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(Un)Happy Veterans' Day

Nice to wake up this morning, and discover your Opening Day starter from last year has demanded a trade. That concentrates the mind wonderfully, I'd say.

Yep, Javy Vazquez appears to be on his way out. However, there are a couple of things to note about how the game will play out from here. Firstly, he may still be in Arizona come Opening Day. The Diamondbacks have until the middle of March to deal him, and if they don't, Vazquez will either have to withdraw his demand or try and pick up a free agent deal, three weeks before the season starts. While I've no doubt he'll find a home, odds are it won't be for anything like the $12m/year he gets if he stays here - few teams will want to put that kind of money aside, on the off-chance Vazquez is still available.

Also, I'm not sure what happens if we come up with a trade, but Vazquez decides he'd rather stay here. He has a limited set of teams to which he can say he does not want to be traded, but it's only six. Even assuming Seattle, Minnesota, etc. are taken off the list, that still would seem to leave a lot of places which would be less fun than Arizona as far as flying to Puerto Rico is concerned. Vazquez might then decide it's better not to be traded after all...

In an amusing comment, Vazquez's agent says, "This isn't a demand. It's a respectful request to be traded to a place that can satisfy his desire to be closer to home." Meanwhile, Vazquez is painfully earnest in trying to stress this: "Just for personal reasons, it would be easier on my family to be closer to the East Coast... I really enjoyed my time in Arizona. I had a good time with the guys on the team and everyone there. Everybody treated me well - the fans, the organization, everybody. I just want to be somewhere that my family is more comfortable."

Hmmm: he's earning $12m/year; how much would it take to hire a plane to take his wife and kids to Puerto Rico - in comfort - half-a-dozen times per year? Probably about as much, in relative terms, as I spend on gas back and forth to Gilbert. Hey, maybe I should demand Go Daddy trade me to a company closer to Scottsdale, "just for personal reasons." Wonder how that'd go down? Well, actually, I can hear the HR Department sniggering already.

No, I'm afraid that particular partridge doesn't really fly - I'd probably have more respect for Vazquez if he didn't hide behind his wife's coat-tails with regard to whatever reasons he may have for wanting out. Oh, I don't doubt it's a factor, but it seems a painfully thin justification. On the other hand, possessing an Hispanic other half myself, and having relocated from London to Arizona, I can fully understand his desire to please la esposa. :-)

But regardless of the reasons, what do the D'backs do? Assuming the departure of Vazquez, does, I think, answer the issue of what our biggest problem is over the close-season: starting pitching now becomes a huge problem. We either have to look at replacing Vazquez with a pitcher of similar quality. Or we replace him with some (presumably top-notch) prospects - and basically write off the 2006 season, because any team with Russ Ortiz as their #2 starter would be hard pushed to win a AAA division crown.

However, if we take the second route, we'd then have Vazquez's $12m salary to spend on a free-agent like AJ Burnett. And, in a low-supply market like this year's starting pitchers, we'd likely need almost all that: Burnett will command $10m/year or more, depending on how much interest he generates. [Even if his snit at the end of last season probably whacked a million or so off, since he's now perceived as a clubhouse cancer]

It's also possible that we trade Vazquez to strengthen some of our other weaknesses: center field or catcher would seem to be the most obvious positions. Then, again, we'd be left with a serious hole at the top of our rotation. Not that Vazquez was exactly a reliable ace, but on his (occasional) day, he was probably the best pitcher we had last season. But save these sporadic occasions, he didn't come close to justifying a $12m salary, so if the trade is careful, and any resulting bank balance is well-spent, this could turn out to be a positive move. Both for us and Mrs. Vazquez...