Starting pitcher Javier Vazquez, an 11-year veteran of four teams, now has a fifth team to add to his resume. The Atlanta Braves and Chicago White Sox agreed to a six-player swap that makes Vazquez an Atlanta Brave:
RHP Javier Vazquez
LHP Boone Logan
C Tyler Flowers
SS Brent Lillibridge
3B Jon Gilmore
LHP Santos Rodriguez
The blue chip prospect in this deal is catcher Tyler Flowers, who tore up the Arizona Fall League this past month, batting .387 with an AFL-leading 12 homers and 1.433 OPS in 20 games. He should start the 2009 season with the AA Birmingham Barons of the Southern League.
Shortstop Brent Lillibridge fell from top prospect status last season; his 2008 campaign was his worst as a player. Lillibridge batted just .220/.294/.344 in 403 plate appearances with Richmond last year. He was called up periodically because of injuries to Yunel Escobar and Martin Prado, but Brent only had a .200/.238/.338 line with six doubles and one home run in 85 plate appearances with Atlanta.
The other two prospects, Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez, are promising youngsters. Gilmore, a two-year pro, finished his Age 19 season in Low A Rome. He batted .337 with four home runs in Danville, the top rookie farm club for the Braves, before being promoted. Rodriguez, a 20-year old lefty reliever, completed his second tour of duty with the short-season Gulf Coast Braves last year. In 29 innings in 2008, he struck out 45 batters and allowed just nine earned runs.
Javier Vazquez's most recent season was a bit of a bad-luck streak. He lost five starts and had three no-decisions in which he gave up three runs or less. That contributed to his less-than-sparkling 12-16 record. His main problem seems to be the gopher ball; he hasn't gone a single season without giving up at least 20 home runs. Still, if he can continue to keep his walks down and eat innings up, he'll be a welcome addition to the Braves (whose offense may also give him some more hard-luck losses) for the next couple of seasons.
Lefty reliever Boone Logan, who is turning 24 next year, had a decent first half in 2008 with the White Sox, but he completely imploded in the second half of the year. He may be best used as a LOOGY in Atlanta. Ironically, the Braves already have two relievers that fit that bill already (Royce Ring and Jeff Ridgway). Still, a strong showing in spring would guarantee him a spot in the pen, where Cox may use three lefties next season.
After having an evening to digest the idea of having Vazquez on the team and the "price" it took to get him, I've come to a conclusion. I believe that this trade is not horrible because it does give the Braves exactly what they need: a #2 starter who pitches like an ace at his very best and a #3 starter at his worst. It is also not a forgone conclusion that the Braves will only have him for just two years. It is quite possible that the Braves may be able to retain him for a few more years if he wants to stay. A lot can happen in just two years, whether it be good or bad.
TRADE GRADE: B+
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