This may seem like a peculiar question to ask regarding the Braves’ right-hander. You could ask if the Braves were going to trade him this winter. You could ask if the Braves will just let him walk away at the end of next season when he becomes a free agent.
But I prefer to ask if the Braves are going to extend Javier Vazquez’s contract past the 2010 season.
It is not out of the question, considering how much Vazquez loved playing in Atlanta this past season. And make no mistake about it, a number of sources have confirmed that Vazquez loved playing in Atlanta this past season.
We had heard for years that the Braves wanted Vazquez. Bobby Cox made no secret of his affection for Vazquez, and once he was traded here it was interesting to wonder if the Braves had maybe hit paydirt.
Vazquez went out and had his best season as a pro pitcher in 2009, going 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA (career-best), 181 hits allowed in 219.1 innings pitched (career-best ratio), only 44 walks, and 238 strikeouts (second-most in his career).
Vazquez loves Atlanta. He loves wearing the Braves’ uniform. He loves Bobby Cox. He loves his teammates. And he loves being in the Braves’ clubhouse. He is not going to want to leave.
With his success, the Braves must ask themselves if Vazquez has finally lived up to his potential. Remember five years ago, when he was traded to the Yankees and many wondered if he was getting ready to be the next great pitcher in the game?
Well, maybe he needed to be in the right environment to make that happen. We know he didn’t fit in well with the Yankees – and not everyone can. We know he got into a funk with Ozzie Guillen in Chicago, and that’s not unusual. So maybe he just had to come to Atlanta and back to the National League to reach his potential – even at 33 years old.
Vazquez was a huge influence in the Atlanta clubhouse this season. He helped Jair Jurrjens tremendously, teaching the young right-hander more about the ‘art’ of pitching. Vazquez was a true leader in the clubhouse, and that is very valuable, especially in a rotation.
So maybe the Braves need to make Vazquez a long-term member of the rotation by offering him an extension. Having a veteran like Vazquez and Tim Hudson, joined by the young talents of Jurrjens and Tommy Hanson, would guarantee the Braves a solid group for the next few seasons.
Would a two-year, $22 million dollar offer get it done? Perhaps.
Of course, there is a small chance Vazquez could be used in a trade this winter. We all know the math. The Braves are likely to have six pitchers for five spots in the rotation. But with the way he contributed last season, it’s unlikely Vazquez would be put on the trade block.
Could the Braves be blown away with an offer? Certainly. But it would have to be the perfect fit, since the chances are probably greater that instead of getting rid of Vazquez after one year, the preference is to keep him around for the long-term.
Bill Shanks hosts The Bill Shanks Show on
WFSM Fox Sports 1670 in Macon, Georgia and The Braves Show Talk Show. Shanks writes a weekly baseball column for The Macon Telegraph and is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/billshanks.