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Javier Vazquez and Boone Logan acquired from the White Sox:
Let me say this: This is not the trade of the off-season. I am starting to wonder why many people are reacting as though, this deal is a disappointment based upon the Braves inability to pry away certain other pitchers in trade this off-season. Javier Vazquez is a 32-year old innings eater who has been coveted by Atlanta for years. Just a few seasons ago, Vazquez may have been on the ace track before being sent to New York prior to the 2004 season. His very public berating at the hands of ChiSox skipper Ozzie Guillen last season probably doesn't inspire the masses that Vazquez will lead the Braves to October. Well I am here to tell you that you are absolutely right. Vazquez alone will not lead the Braves to post-season glory, so fear not, reinforcements are surely on the way.
Here are some facts you may not know about Vazquez:
- He has logged at least 198 innings every season since 2000
- Has not walked more than 61 hitters since his rookie season of 1998
- Has not been on the DL in 11-year career
- Has made at least 32 starts every season since 2000
While it doesn't belie the fact that his command can falter (forcing him to come over the plate and get hammered) and his poise has come into question on numerous occasions with Chicago and at other stops during his career (specifically New York), those four points speak to exactly what the Braves did not have last season. No starter threw 200 innings, only one of the projected five avoided the DL, and only one made at least 30 starts. At the very worst, Vazquez can throw innings and keep the bullpen from having to make up for all those short outings we saw a year ago. And, for the record, no one in the Braves organization is content with their off-season simply because they acquired Vazquez. It's one piece of a larger puzzle.
Oh, and if the $23 million over two seasons for Vazquez bothers those of you who have buried your heads in the sand on the escalating starters' salaries of the past five years, then chew on these names we could have for around the same price in recent years: Carl Pavano, Vincente Padilla, Kevin Millwood, Carlos Silva, Barry Zito, Adam Eaton and Kei Igawa. I'll take Vazquez and put him in the middle of my rotation over any of those hurlers and the mega-millions they cost.
As for the lefty reliever, Boone Logan, his season came unhinged last year after a good start - judging solely by his first half splits and word of mouth of Sox scribes. The numbers don't look good, but at 24-years of age, Logan is young and could be a piece of the bullpen puzzle. The Braves appear to have active interest in bringing back Will Ohman to serve as the primary left-hander in relief.
Tyler Flowers had a pretty solid season at High-A Myrtle Beach and he did destroy the ball in the AFL, but with Brian McCann in Atlanta there was little chance he would be cracking the line-up anytime soon. His catching was somewhat lacking (12 errors and 11 passed balls in just 86 games behind the plate), with many projecting he would see more time at first base as his career evolved. In that case, the Braves have top prospect Freddie Freeman (.316-18-95 in Rome) blocking him there. Flowers can hit, but I have never heard more noise about the Arizona Fall League making a star.
Brent Lillibridge was an exciting prospect before flopping at Richmond (.220 in 90 games) and looking somewhat over-matched by major league pitching in Atlanta. Still, his speed and the fact he should bounce back somewhat project him to be a potential utility type player. The kid doesn't lack confidence and his conditioning can't be questioned. Both Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez are too far off to serve the White Sox anytime soon. Gilmore is a soft-hands third baseman and first round pick from 2007 who graduated from Danville (.337 in 67 games) to hit just .186 in 27 games with Rome last season. He should develop some power (only four homers in '08), but is still years away from the majors. Rodriguez is a lanky lefty-hander who has good velocity and could become a valuable reliever down the line.
Remember folks, they are called "prospects" for a reason. There are no guarantees in life, or in baseball. For all the moaning and complaining about the inclusion of players who were not even atop the Atlanta depth chart, I find it funny that after all the starting pitching deficiencies last season that anyone would complain about adding a veteran to the middle of the rotation.
Braves are close to signing back-up catcher David Ross:
Reports have been confirmed by Braves.com's Mark Bowman that veteran catcher Dave Ross has agreed to a 2-year contract worth $3.5 million. He should fit in pretty nicely behind McCann, perhaps even allowing the Braves to give their regular backstop a few more days off next season. Ross has some power (21 homers in 2006 and 17 in 2007), so it's not hard to say he will certainly be more of an asset than Corky Miller was. That went without saying though. Ross hit .225 with three homers in 60 games with the Reds and Red Sox last season. A.J. Burnett rumblings are starting to get louder...
The Burnett watch took an interesting turn on Wednesday, with reports running rampant that the Braves are ready to guarantee a fifth year. My thinking is that it will be at least a 5-year pact worth between $75-80 million. It makes me somewhat nervous to see Burnett getting that kind of guarantee, considering his injury histories. His 18 win season and AL-leading 231 strikeouts, do show that he has all the potential in the world to front the rotation.
Any deal with San Diego for that pitcher, we'll call him "X" for the sake of not littering this blog with references, don't seem to be in the offing. Atlanta would have to recoup a shortstop if Yunel Escobar went away, and it appears the market is about to be light of Edgar Renteria. Reports state that Renteria has already taken a physical and will sign a two-year contract with the San Francisco Giants. Meanwhile, expect Rafael Furcal to get a healthy pay day, so I doubt that homecoming is going to happen. Atlanta still needs an outfielder who can provide the power to the middle of the line-up. The Braves outfield production last season was horrendous, and that may call for a new blog at a later date.
I'm going to go ahead and thank Bowman, again, for shooting down Atlanta's interest in Adam Dunn. I don't have a real problem with the Braves getting another left-handed bat, but I don't think Dunn is anything special. Call me one of those people who isn't thrilled about the non-defense, epic number of strikeouts, empty walk numbers coupled with a low batting average that somehow make others believe his value his high because he is "on base all the time." He is a .247 career hitter who will never be mistaken for an impact player, no matter how much you shine those two things he does well.
Yeah, he hits some long home runs, but Dunn is not the answer to the Braves outfield problems. How can a guy who has hit 40+ homers for five straight seasons never knock in more than 106 runs while playing in that tiny Cincinnati ballpark?