pitcher. The Red Sox are giving up $82.5 million and a first-round draft pick for five years of their pitcher. The Yankees are giving three players and $11.5 million for one year of theirs. It would seem the Yanks are giving up considerably more: Melky Cabrera is a league average centerfielder, and at the age of 25 (with potential improvement), has considerable value. A first round pick is a total crapshoot. In the last 20 years, the Sox have drafted such players as Trot Nixon, Nomar, Clay Buchholz and Jacoby Ellsbury, but also duds like Andy Yount, John Curtice and Phil Dumatrait. The winner of the Vazquez trade depends on the future of Arodys Vizcaino, formerly the Yankees' second best prospect.
But another factor is the possibility that the Yanks receive draft compensation if/when Javy Vazquez declines arbitration after the season, which also depends on how well he performs. A good season all but guarantees him 'Type A' status. A mediocre season would still likely garner him 'Type B' status. Getting high draft picks for Vazquez could largely negate the loss of the three players traded for him.
To sum up -
2010 - Vazquez
2011 and beyond - Lackey (because we don't know where Vazquez will be pitching).
Acquisition fee edge
Contract and flexibility - Vazquez
Cost (in terms of money/players given up) - at this point, Lackey gets the slight nod, but it could swing drastically in either direction.