Because talking about a ten game losing streak doesn't seem to excite me, Rashard Lewis coming to Orlando and the millions of possibilities floating around like Ron Artest for Hedo Turkoglu isn't on topic, and talking about how an actress that played a child in Halloween 4 is in the remake and has a nude scene, while completing the circle of life, just doesn't have the right artistic feel, today we're instead looking at the potential acquisitions of Jose Contreras or Javier Vazquez.
Let me begin with the obligatory `Mark Buerhle isn't coming here' statement, since I think an extension will be worked out with Chicago, and Buerhle's agent, sheep skinned or not, has said he will not negotiate with a new team before testing free agency. That leaves four other Chicago starters, two of whom, John Dank and Jon Garland, aren't on the block. Contreras is old, 35, and has had two declining seasons since having that spectacular 2005 that helped the White Sox win the World Series. That leaves Javier Vazquez, whom to say has perked my interest is mild mannered.
Previous to this season Vazquez had posted ERAs of 4.91, 4.42, and 4.84 over the last three seasons, since he left the Montreal Expos. This year he's seemingly `clicked', his hit rates are down, he's striking out about the same amount, and has a WHIP hovering over 1.08 rather than 1.2. Only 30 it's as if he's found himself, that or he's getting lucky, but the numbers don't indicate that, he's also due 11.5 million each season through 2010, so he's an expensive little booger.
Three questions come to mind when we talk about acquiring him:
1. Is he better than our home options over the next three seasons?
2. What would it take to get him?
3. Why not Ted Lilly or Gil Meche this past off-season instead?
Starting with number one; obviously it's far too early to say whether Jeff Niemann, Mitch Talbot, J.P. Howell, Andrew Sonnanstine, or Edwin Jackson will be better next season, not along the two following next. From what we've seen Edwin is a resounding `not likely', same with Howell for the most part. Niemann has been compared to Andy Benes, which honestly isn't too bad, although I'm not sure the Rays had 215 innings per at a 3.97 ERA clip in mind when they drafted the tower, but that's still better than league average as a 3/4. Talbot has control of five pitches, but if nothing else perhaps he's a valuable reliever or trading chip as the youngest on the Durham staff. Sonnanstine has been decent in all starts minus the Colorado incident, and best case scenario would be he becomes Orlando Hernandez part two and has a career ERA around 4.10.
For the moment let's just assume a rotation of Kazmir, Shields, Vazquez, Niemann, and Sonnanstine would be the best possible match for 2008, what would we potentially give up for him? The Sox have a rather thin farm system now, but the Death Valley of which is in the outfield. Of the current outfield the only legitimate starter would be Jermaine Dye, and along with having a poor season, is likely to leave via free agency or trade. Ryan Sweeney is their best outfield prospect, but he's got a sub-.800 OPS in AAA, Jerry Owens is old, 27, and can't hit, Darin Erstad is the most overrated player north of David Eckstein, and Rob Mackowiak isn't a starting outfielder.
The Rays have some outfielder to bargain with, Justin Ruggiano probably isn't an improvement and we'd rather not deal Fernando Perez or Desmond Jennings, but here's an idea; what about Rocco Baldelli?
I know, I know, we'd still have the Duke of Mischief sitting, and I have no idea what to do with him, perhaps he becomes a throw in to another deal down the road, but Rocco makes sense. Sure he's at a lowered value, but this is the same Kenny Williams who once took a chance on Jermaine Dye, who was a superbly average outfielder, and look what he turned into. Baldelli is more talented than anyone on their outfield roster, and yes he's had some injury issues, but I'm not sure if Baldelli alone would be enough to seal the deal and I won't speculate any further since it really does no good.
We reach the final question; why Vazquez and why not Meche or Lilly? We'll begin with the latter, Lilly is 31 and has 1,041 career innings pitched. Vazquez is 30, 1,952 innings, averaging nearly 200 per season. Performance wise Vazquez has always been better than Meche, who was the project child of the off-season, if he clicked, like he apparently has, he's a great signing, if not, he's a major bust.
That's performance wise, let's look fiscally:
Vazquez: Three more seasons, 11.5 | 11.5 | 11.5
Lilly: Four more years, 5 | 7 | 12 | 12
Meche: Five more, 7 | 11 | 11 | 12 | 12
At 34.5 over the next three years he's slightly more expensive than 24 million of Lilly and 29 million of Meche, but will likely be as good as both. Financially it seems somewhat unorganized, but he's being paid nearly market value, I'm not sure anyone consider five million `overpaid' at this point in the game.
I'm not addressing the Rays may or may not take on that payroll, and things of that sort since again I'm not sure, and speculating on that seems pointless. Trading for Vazquez doesn't seem like a public relations move as much as a performance enhancing move, and at the end of the day I believe the `great' Orlando Magic general manager Otis Smith said it best..."We're not winning press conferences here."