On one hand it smells like old fashioned due diligence, on the other a potentially legitimate depth move. On a third hand it might even seem like a ploy to further establish JA Happ as a crucial late inning bullpen lefty (i.e. in the absence of Darren Oliver), rather than the club’s sixth starter/swingman. But however many hands you can come up with, it would appear as though the Jays have been taking a look at free agent starter Javier Vazquez.
Zach Links of MLBTR and making delicious beef jerky gets us up to speed:
Alex Cora, who serves as the GM of Vazquez’s team in Puerto Rico, told WEEI’s Hot Stove Show that the Blue Jays have also been scouting the 36-year-old, according to Alex Speier on Twitter. It’s not clear if the Red Sox or Blue Jays would be willing to give Vazquez a big league contract, but the Nationals aren’t believed to be considering it.
Obviously whether it’s an minor league deal or not is the rub.
There really isn’t any way I could see the Jays giving Vazquez a big league deal, with their rotation already set. Like, does Ricky Romero still have options? Because that’s the sort of question a deal like that would pose, and I just can’t imagine they’d have any interest in going there.
He’d be a great addition on a minor league deal, though– Scott Lewis wrote about this yesterday at Getting Blanked, passing on a tweet from Tim Brown of Yahoo!, who quoted a scout in Puerto Rico saying Vazquez “physically looks great, ball coming out of his hand well, could be a sneaky good pickup”– but as the quote suggests, the problem there is that he isn’t necessarily returning as a humbled, broken down ghost of his former self.
Granted, he’s only had one good year in the last three– his three-win 2011 season with the Marlins– but that’s partly because of the fact that he took 2012 off, and also because he was a dud for the 2010. Prior to that, though, he was capping off a staggering ten-year run with a 6.5 fWAR season in 2009. In fact, if you’re into that kind of Jack Morris arbitrary end-pointed “Most Wins In The 80s” nonsense, you might be shocked to note that only two pitchers (Roy Halladay and Randy Johnson) accumulated more wins above replacement than Vazquez during the aughts.
That doesn’t say a whole lot about the here and now, of course, but that 2011 season in Florida definitely shows some potential for value: his velocity ticked back up after his atrocious down year with the Yankees, and he actually pitched nearly a full run better on the road, by ERA and xFIP, and so wasn’t necessarily a product of the cavernous Joe Robbie Stadium (or whatever they were calling it by then).
And… I don’t know… maybe he sees an opportunity in Toronto, with the injury concerns over Johnson and Morrow and Romero’s performance issues. Buffalo certainly isn’t the Triple-A dealbreaker Vegas used to be, and– for whatever little it’s surely worth– he was an Expo back in AA’s day, so… maybe?
But I’d really be surprised if there wasn’t a better opportunity for him out there, all else being equal.
Would be fun, though. Interesting, at least. And a very tidy piece of depth, if in some crazy world they could convince him to be that.