Haymakers and The Vazquez Deal

Punch. Then counter punch.

The Sox signed John Lackey. Then the Yankees added Javier Vazquez. While not a knockout punch by any means, the move is a big blow by any measure – maybe a rib-buster or a deep cut above the left eye.

Still, the move looks like another excellent trade by Yankees’ GM Brian Cashman, who always seems to acquire stud players at excellent prices.

Vazquez looks to be no different, as the team ceded expendable pieces in Melky Cabrera, and minor leaguers Arodys Vizcaino and Mike Dunn. Marc Hulet made a great breakdown of the prospects in his profile of the Yanks’ top 10 prospects, with Vizcaino 4th and Dunn 6th. Vizcaino, 19, has quite the ceiling, as evidenced by his 11.06 K/9 in 2009 at low-A. His fastball ranges from the high 80s to mid 90s.

Dunn, 24, is a bit closer to the majors, posting huge strikeout rates (99 Ks in 73.1 innings) in relief at AA and AAA last season and ending the year with 4.0 IP for the big club. He needs a lot of work on his command, however, as he walked 46 last season.

John Manuel of Baseball America has a bit of a different take, ranking Vizcaino 3rd, leaving Dunn off his top-10 list. Still, while the Yankee’s system will miss both players, but they were not forced to give up their best prospects, especially catchers Jesus Montero and Austin Romine – who, by most accounts, are numbers 1 and 2 in their system.

Montero, in particular, is an exemplary prospect, who hit 17 home runs in A-ball as an 18 year-old in 2008, to go along with a .326/.376/.491 line. He got even better last year, slugging 17 again in just 347 at-bats between high-A and AA. A scary batsman, at least he struggles with the glove behind the plate.

What has been termed by some as a salary dump – or a deal to free up cash at the very least – the Braves, apparently, thought that $11.5 million was too steep a price for a pitcher who posted WAR values of 6.6, 4.8, 5.1, and 4.8 in the last four seasons. Still, they want a bat for the middle of their order, and credit must go to the Yankees for finding an excellent, durable pitcher from their organizational depth.

But, ahh, such are the deals that can be made with seemingly limitless financial resources. For a team with pockets as deep as the Yankees and Red Sox, the departure of a few prospects can be made up for by both supplemental picks (that should come from Vazquez departing via free agency) and from signing above-slot picks in the later rounds. With more money to go toward their farm system, teams with large budgets can sign players who drop due to signability concerns – in essence, adding additional first-round caliber players.

So, even though they part ways with players of considerable talent, they won’t be missed as much as most teams.

Now, the rotations for both teams look quite formidable. As FOX Sports’ Ken Rosenthal puts it, the rest of the AL East ought to “just give up.”

Yankees: C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Javier Vazquez, Andy Pettitte, Joba Chamberlain

Red Sox: Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, John Lackey, Clay Buchholz, Daisuke Matsuzaka

Now, those are some serious guns in the rotation.

The Plot Thickens on Adrian Gonzalez

And, in what seems to be a never ending cycle of Adrian Gonzalez rumors, the plot thickens. With the Braves now in command of two additional prospects, David O’Brien of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution speculates whether the team will now make a push to acquire Adrian Gonzalez.

An additional suitor for Gonzalez would certainly push up the asking price for Gonzalez, though there are questions as to whether the asking price is already too high for the Red Sox to come to terms with San Diego and GM Jed Hoyer. The Mike Cameron deal certainly sparked some rumors of its own, as some expect that Jacoby Ellsbury would, in turn, become the centerpiece for any deal that would bring in Gonzalez.

Under this scenario, Cameron would move to his natural position of centerfield, though it is uncertain who would man left field. Though an underdog, for certain, Jason Bay continues to be connected with the Red Sox. As reported by MLB Trade Rumors and Bill Maddon of the New York Daily News, Bay’s agent, Joe Urbon, even returned to the Sox’ front office to entice the team to reexamine his client.

If Bay’s market has dried up like many believe it has – leaving only the Mets as legitimate suitors – then his price tag could certainly come to a range satisfactory to the Red Sox.

Even so, such a move must be considered a long shot as a number of dominoes would have to fall before such a scenario could play out. Even so, Gonzalez would be quite the addition to the team. And, with the punch count this off season at 2-1 Yankees, maybe the Red Sox front office is planning for a knockout blow. Gonzalez would certainly be just that.