KANSAS CITY, Mo. – The Royals eventually could add another intriguing name to the battle for the final spot in their rotation next spring – free-agent right-hander Javier Vazquez.
Vazquez, 36, has won 165 games over a 14-year career in the majors and has struck out 2,536 hitters in 2,840 innings.
Vazquez has not pitched in the major leagues since 2011 when he went 13-11 with a 3.69 ERA for the Florida Marlins.
But Vazquez is now pitching again for Criollos de Caguas in winter ball in Puerto Rico. The Royals are one of a handful of teams who have scouted him.
“Our reports are very good on him,” Royals assistant general manager J.J. Picollo told FOXSportsKansasCity.com. “We’ll continue to look at him and evaluate and see if it’s a fit.”
In his latest start last week, Vazquez threw six innings, gave up one run and struck out 10.
“His velocity was pretty good,” Picollo said. “He was consistently in the low 90s (mph) and he was able to bring it up to the mid-90s when he had to.”
Vazquez began his career with the Montreal Expos and has also pitched for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, White Sox, Braves and Marlins. His best season came in 2009 when he went 15-10 for the Braves with a 2.87 ERA.
“He’s a big guy (6 feet 2, 210 pounds) who knows how to pitch,” Picollo said. “That’s why there’s so much interest in him.”
Vazquez somewhat abruptly “retired” after the 2011 season and indicated he wanted to spend more time with his family.
“It was probably a little bit of fatigue,” Picollo said. “And now he comes back after a year off, a little fresher, and he’s going to get looks. Everyone wants pitching.”
Vazquez also has indicated he will pitch in the World Baseball Classic this March.
“I don’t think something will happen with him right away,” Picollo said. “He’s going to pitch in the WBC and that will give everyone another chance to look at him.”
If the Royals were to sign Vazquez, he would compete with Luke Hochevar, Bruce Chen, Luis Mendoza and Will Smith for the final spot in the Royals’ rotation behind James Shields, Jeremy Guthrie, Ervin Santana and Wade Davis.
Of course, finances could be an issue. The Royals already have boosted their payroll with the additions of Shields, Guthrie, Santana and Davis. And Vazquez isn’t likely to sign for anything less than $4 million.
“It would be interesting to have him in the competition,” Picollo said. “We’ll look at his progress, look at the finances and see if it fits.”