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The Marlins Prepare to Add Javier Vazquez

For the second time in Javier Vazquez’s career, he will rejoin the National League after a miserable season with the New York Yankees. Following the 2004 season, the Yankees traded Vazquez to the Arizona Diamondbacks. Barring an injury, Vazquez will play for his third National League East team in 2011, as he has chosen to sign with the Florida Marlins by his own devices.

The signing itself is not too surprising. Rumors have had the Marlins interested in wooing the 34-year-old (35 in late June) and Vazquez is from Puerto Rico. The living arrangements and preferences of players are normally overplayed, but part of Vazquez’s trade request from Arizona came with the desire to lighten the travel load placed upon his family, meaning there is merit to the idea that he signed with Florida to be near home. As the indications are this is a one-year deal, Vazquez will be young enough at year’s end to look for another multiple-year free agent contract if he can put together a solid 2011.

As simplistic as it sounds, the first step in a comeback is health. Baseball Info Solutions clocked Vazquez’s heater at 89 miles per hour; a figure that creates concern when compared to his previous career low of 90 miles per hour. PitchFx data also had Vazquez finishing with a velocity of 89 miles per hour, with his previous available velocities sitting above 91 miles per hour. Knowing the condition of Vazquez’s throwing equipment is a necessity before projecting a full-tilt return to worthiness. If Vazquez passes the Marlins’ physical, it will be a tacit – if not infallible – nod that Vazquez’s arm is capable of slinging rather than in need of a sling.

From there, one can look at Vazquez’s history of success and try to figure out what 2011 may hold. While it is true that Vazquez has always performed better in the National League, it would foolish to read too much into his statistics from his time in Arizona five seasons ago. Those Arizona numbers are marginalized to the point where they hold little predictive power, so just imagine how little his Montreal numbers mean now, and yet they account for three-fourths of his career National League appearances.

Regardless of the league, the WAR totals on this site evaluate Vazquez’s worth at -0.2, 6.5, and 4.9 wins over the last three seasons. Mentioning Vazquez and FIP in the same sentence ensures a battle over the metric’s ability to accurately convey Vazquez’s value. Meanwhile, Baseball-Reference’s pitching WAR metric adjusts run average with considerations to defense and ballpark. They have Vazquez valued at 0, 5.2, and 3.1 wins over the last three seasons. Not drastic, but for the sake of argument, here are the averages of those win totals:

2010: -0.1
2009: 5.9
2008: 4

A 5-3-2 weighing has Vazquez projected at 2.5 wins without considering any variables outside of those included in his win totals. One can add a little for competition adjustment or subtract for age and health concerns. The financial terms are unavailable at this point, but it is hard to see Vazquez getting much from the Marlins (counterpoint: John Buck). Inking a healthy Vazquez at eight million for a year might have been a bargain; inking him for considerably less than eight million stands the chance to be the starting pitcher deal of the offseason.

Update: Ken Rosenthal has a source saying the deal will be worth between $6 and $7 million.