It's been a quiet offseason.
Late Thursday night Javier Vazquez, the Diamondbacks defacto 'Ace' asked to be traded, a right he acquired when he was traded in the middle of a multi-year deal.
"...for me and my family, it would just be easier to be closer to the East Coast." Vazquez told ESPN, who broke the story Thursday night.
A native of Puerto Rico, Vazquez wants to go to a team 'east of the Mountain Time Zone,' and frankly, that doesn't narrow it down much. Vazquez has been quoted as saying he enjoyed playing in New York, so one can assume he'd prefer a large market, and his salary dictates that teams like the Royals and Devil Rays would be out, though playing in Tampa would allow him the opportunity to pop down to PR and see the family virtually any time he wanted.
The Mets will certainly be in the mix, one has to assume the Red Sox, who won their World Series with starting pitching in '04, and lost the '05 playoffs because of it, will show interest, and there is no doubt that George Steinbrenner is always looking to add another feather to his cap, particularly after his high priced pitching staff spent the vast majority of '05 on the disabled list.
So round up the usual suspects.
There will be other rumors/suitors as well. The Marlins make sense, after losing A.J. Burnett to free agency they might be interested in adding another starter, and the proximity to Puerto Rico would certainly be attractive to Vazquez, but the salary might be prohibitive to a team that averages 27 tickets sold to each home game, even in a pennant race.
The two Chicago teams seem to be out of the mix, as both have starting rotations that seem locked for the next few years, but the Cubs in particular might look for a straight trade, moving the injury prone Kerry Wood to Arizona for Vazquez, who has at the very least been healthy most of the time. That deal would allow both teams to keep their payrolls relatively steady, and a change of scenery might be just what both players are looking for.
That deal opens the more important question for the Diamondbacks. What can they expect to get in return?
The Diamondbacks will almost certainly get low balled right at the start. MLB GMs can smell blood in the water, and since the D'Backs have to deal Vazquez or lose him without compensation, they aren't exactly dealing from a power position. This situation will go one of three ways.
OPTION #1: The D'Backs move Vazquez for a similarly underperforming player. The Wood for Vazquez deal would fit this bill. Baseball is littered with guys who were paid for their 'potential' and have never lived up to it, either because of injury, or their potential was just vastly overrated. Outside of the Mets/Yanks/Red Sox there are very few teams that will be looking to add $11 million in salary for a pitcher who was wildly inconsistent in 2005. But if the money came out about the same we might get another unknown quantity in return for our unknown quantity.
POSSIBILITIES: To the Cubs for Wood; to the Nationals for Livan Hernandez; to the Yanks for Carl Pavano; To the Braves for Danny Kolb; to the Red Sox, along with Luis Gonzalez or Troy Glaus, for Manny Ramirez.
OPTION #2: Vazquez goes to a team looking for a starter and get medium level prospects or role players in return. In this scenario the Diamondbacks would get low balled for Vazquez, but still consider it a gain because they would clear the $24 million they own Vazquez for the next two years and, in theory, be able to use that to dip into the free agent market and attempt to fill their immediate needs. Those would include a center fielder, relievers, and possibly a catcher. Ideally they would be asking a reliever and a prospect in return, hoping that one or the other was, at the very least, a contributor. The key would be the amount of salary they were getting in return, so that even if they got busts coming to Arizona, they could point to whatever free agent they acquired as essentially part of the Vazquez deal.
POSSIBILITIES: To the Red Sox for Chad Bradford; To the Braves for Chris Reitsma; to the Orioles for Jason Grimsley; NOTE, all these deals would likely also include a mid-level prospect
OPTION #3: The D'Backs simply decline any offer and void Vazquez's contract. They would have to wait until March 15th, and they would be playing chicken with him, daring him to stay, but depending on what kind of offers they get, it might make the most sense. If they don't hear an offer they like, the Diamondbacks could simply wait it out. On the 15th of March Vazquez would have two choices, either become a free agent or rescind his trade request. If he becomes a free agent the Diamondbacks get out of their $24 million commitment, if he changes his mind they hold onto their #1 starter. If they go this route the biggest drawback is that by the time Vazquez finally made up his mind the choice free agents would likely be gone. Still, it would open up cash for the '06-'07 free agent signing period, likely to be much deeper, and also open salary up for a mid season trade, someone like Tori Hunter (assuming he's not dealt before next season).
Of course the most attractive idea for Diamondbacks fans is option #1, and the last possibility in that option. The persistent rumors of Manny coming to the desert always struck the staff here at FutureBacks as nothing more than rumors, but with this development the chances seem to increase. The Red Sox are in need of a starter under the age of 40, and if they are indeed going to move Manny they'll need to replace him with somebody to protect Ortiz in the lineup. The Sox would be taking on salary, but they haven't been scared to do that before.
Still, it might make the most sense for the Diamondbacks to simply cut the salary off their books. Barring a blockbuster deal like the one discussed one paragraph ago (man, the more I think about it, wouldn't Manny just go off at Chase Field?), ditching Vazquez for a couple of low salaried role players/relievers would allow Jeff Moorad and Josh Byrnes to hand pick their big offseason acquisition, and specifically fill a void in their lineup. Whatever happens, ultimately if Vazquez is gone, the Diamondbacks should be better off.