The Yanks have until Tuesday, November 23rd to offer arbitration to their free agents. I would expect them to offer it to Derek Jeter and Mariano Rivera, given that the Yanks would absolutely love for them to accept 1 year deals. I’d think they won’t offer to Andy Pettitte, knowing he only wants to play for the Yanks and thinking they can do better by negotiating with Andy than they can with an arbitrator. Most of the rest of their other free agents (Berkman, Wood, Johnson, Kearns) are either too old and/or overpaid to offer arbitration to, fearing they’d accept and do much better in arbitration negotiating from their base salary. As a rule, older players that don’t figure to get multi-year offers elsewhere will typically do better in arbitration than they will as free agents.
But lately the hot stove has been buzzing with interest for Javier Vazquez. First, we heard the Braves would like to bring him back with the strong 2009 campaign he had in Atlanta. Next we heard the Rockies consider him a plan B if they don’t re-sign Jorge De Larosa. The Dodgers have kicked the tires on Javy. More recently, the Marlins have expressed a strong interest and even sent their manager Edwin Rodriguez to see him. Upon hearing this development, the Nats are now ready to make Vazquez a formal offer as soon as next week according to Bill Ladson of MLB.com. Expect the formal offers to be made after Tuesday, nobody wants to make the Yankees decision any easier and/or give up a draft pick if they don’t have to. But don’t think the Yanks aren’t watching these developments very closely and taking them into consideration in whether or not to offer Javy arbitration.
Chances are the Marlins are just bargain hunting, and the Braves may be as well. The Dodgers have a habit of kicking the tires on all sorts of players, sometimes I think Ned Colletti is just helping out a local beat writer more than he he serious about pursuing some players. Mike Axisa of MLBTR broke down Vazquez’s free agent stock and concluded that the most likely scenario is a one-year incentive laden ‘show me’ deal where he has to prove last year was a just a fluke. But the Nats are in a different position than most teams. It’s a bad club in a tough division, they generally have to overpay to get players to play there, especially those that have other options. Javy and his agent know this, that’s why they have already flirted with the Nats, knowing that making them a realistic option tells his other suitors that they’ll have to step up with a multi-year offer in order to land him. They’ve also flirted with the Marlins, and we seem to have an NL East bidding war starting where the Braves, Marlins and Nats are all after the same player.
So far this off season, some of the contracts handed out have to raise an eyebrow or two. 3 years/16.5 for Joakim Benoit and 3 years/$18 mil for John Buck makes you think this could be one of those years where there’s lots of dollars chasing very little talent. We all know the pitching market is thin after Cliff Lee. After Jorge DelaRosa, it’s even thinner. At that point you’re deciding between Vazquez and the Kevin Correia, Carl Pavano, Kevin Millwood and the Jon Garlands of the world. All of a sudden, Javy doesn’t look all that bad and may even have some upside in the right setting.
Lets return to the general rule on offering arb. Do you think someone will offer Javy multiple years in this market? I do, and therefore he’s one of the pending Yankee free agents who I’d offer arbitration to. I also suspect that Javier’s experience in New York was so unpleasant, where he lost his spot in the rotation twice and the manager clearly had no faith in him, that if this is in any way a close call, his bias will be toward pitching elsewhere next year and will lean towards declining arbitration. Javier Vazquez is a Type B free agent, the Yanks will be eligible for a sandwich pick no matter where he signs. Let’s hope he signs with the Nats.