Failing to find a taker for Derek Lowe, the Braves went to Plan B today, trading Javier Vazquez to the Yankees for Melky Cabrera, Arodys Vizciano, and Mike Dunn. The reaction to this deal on Twitter has not been kind to Atlanta, with most people concluding that the Yankees got Vazquez for peanuts.
I’m not so sure. Melky Cabrera may not have superstar upside, but he’s a quality young player with little projection required. He posted a .331 wOBA last season, making him roughly a league average hitter, and he didn’t turn 25 until August. He’s got good contact skills and gap power, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see some of his doubles turn into home runs as he ages.
Defensively, he’s below average – but not terrible – in center, and he’d make for a quality defensive corner outfielder if that’s where the Braves choose to use him. All told, he’s roughly a league average player, with upside to develop into something a bit above average.
That has value, especially as a young player who will make far below his market value this year.
But it’s not Cabrera who makes this deal work for Atlanta – that’s Vizcaino, an underhyped 19-year-old who destroyed A-ball as a teenager. The classic projectable teenage arm, Vizciano throws a mid-90s fastball with a hard breaking curve, and has proven nearly unhittable in his brief professional career. He’s not close to the majors, but he’s a significant upside bet for Atlanta long term.
Vazquez is a quality pitcher and the Braves will miss him, no doubt, but they saved roughly $8 million in salary (once you account for Melky’s arbitration award), added a league average outfielder and one of the best young arms in baseball. Perhaps it isn’t the price that top flight starters used to command, but when viewed in today’s market, this is a pretty decent deal for Atlanta. This is a significantly better return than what Philadelphia got for Cliff Lee, for instance.
The Yankees get better, of course, but you already knew that. Don’t hate this deal for Altanta – they’ll come out of it okay as well.
Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.