Bradley’s Buzz: Vazquez-for-Cabrera discussed & dissected

Javier Vazquez, we hardly knew ye. But we liked what we saw. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Javier, we hardly knew ye. But we liked what we saw. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

You’ve heard what Frank Wren had to say, and maybe you’ve even read my cool-headed thoughts on the matter. Today we leave it to outsiders. Or, in point of fact, to folks like ESPN.com’s Insiders. We start with the estimable Keith Law, who says the Braves didn’t get completely fleeced. (Link requires registration.) Writes Law:

“The key player in this trade for Atlanta is Arodys Vizcaino, who becomes one of the top five prospects in the Braves’ system and gives them a trio of potential No. 1 or No. 2 starters in the low minors with Julio Teheran and Randall Delgado. Vizcaino, who pitched at short-season Staten Island this past season, has a live fastball that sits 91-93 mph and touches a little higher. He throws a curveball that flashes plus and should miss bats at the big league level when he reaches it. He already has good feel for pitching and just needs experience and a little cleanup in his delivery, as he often finds his arm slot drifting down, at which point he starts to sling the ball instead of just throwing it.

“The Braves also get a few years of control of Melky Cabrera, a capable fourth outfielder who can play an average center field and has a plus arm. I don’t think Cabrera has the offensive skills to play every day in a corner outfield spot, particularly because of his willingness to expand the zone and chase pitches that most hitters wouldn’t consider. Atlanta could use him as a platoonmate for Matt Diaz, a right-handed hitter who has a 200-point career platoon split, or as a backup at all three outfield spots, playing him behind Diaz, Nate McLouth and — assuming he makes the club — Jason Heyward, the top prospect in baseball.

“Cabrera was a Super Two [eligible for arbitration with less than three years of service] this past offseason and should earn between $2.5 million and $3 million this offseason in arbitration, which is fairly pricey for a fourth outfielder. The third piece going to the Braves, Mike Dunn, is a converted outfielder with arm strength — he hit 94 repeatedly when I saw him in the Arizona Fall League — but he has 40 command at best on the 20-80 scale. He also has an inconsistent slider with some late break but that he has trouble finishing. It’s possible he’ll improve his command and/or control with more experience, but after nearly 400 pro innings, he’s still below-average in both departments.

“Atlanta’s need to make this deal dates back a full year to the signing of Kenshin Kawakami, to whom the team owes more than $13 million in the next two years. The Braves signed Kawakami despite having Tommy Hanson knocking on the door of the majors last winter and Tim Hudson returning from injury — a situation perfect for a one-year stopgap but one that made signing Kawakami [along with Derek Lowe] superfluous. Kawakami is untradable given his contract, and to clear a roster spot and payroll, they had to move their best starter from 2009. It’s a salary dump, and one in which Atlanta is lucky to get a young pitcher as good as Vizcaino, who is among the top 100 prospects in the game.”

And now we turn to the equally estimable Jayson Stark, who believes (as many have suggested) the Braves aren’t finished dealing. (Link also requires registration.) Writes Mr. Stark:

“Let’s characterize the Braves’ next move this way: The [Javier] Vazquez deal frees up about $9 million for the Braves to spend on upgrading their offense — Vazquez’s $11.5-million salary and the half-million in cash they’ll get from the Yankees, minus the $3 million or so Cabrera will make via arbitration. They’ll now look to use that surplus on an outfield bat, a first baseman or possibly both.

Johnny Damon is one possibility, particularly because his home in Orlando is within minutes of the Braves’ spring-training complex. Another option is free agent Xavier Nady, who could play first or the outfield and would come at a relatively low base because he is recovering from his second Tommy John surgery. Or the Braves could look to deal an outfielder — either Cabrera or possibly Jordan Schafer — for a bat. They’ve been linked in trade rumors to Florida’s Dan Uggla, who could potentially slide to first base.”

Writing for SI.com, Andrew Marchman also sees the Braves’ glass as being half-full. Quoth Mr. Marchman:

“The Braves got, it should be said, a better package for Vazquez than the Phillies did for Cliff Lee last week. The most important player they acquired is righthander Arodys Vizcaino , who, like any other teenage pitcher, is liable to break his team’s heart but who has, by all accounts, a serious chance at becoming a star.

“Melky Cabrera is a bad fit for the Braves, as they already have a crowded outfield and a very good center fielder, and most of Cabrera’s value is in his ability to provide vaguely average offense and solid defense in center, but at least he’s a valuable player who gives the team a lot of options. The third player, lefty Mike Dunn, is the proverbial live arm.

“For the Braves, the deal will be judged a success or failure based on what they do with the roughly $8 million that they freed up by moving Vazquez. They have enough starting pitching to sustain the loss, so if they can add a needed bat with that money and trade a spare outfielder to fill another need, they’ll likely come out ahead. If not, they’ll have missed an opportunity. But judged in its own right, this is a fair trade.”

Finally, Danny Knobler of CBSsports.com believes this deal could be a precursor to another. But not, apparently, the needed Big Bat Trade. Writes Mr. Knobler:

“The Braves always intended to trade either Vazquez or Derek Lowe for a much-needed bat. Cabrera could help them, but he’s not really that bat. So the Braves will take the approximately $9 million they save and keep shopping. They say they still can’t afford Matt Holliday or Jason Bay (and probably not even Johnny Damon), but who does that leave them with? Jermaine Dye? Marlon Byrd? Or another trade? [And] if the Braves believe that the 25-year-old Cabrera can be a long-term answer in center field, does that mean they’d make Jordan Schafer available in a trade?”

217 comments Add your comment

TheAntiMe

December 23rd, 2009
5:09 am

Bottom line, the Braves now have the prospects to trade for a bat. Also, they have some wiggle room in salary to sign someone via free agency such as Johnny Damon. Yes, Damon is not so young anymore but look what Raul Ibanez, who is a year older than Damon, did for the Phillies this year.

TheAntiMe

December 23rd, 2009
5:20 am

BTW, Mark, don’t you ever sleep. You’ve been up late tonight, sir. :)

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
5:27 am

Mr Bradley- You do know that Lowe has a better career ERA, right? You do know that Vaz had a freak year that he will never duplicate again, right? You do know that Lowe’s season last yr was better than 4 of the past 6 seasons Javy has had, right? No, I did not think so. Baseball is all about averages, unless you are just a superstar( which neither Lowe or Vaz seems to be) if you have a great season, the next season you seem to come back to earth. If you have a bad year, chance are you will have a better season the next season. I have a feeling Lowe and Javy era will be very close next year. The Braves STILL HAVE three could be aces,( Jair, Huddy, and Hanson) a proven winner and a guy who won 15 games last season ( Lowe) and our # 5 starter who had a 3.86 era last year. Sounds pretty good to me!

joe mc

December 23rd, 2009
5:31 am

Thank you Atlanta.I was worried my yankees would get nothing in the way of pitching

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
5:32 am

Also, you people make it sound like we missed the playoffs by 25 games last season. Have yall forgotten we were in it til final week! All we have done is gotten one of the best closers in the history of baseball( Wagner) have a very deep pen, with power arms( I can’t remember the last time that was said about the braves pen) we lost Vaz, yet we have this guy back for the full year. His name is Tim Hudson, and he is a LITTLE bit more proven that the one year wonder Javy. And still 3months and 12-15 mil to spend. No reason to think we wont be in the hunt for October again!

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
5:34 am

Cabrera makes no sense for the Braves. The other Yankees 26 year old outfielder does make sense for the Braves. Gardner would have worked for us, Cabrera better be traded by spring training or he ought to just be released. Who pays 3 mil for a fourth OF, especially when we have Brian Barton the definition of a fourth OF in AAA.

Ted Striker

December 23rd, 2009
5:36 am

Jeeze, guys, you’re up early. I’m not yet in bed.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
5:37 am

Umm yea Gardner is better than Melky? No, not at all… And Barton signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers. Good try though.

MitchC

December 23rd, 2009
5:38 am

Mark, it looks like you and I were in the minority in regard to our feelings on the Vazquez deal.

After thinking about it last night, I have two thoughts. It isnt so much that I feel Vazquez didnt have to be traded. Maybe he did, and maybe Lowe was very difficult to trade due to the contract. I just think that FW could have waited a bit longer, to have seen what happened with Lowe, and maybe to get a better package of players.

In regard to the money saved on the Vazquez deal. 9 mil is a good savings, and this team needs a bat, as we know. I keep hoping that maybe there’s a way the Braves can stretch their budget a mil or so, and be able to re sign Laroche. If that cant happen, then a Nady or Dunn would do okay too. Yes, Dunn strikes out a lot, but he has good power, something this team desperately needs, with Mccann being our only true power threat.

Maybe long term, this deal will work out okay. Although I will say that I’ll bet Wren regrets signing Derek Lowe and KK to those contracts. Those guys are ours now, for the life of the contracts, whether they win 15 games a season each, or two games a season each

lanier

December 23rd, 2009
5:39 am

Wren is a baseball man he wouldnt do this giveaway on his own. He was forced to by owners to save money. I find the Braves hard to root for

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
5:40 am

Thanks for the info on Barton, I still believe we have better options for a fourth outfielder than paying 3 million for one.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
5:42 am

I would love to know why you think Melky is better for us than Gardner

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
5:44 am

I somewhat agree with you. Are you going to trust a Matt Diaz who can’t hit RHP? Or a Schafer who has not proven anything except he knows how to strike out? Personally I think Schafer or Nate will be gone by spring training. Most likely Jordan, however if Nate can get us a big time hitter I would pull the trigger. Better to have too many options, than none at all.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
5:46 am

Because Melky is a switch hitter, Gardner is straight left. In case you have not noticed, the Braves are pretty left handed. Gardner has no power, and I mean NO power. Plus he has 375 career at bats, and a very Corky Miller like 675 ops.. OUCH I will give you that he can flat out fly. But you can’t steal first base. :)

#2 BAMA FAN

December 23rd, 2009
5:48 am

Hate to see the Braves trade Vazquez instead of Derek Lowe!! Well the Yankees only got better and the Braves get a 4th outfielder and two minor league players!! Yankees raped the braves!!

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
5:57 am

Forrest- You would honestly cut someone who played 154 games for the best team in baseball last season? I did not know the Yankees had every day starters who flat out sucked like your making Melky out to be. Another stat I have not heard a single person talk about. Last year in 485 at bats,The Melk Man only struck out 59 times. Thats how many times Francoeur k’d in a week if yall had forgotten. It means hes a tough out, kind of like Prado. I agree he wont put us over the top, but ever winning team needs a Melky type player on the team.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:10 am

The right handed batter we need is for the middle of the lineup. These guys are for the top or bottom, it really doesn’t matter there. I don’t really think .716 is much better in ops. I just think he’s a way better fit for our team, just like I think Vasquez would be better than Lowe year in and year out for OUR team, but that’s another subject. As a fourth outfielder Cabrera is just to expensive. As a fourth, basically Cabrera would be useful for his arm wheras Gardner would be useful for his speed. If we were to look at this aquisition as actually starting for the Braves then Gardner fits us far better. Start Cabrera and you have pure mediocrity for the 8th spot in the lineup. Start Gardner and you have a leadoff hitter, who has taken walks at a Matt Young-like rate his whole career and stolen bases at at very high % not just a high #. It would allow McCouth to move down in the order too, wheras with Melky McClouth would still be the leadoff man. Melky just doesn’t offer anything that we are lacking; Gardner gives us two things we lack: speed and a leadoff hitter who has a good eye. I am just pleading that Melky has better value to other teams, and hopefully that’s why we got him, to trade him.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:16 am

IMO every winning team needs a Prado type player. We already have a few Prado type players though, and Melky isn’t as good at that niche as any of them.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:19 am

As far as the cutting, if we were going to use him as a fourth outfielder then probably yes. Who pays 3 mil to a fourth OF?

Ernest

December 23rd, 2009
6:21 am

Frank Wren was on 790TheZone @ 4:30 pm on 12/22. He clearly indicated when asked that the Braves are not done dealing this offseason. A right handed bat is something he suggested was still on the horizon (he was asked specifically about LaRoche coming back). He also indicated he got the best package he could for one of our starting pitchers (suggesting that offers for Lowe were not as attractive). Many seem to have short memories regarding their reaction last year when we acquired Vasquez and what was given up to acquire him.

The Braves have been one of the most active teams during this offseason. Additional depth has been added to our area of strength with this deal, pitching. The Braves are in a position to trade using their minor league depth and/or acquire a free agent with monies freed up. Fans probably need to chill until they see what the makeup of the team is like going into spring training.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
6:22 am

I totally agree Melky is not an impact player. However hes a switch hitter like i said, he can play all three OF spots ( Gardner can’t) You keep saying 4th OF’er. Who are the other 3 OF’ers? Gardner sounds like a Jordan Schafer with zero power. We already got a guy with crazy speed and a good eye. So now are you now telling me Gardner is better than Schafer? Neither has proven much. And I am pretty sure Schaf has a little more potential upside then Brett Gardner!! You must be related to him or something.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
6:25 am

Exactly Earnest- The Braves have pitching, OF’ers and tons of prospects. They need to use those resources to make up in our areas we lack. Power hitting.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:30 am

Speaking in a right now sense, the other 3 would be McCouth Diaz Heyward. If they made him a starter, which is the only reason in my opinion to keep him a 3 mil, it would be McClouth Diaz and Melky giving Heyward mor time.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
6:34 am

How good has Diaz been as an every day starter? Not very, the man just can not hit RHP. How many games did Nate randomly miss last year? 25 in half a season? How many games has Heyward played in the majors? You make it sound like have a great outfield. So Melky can be a full time starter for the Yankees, but has no shot to start for the Braves? hmmmmm

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:36 am

I agree that Schafer has more upside but I don’t think he’s ready to start in the bigs until atleast ‘11. I think Gardner is what he is, a good major league leadoff hitter without any more upside than the high ob% hight sb% that is required of a leadoff hitter.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
6:42 am

You know Gardner is a good major league leadoff hitter from 97 career at bats in the leadoff spot where he has a below 700 ops? Im impressed, you need to be a scout if you can project talent like that. Heck, Melkey has almost twice as many career atbats hitting lead off

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:45 am

I don’t want Heyward to start in the majors; I think it’s a terrrible outfield, I guess my positive soul must be shining through lol. The so called experts are split as to whether he would start or not for the Braves, I was saying that he isn’t worth the $ if he doesn’t start, but I do think that with our current roster if the season began today he should start. I would just rather have Gardner starting than Cabrera.

Ralph Garr

December 23rd, 2009
6:45 am

FED UP,

Think about what you just wrote. Mark is dead on! When has Mark ever been dead on about anything execpt Wildcat basketball?

tbhawksfan

December 23rd, 2009
6:47 am

I bet yesterday Wren spent the day thinking that Bradley is the worst after reading that Bradley thought he was the worst.

I guess after Wren finishes the job and Bradley say’s; Oh, good job, they’ll kiss and make up.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:48 am

Better to have a .389 carreer OB% in the minors as a leadoff hitter than to have failed at it at the major league level; and if you want to say that speedy guy get illegitimate hits in the low minors because of shoddy D, well anyone in AA and AAA can field, and his numbers were just as good as he got to the higher levels.

Yankee boy

December 23rd, 2009
6:49 am

In the jungle of MLB, there is 1 Lion and a whole lot of hyenas. Guess what the Braves are.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
6:49 am

O i hope Heyward dominates and is the freak we all know he is right away. We just need to be patient, the kid is 20. And like i said earlier, i honestly believe that either Melky, Nate, or Schaf is gone by spring training… And you have your opinion, and I have mine. :)

Dave

December 23rd, 2009
6:56 am

The Yankees got rid of Vasquez before they are now getting him for the one year on his contract. Unless he has a big year chances are he may be back on the market again at the end of the year meaning the Braves may be able to sign him to a free agent contract or trade for him later at a reduced price down the line. We all know money is a big part of this so you have to view the trade knowing that. He was the Yankees third best minor leaguer and possibly even their second best pitcher or first if the other players in their minor league system were position players as is the case with Atlanta.

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
6:57 am

I agree with that, and that, and that too. Thanks for discussing it with me as I felt it was a legitimate question, since Girardi had been deciding which one he wanted to start for all of two seasons.

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 23rd, 2009
6:58 am

I’m watching Patton as I blog.

I think Wren watches Patton for breakfast every day.

LOL@theMets

December 23rd, 2009
7:01 am

Well once Matsui got hurt and they moved Damon to DH they both got more PT. Yet Melk played in 50 more games… O well, everyone ( mainly Mark Bradley) needs to relax and wait and see. After all we could be Met fans…. Thats a scarier thought than out starting outfield right now.

Michael Smith

December 23rd, 2009
7:06 am

This is a very disappointing move. If Melky Cabrera and a couple of minor leaguers is all we could get for one of our vaunted starting pitchers, well, we are toast. We have no position players that are even close to the quality of the Phillies’ Howard or Utley or Rollins or Ibanez. We are not competitive with those guys and in 3 years I haven’t seen Wren do anything to move us closer.

Braves are still out of the post-season for another 3 years.

The Braves Are Done

December 23rd, 2009
7:07 am

The Braves need a legitimate cleanup hitter…they won’t get one and they will continue to suck for years to come.

The Braves Are Done

December 23rd, 2009
7:08 am

and then people wonder why Atlanta fans don’t support their teams like fans in other cities…well here again is your answer.

Boston Braves

December 23rd, 2009
7:11 am

I do not think the braves are done dealing yet. Maybe the Bravos can trade with the San Diego for Adrian Gonzalez? Medlen, Melky and a minor leaguer? It would fit San Diego’s budget, they would get to Major leaguers for the right now and we get our 1st baseman with power and a team friendly contract. crazier things have happened!

Forrest

December 23rd, 2009
7:16 am

Fan support can make a good team a little better. The Braves, Hawks, and Falcons (I know nothing of hockey) are all good teams and Atlanta could make them a little better.

Marc in FL

December 23rd, 2009
7:19 am

To be honest I don’t see anyone short of a Bay or Holliday type player as really improving this team. Uggle? Nady? Damon? Not horrible players, but not ideal clean-up hitters either, and that’s what we need. Without a true #4, I don’t see us as being better than last year’s 86 wins, in fact I would expect to finish with a worst record.

NCBravesFan

December 23rd, 2009
7:23 am

Overall I think the Braves got a reasonable return for a top of the rotation starter with one year left on his contract (and one with an inconsistent track record from one year to the next).

The real question comes back to Cabrera and his fit on the Braves – and on that note I think we have to grade the trade as incomplete. We simply don’t know what the final roster is going to look like yet and whether MC will be a part of the Braves. It’s a little early to judge Wren for his work thus far.

I think any fan with his/her eyes open knew that the re-signing of Hudson would likely force some difficult decisions this off-season. On the one hand, you had a pitcher who had a disappointing 2009 who was paid a premium over the long haul (Lowe), and a guy with ace stuff signed for one more year with a limited trade market (couldn’t trade JV to half the divisions in baseball for one reason or another).

Neither of those situations make for getting a king’s ransom on the open market. What trading one or the other does is create the flexibility to do other things. Which is exactly what has happened.

Let’s see how the roster looks in a month and judge it then.

DisillusionedBravesFan

December 23rd, 2009
7:25 am

I hope that this trade is just the first piece of a bigger puzzle, and will end up factoring into more deals that leave the Braves truly in a better competitive position for next season, because right now it appears pretty senseless (to put it mildly) on the surface. Even if you take the position that we now have one or more very good prospects in the ‘lower minors’, that raises the question of whether the organization’s player-development skills are currently at a high enough level to nurture and take advantage of them…which to me is no longer a given.

Opinions, anyone?

Sleeze

December 23rd, 2009
7:28 am

It’s hard to evaluate this deal completely until we see what (or “if”) Wren does something else. If this deal was a precursor that sets up another deal for a live bat, then it makes more sense.

ArkyTech

December 23rd, 2009
7:37 am

If we’re so “deep” in the outfield, how come we keep trotting out the likes of Gregor Blanco and Reid Goreicki? If Melky was good enough to play 150 games and pick up 485 at bats for the Yankees, he can probably help us out.

Law says he isn’t offensively good enough to play the corner – who in our organization is at this point? The closest thing is Diaz, and he doesn’t hit righties, has defensive liabilities, and is oft-injured. Melky is a nice piece that addresses an area of weakness. Now sit back and see what happens next.

Jackets2009

December 23rd, 2009
7:48 am

What salary would Vazquez command as a free agent and sub 3 ERA? The one year left on his contract works great for the Yankees if last year was a career year or fluke. Frank Wren is a Yankke mole secretly working for the Steinbrenners.
The best team and current World Champion gets our best pitcher based on performance and not imagination.
Other MLB teams feel they deserve a trade with the Braves to make things fair.

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 23rd, 2009
7:48 am

It’s alot to ask but the legit cleanup guy might be the kid from McDonough. Face it folks, 90 large doesn’t buy what it use to.

"Chef" Tim Dix

December 23rd, 2009
7:50 am

Patton just killed two jack asses.

Ever had that feeling?

Dap01

December 23rd, 2009
7:52 am

Who is Gardner and does he play for the Braves? The trade might help us in the years to come but it will win very few games for us in 2010. Melky will make $3,000,000 next year. His stats have nothing in them that indicates a $3,000,000 contract.

Again, does Gardner play for the Braves?