By John Manuel
December 22, 2005
A trade that happened early in the month finally became official Tuesday, when the Diamondbacks sent righthander Javier Vazquez to his third team in just over two years. Vazquez joined the reigning World Series champion White Sox in exchange for veteran righthanders Orlando Hernandez and Luis Vizcaino and top outfield prospect Chris Young.
Vazquez, 29, commanded a hefty price for a pitcher with a career 89-93, 4.28 mark. That record includes a 5-15, 6.06 1998 season, however, when he was a 22-year-old Expos rookie. Vazquez seemed on his way to becoming one of the game's elite pitchers when the Yankees acquired him prior to the 2004 season in exchange for Nick Johnson, Juan Rivera and Randy Choate. However, he struggled with the Bronx Bombers (14-10, 4.91), particularly in the second half after being named an all-star, and was shelled in a relief role in Game Seven of the 2004 American League Championship Series loss to the Red Sox. He was traded to the Diamondbacks in the offseason as a key piece in the Randy Johnson trade and went 11-15, 4.42 for the Diamondbacks. His 192-46 strikeout-walk rate was an improvement over his year with the Yanks, but he allowed 35 homers, second-worst in the National League, in 216 innings. He made $11 million in 2005 and is scheduled to make $11.5 million in '06 and $12.5 million in '07.
The big name for BA readers to know is Chris Young, who had a breakthrough 2005 season and would have ranked as the White Sox' top prospect. Scouts who saw Young make the jump from the low Class A South Atlantic League in 2004 to the Double-A Southern League in 2005 raved about his mature handling of the jump, raw tools and increased polish. Young was the No. 4 prospect in the SL after hitting .277/.377/.545, ranking behind only Delmon Young, Jeremy Hermida and Jeff Francoeur. He tied for the league lead with 26 homers, led the league with 41 doubles and stole 32 bases in 38 attempts to boot. White Sox officials regularly compared him to former Sox farmhand Mike Cameron, though Young might not be quite that good defensively. The 16th-round pick in 2001 out of Bellaire (Texas) High is an above-average defender in center, however, a position where the Diamondbacks have an acute need. Young, 22, should have a shot at winning the center-field job in Arizona in 2006.
The Diamondbacks also get El Duque, the 40ish Cuban defector who has a 70-49, 4.11 mark in seven major league seasons. Hernandez' one-year tenure with the White Sox is most notable for the advice he gave fellow Cuban Jose Contreras, helping him become the Sox' second-half ace, and for his marvelous relief effort in Game Three of the Division Series against the Red Sox. He went 9-9, 5.12 in 2005, but his 128 innings were the most he's thrown since 2002. He's owed a base salary of $4.625 million and has incentives that could bring him up to $2 million more.
Vizcaino, 31, also had a one-year stint with the White Sox after being acquired last year from the Brewers in the Carlos Lee trade. Originally signed by the Athletics in 1994, he's been a Ranger (traded for all-star reliever Justin Duchscherer in 2002) as well and has a career 21-17, 4.36 mark with seven saves in 338 games. The hard-throwing righthander went 6-5, 3.73 last season for the White Sox and will fill a similar middle-relief role with Arizona.