The Vazquez Trade

Last night, the Braves decided to end all the Jake Peavy speculation and go in another direction – that direction was Javier Vazquez, as they sent a group of prospects to the White Sox for the talented but enigmatic Puerto Rican. With only 2 years and $23 million left on his deal, he’s significantly cheaper than Peavy, and they didn’t have to touch their major league roster or their top prospects in order to add him to their rotation. However, lower cost doesn’t always mean better value – so, let’s look at what the Braves should expect to get from Vazquez.

If there’s one word to describe Vazquez, it’s durable. He’s thrown 200 innings every single year this decade except for 2004, when he threw 198 innings. He’s made 32-34 starts in every one of those years. The man takes the ball every five days without fail. If it’s innings the Braves were looking for, they found the right guy.

The quality of those innings, though, that’s another story. As Eric noted a month ago, there’s not a pitcher in baseball who has underachieved as much in his career as Vazquez. His career FIP is an outstanding 3.93, but his ERA is 4.32 – four tenths of a run higher over 2,270 innings. Based on his BB/K/HR rates, Vazquez should have performed significantly better than he has in his career.

However, for whatever reason, he just can’t seem to strand runners to save his life. His career LOB% is 70.4%, which is pretty much dead on league average – but Vazquez isn’t a league average pitcher, and with his ability to miss bats while not walking batters, he should be better than average at runner stranding as well. Peavy, for instance, has a career 77.6% LOB% on a 3.51 FIP. The difference in strand rate is significantly larger than the difference in their core skills, and it’s why Peavy has won a Cy Young award and Vazquez has been traded numerous times.

Even with his inconsistency, Vazquez should be good for 200 innings with a 4.00 ERA or so in the NL, making him worth about +3 wins compared to a replacement level pitcher. That’s a solid addition to any rotation, but is he worth $11.5 million a year plus four young prospects?

Maybe. If he lives up to his talent, the Braves will be happy with the trade. If he continues to underachieve, though, we may be analyzing next year’s Vazquez trade at this time.

Dave is the Managing Editor of FanGraphs.

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15 years ago

You have to think Vazquez is going to pitch better simply based upon change in park and league. Even though CitiBank Park is somewhat of a mystery, every park in the NL East is skewed towards pitching except Citizen’s Bank. Also, with the elderstatesmen that have gotten injured, I think the Braves were desperate to obtain a guy who can guarantee 200 innings. That has tremendous value in itself. I think this is a win for the Braves right now.

Typo: You meant Vazquez not Peavy in your 2nd to last paragraph.