TOT – The Melk Man Arrives With Arodys

TOT – The Melk Man Arrives With Arodys

Transaction of Today…December 22, 2009 – The New York Yankees traded Melky Cabrera, Mike Dunn, Arodys Vizcaino and $500,000 to the Atlanta Braves for Boone Logan and Javier Vazquez.

Our story really starts on December 4 of the previous year. That’s when the Atlanta Braves packaged a quartet of players, including Tyler Flowers and Brent Lillibridge, in a deal to get Javy Vazquez and Boone Logan from the White Sox. Even though he was included in both deals, let’s can forget about Logan for the moment. Sorry, Boone.

In 2008, the Atlanta Braves were, well, bad in the first year of Frank Wren’s reign (of terror?). The previous year’s Mark Teixeira trade took away many potential resources while not addressing the true issue with the team – pitching. In an effort to re-focus on that, Wren acquired Jair Jurrjens. A year later, he added Vazquez to the club in an effort to plug in holes in the Braves’ starting staff. He wasn’t done, either.

Due to spending much of his career with the Expos, the Braves were quite familiar with Vazquez. His production since leaving Montreal hadn’t been so impressive as he flamed out spectacularly with the Yankees, spent one season in Arizona, and three more with the White Sox. Only once, 2007, did his ERA fall under 4.40. But Atlanta saw a guy who just needed to get away from the DH and into a good pitcher’s park where his flyball nature could work a bit easier. Hence the decision to acquire Vazquez.

The 2008 Braves gave a combined 47 starts to Jorge Campillo and Jo-Jo Reyes so the idea of adding Vazquez, a proven innings-eater, was a plus for the team. They also added Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami, re-shaping their rotation in hopes of an improvement. Vazquez paired with Jurrjens to form a dynamic duo at the top of the rotation. Vazquez struck out 238 batters, just two off his best single-season total. In 219.1 innings, he walked just 44 and gave up 20 homers. To put the last number in context, 2009 was the only season Vazquez had an HR/9 lower than 1.0.

His ERA was 2.87 and his FIP was even better, coming in at a career-best 2.77. Shockingly, he was left off the All-Star roster, but the season would go down as the only time Vazquez earned Cy Young votes. He finished fourth. However, the Braves would close the season 86-76 after losing their final half-dozen games and slumped to third place.

Atlanta would re-sign Tim Hudson to a three-year deal after he returned from injury to start seven games down the stretch. They were already paying Lowe and Kawakami a good penny each. Jurrjens led the team with a 2.60 ERA while Tommy Hanson had emerged with a 2.89 ERA in 21 starts. Somebody had to go and Vazquez, who was entering the final season of his contract, seemed like the perfect option.

What the Yankees Got

Javier Vazquez | Chrisjnelson at the English language Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0]
Nevertheless, the destination was a shock. Traded to the Yankees after 2003, Vazquez finished the 2004 season with a 4.91 ERA. He notably got destroyed in Game 7 of the NLCS versus the Red Sox. Replacing Kevin Brown with the bases loaded and a 2-0 lead, Vazquez gave up a Grand Slam to Johnny Damon. He’d give up a second homer to Damon two innings later as the Red Sox completed their amazing comeback after being down 3-0 in the series. His last pitch with the Yankees was a Ball 4 to David Ortiz. He’d be somewhat surprisingly traded in the offseason despite signing a big contract extension the year before. But it also wasn’t much of a surprise. The Yanks wanted to turn the page.

Now, six years later, he was headed back to the Bronx after the best season of his career in Atlanta. Accompanying him was Boone Logan, who had come over with Vazquez the year before when the duo was traded to the Braves. Logan had been a regular LOOGY with the White Sox, but pitched just 20 games in Atlanta. His time with the Yankees was the best of his career as he pitched in at least 51 games each season, including a career-high 80 games in 2012. It landed him a big deal from the Rockies. He never quite found the same level of success after leaving the Yankees. After stops with both the Indians and Brewers, his career seems over following his release in the 2018 season.

Vazquez’s run with the Yankees was even worse the second time around. For the first time since he was a pup with the Expos, Vazquez finished the season with an ERA over 5. He was also removed from the rotation. The Yankees quickly moved on again. After one more season, this time with the Florida Marlins, Vazquez’s career came to a close following the 2011 season.

What the Braves Got

Let’s switch over to the 2010 Braves and the haul they received in return for Vazquez and Logan.

Melky Cabrera wasn’t happy about leaving New York where he was a popular player. Atlanta hoped he would bring some stability to their outfield, which had been among the league’s worst in 2009. Jason Heyward would help change that on his own, but he didn’t get much help – especially from Cabrera, who amazingly led the Braves in games played in 2010 despite a .255/.317/.354 slash. Often, Cabrera looked listless in a Braves uniform. His defensive and base-running lapses defied all logic. After an 0-for-8 showing in the playoffs, the Braves non-tendered Cabrera.

Unlike Vazquez and Logan, Cabrera continues to play and is just 35. He just doesn’t play in the same city for long. Cabrera made an All-Star Game in 2012 and played in the postseason in 2018. He can still hit, hitting .273 in every season since his one year with the Braves.

Mike Dunn has basically become Logan. After a long run with one team – the Marlins for Dunn – he went to Colorado where they give LOOGYs a ton of cash. Before that, Dunn also had a brief career with the Braves. In 25 games, he maintained a 1.89 ERA while spending much of the season in the minors. He did appear three times in the postseason, striking out two of the six batters he faced. After the season, the Braves traded him to the Marlins in the Dan Uggla deal. That allowed him to rise to prominence as a steady arm before leaving in free agency. Dunn was released by the Rockies last season after flaming out and remains a free agent.

And then, there’s Arodys Vizcaino. Kudos to Wren for getting Vizcaino, by the way. He turned four prospects into Vazquez’s best year and even grabbed a prospect that was better than any of the guys he gave up to get Vazquez. After the trade, Vazquez was named the #69th best prospect by Baseball America, which is pretty nice. There was hope he would stick as a starter, but injuries led the Braves and, after a trade, the Cubs to give up on that dream. He only pitched a handful of times for Chicago before being traded back to the Braves in one of John Coppolella’s first moves.

Through a suspension-shortened 2015, he flashed the potential that made him so highly ranked as a prospect. Over the next four seasons, he was often hurt, but when he was on the mound, he continued to post some great numbers. He simply couldn’t stay healthy enough to remain the team’s closer as they dreamed. Last season, the Braves traded an injured Vizcaino, along with Jesse Biddle, to the Mariners for Anthony Swarzak. After not pitching with Seattle, he’s now a free agent like the other two players who were shipped from the Yankees to the Braves on this day a decade ago.

The Trade Breakdown

In simple terms, here is a “winner” of the deal. I include deals the player was included in after the initial trade and assign a portion of the fWAR of the additional player(s) from those trade. For example, if X was traded with two players for Y, we add a third of Y’s fWAR to the breakdown.

Boone Logan | Chrisjnelson at the English language Wikipedia [CC BY 3.0]
Yankees receive:
Vazquez: 0.0 fWAR
Logan: 1.6 fWAR
Total: 1.6 fWAR

Braves receive:
Cabrera: -1.5 fWAR
Dunn: 0.1 fWAR + 2.7 fWAR (1/2 of Uggla’s Braves fWAR)
Vizcaino: 0.1 fWAR + 0.5 fWAR (1/2 of Reed Johnson & Paul Maholm)
Total: 1.9 fWAR

A couple of notes here. I’m only counting Johnson’s production after the 2012 trade and not his run in 2013 because he became a free agent and re-signed a new deal. Also, as you may notice, I’m not including Vizcaino’s second time around as that is a completely separate trade. Nevertheless, the Braves squeeze out a victory here largely on the heels of Uggla’s first two seasons with the Braves.

Final Thoughts

Vazquez was wonderful in his only year with the Braves and turning him into a prospect like Vizcaino was exactly what you do with a player who is entering the final year of his contract and you have too much depth to keep him. Unfortunately, however, the deal remains sour for Cabrera, one of the most hated Braves players in recent memory. The Braves ultimately didn’t exactly gain a lot from this trade, but you take chances on talents like Vizcaino. It’s sad that Wren didn’t take that same sort of approach to the draft, where the Braves often went with the safest players possible over high-potential, higher-risk options like Vizcaino. In this deal, though, they got it right.

But…to be honest…never having to watch Melky Cabrera as a Brave wouldn’t have been the worst thing. Here is probably the one play from his time as a Brave that you remember.

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