Of all the things that didn’t work out as planned for the Braves this season, we’ve known a for a while now that Javier Vazquez isn’t one of them. What we don’t know is: Where do they go from here?
Or maybe the better question is: Where does Vazquez go from here?
The ripple effect of the contracts the Braves gave pitchers Derek Lowe (four years, $60 million) and Kenshin Kawakami (three years, $23 million) is going to be felt this off-season. General manager Frank Wren has some options but he’s also somewhat painted into a corner. The chances of trading either Lowe or Kawakami are minimal because of the contracts. So that’s two starters. Tommy Hanson and Jair Jurrjens are young and good and cheap. That’s two more starters. That leaves Vazquez and Tim Hudson for one spot in a five-man rotation.
See where we’re going with this?
Hudson has an expensive option at $12 million. But we also know that if he can come back next season as strong as he has shown in two recent starts, he’s one of the top pitchers on the staff. Vazquez is going into the final year of his contract at $11.5 million. If you’ve always wondered why his name keeps coming up in trade talks, that’s why. The Braves can’t keep everybody, not merely because of numbers but because of dollars. If you add Lowe, Kawakami, Hudson and Vazquez, that’s about $45.2 million for four pitchers, nearly half the team’s payroll (approximately $97 million).
These are the options:
1) Try to trade Lowe or Kawakami (Kawakami is more likely, and the Braves would have to pick up some of his payroll, which kind of defeats the purpose of the trade to begin with).
2) Move Kawakami to the bullpen. The problem is this doesn’t reduce payroll and it creates a $6.7 million pitcher middle reliever.
3) Release Hudson. And there possibly goes the ace of the staff.
4) Trade Vazquez. And there goes possibly the current ace of the staff. (Check out the numbers below.)
Not easy, is it? This problem wouldn’t exist if not for the Lowe’s and Kawakami’s contracts, but now the Braves will have to deal with it.
No poll on this. I figured everybody would vote, “Trade Kawakami,” and I just don’t know how realistic that is. So give me your thoughts.
Pitcher GS W-L ERA IP BB KO
Javier Vazquez 28 12-9 3.06 188.1 40 208
Jair Jurrjens 29 10-10 2.93 178.0 64 126
Derek Lowe 29 13-9 4.36 171.1 52 92
Kenshin Kawakami 27 7-11 4.02 145.2 55 99
Tommy Hanson 16 9-3 3.07 93.2 36 78
Kris Medlen 4 3-5 4.68 57.2 28 67
Jo-Jo Reyes 5 0-2 7.00 27 13 21
Tim Hudson 2 1-0 2.19 12.1 4 11