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Vazquez has too much value for Braves to move

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Ken Rosenthal

Ken Rosenthal has been the FOXSports.com's Senior MLB Writer since August 2005. He appears weekly on MLB on FOX, FOX Sports Radio and MLB Network. He's a member of the Baseball Writers Association of America. Follow him on Twitter.

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Teams can call all they want on right-hander Javier Vazquez, but why would the Braves trade him? Here's a team that spent the entire off-season trying to fix its rotation. Vazquez, acquired from the White Sox, has outperformed the team's $60 million free agent, righty Derek Lowe. He is under contract through next season, and given his fondness for the Braves and manager Bobby Cox, almost certainly would entertain an extension. Yes, right-hander Tim Hudson is progressing well in his comeback from Tommy John surgery, but the Braves will not know by July 31 if he is ready to make a significant contribution. Meanwhile, the team already has traded right-hander Charlie Morton, while two other young pitchers, righty Kris Medlen and lefty Jo-Jo Reyes, remain unproven. There is no hitter on the market who would represent fair value for Vazquez — not A's left fielder Matt Holliday, who is underperforming as a potential free agent; not Brewers right fielder Corey Hart, whose on-base percentage since the start of the 2008 season is .307. There will, however, be plenty of hitters available at bargain prices this off-season. One more thing: Vazquez's contract prohibits him from being traded to the NL West or AL West, and that clause is not negotiable. Vazquez exercised his right to demand a trade in Nov. 25, 2005 after the Yankees sent him to the Diamondbacks while he was in the middle of a multi-year deal. The D-Backs sent him to the White Sox a month later.

Where were the Mets?

If any team needed Scott Hairston, it was the Mets. Hairston, playing his home games at Petco Park, hit 10 home runs for the Padres, a total that would have tied him with Gary Sheffield for the Mets' team lead.

Fix the draft — now

Agent Scott Boras is not the only one who believes it's ridiculous that an international player such as Cuban left-hander Aroldis Chapman can command untold millions as a free agent while a draft-eligible amateur such as Stephen Strasburg can negotiate only with the club that selected him.

One management official predicts that the distribution of amateur talent will be the "single-biggest issue" in the next round of labor negotiations. The current labor agreement expires in 2011, and two of the biggest issues in recent talks — revenue sharing and drug testing — should require little more than tweaking.

The difficulty of implementing a worldwide draft is a subject for another day, but one club executive refers to the domestic draft as "a broken-down piece of machinery that is irreparable."

Clubs value prospects like never before at a time when the seemingly diminished use of performance-enhancing drugs is forcing players to age more normally.

Thus, it's imperative that baseball figures out how to fix the system, making it fairer for all 30 clubs.

Ken Rosenthal
Yet, the Mets barely were a factor in the Hairston discussions, balking when the Padres asked for right-hander Bobby Parnell, according to major-league sources. Maybe the Mets could not have matched the A's offer for Hairston — hard-throwing righties Ryan Webb and Craig Italiano, plus another pitcher to be named. But Hairston, earning $1.25 million, would have been an affordable stopgap until the return of first baseman Carlos Delgado, shortstop Jose Reyes and outfielder Carlos Beltran.

Marlins trying the retread route

The Marlins' attempt to obtain Orioles closer George Sherrill fizzled after the O's asked for Class AA first baseman Logan Morrison or Class AA outfielder Mike Stanton, according to a major-league source. The team's effort to acquire Red Sox reliever Manny Delcarmen for Class AAA first baseman Gaby Sanchez also went nowhere due to the Sox's reluctance to break up their bullpen. So, give the Marlins your tired, your poor, your veteran relievers yearning to break free. The Fish recently signed free-agent righties Luis Ayala and Brendan Donnelly. Another righty, Scott Williamson, is ready to resume pitching in the minors. The Marlins would like more of a veteran presence in their bullpen as they await the return of closer Matt Lindstrom, who is recovering from a right elbow strain. But even if their plan sputters, they should be well-positioned for a second-half run. The return of outfielder Cameron Maybin, who is hot at Class AAA, would enable the Marlins to play Craig Coghlan in left field and Cody Ross in right, with Jeremy Hermida assuming more of a reserve role. Right-hander Rick VandenHurk also is performing well at Class AAA, giving the Marlins another rotation option if one of their top five starters gets injured.

E. Jackson: Almost a Mariner

All-Star right-hander Edwin Jackson could have landed with the Mariners instead of the Tigers last offseason. The Mariners wanted both Jackson and outfielder Fernando Perez in a three-way deal that would have sent reliever J.J. Putz to the Tigers and outfielder Matt Joyce to the Rays. The Rays, however, wanted more than Joyce if they were giving up both Jackson and Perez. The talks sputtered, and the M's eventually made a separate three-way deal with the Mets and Indians at the winter meetings, trading Putz to the Mets. The Tigers had arrived at the meetings looking for bullpen help, anticipating the return of right-hander Jeremy Bonderman and revivals of lefties Dontrelle Willis and Nate Robertson. Tigers GM Dave Dombrowski says his scouts urged him to pursue Jackson while kicking around ideas in the team's hotel suite. The Joyce-for-Jackson deal followed.

Hammel: Another former Ray makes good

No one should rush to judgment and condemn the Rays for the successes of Jackson and another of their former pitchers, Rockies right-hander Jason Hammel. The Rays still expect Joyce to develop into a 20-homer man and above- average defender, and they had little choice but to trade Hammel, who — like righties Jeff Niemann and Lance Cormier — was out of options at the end of spring training. Niemann is 7-4 with a 4.14 ERA, and Cormier has been outstanding in relief. The Rays sent Hammel to the Rockies for right-hander Aneury Rodriguez, who has rebounded from a rocky start while pitching at age 21 in Class AA. Hammel is 5-4 with a 3.90 ERA for the Rockies, but his home-road splits are disturbing. He's 1-2 with a 7.12 ERA at Coors Field, 4-2 with a 1.97 ERA on the road. While Rays left-hander David Price is struggling, he still projects as an ace. And Class AAA righty Wade Davis and Class AA righty Jeremy Hellickson should be future members of the rotation as well. The depth could enable the Rays to trade lefty Scott Kazmir, 25, for younger pitchers this off-season. Kazmir is due $8 million in 2010 and $12 million in '11 with a $13.5 million option for '12. The Rays might need increased financial flexibility to re-sign All- Star outfielder Carl Crawford and/or first baseman Carlos Pena, both of whom are under contract only through '10.

E. Cabrera: The Padres' Furcal?

Add Padres shortstop Everth Cabrera to the list of success stories from the Rule 5 draft. Padres GM Kevin Towers predicts that Cabrera, selected from the Rockies last winter for $50,000, will be "every bit of (Rafael) Furcal in the very near future." That's heady praise, but Towers' players agree. Second baseman David Eckstein, while noting that Cabrera needs experience, says, "There is not anybody in the league with better range and a better arm at shortstop." Cabrera, 22, is listed at 5-foot-9, 170 pounds. Furcal, 31, is listed at 5-10, 165. And Cabrera, like Furcal, is a switch-hitter, strong defender and proficient base stealer with a zest for the game. For Towers, the emergence of Cabrera is consolation for the Padres' loss of reliever Joakim Soria to the Royals in the 2006 Rule 5 draft. "We're due one after losing Soria," Towers says.

Gwynn Jr. liberated in San Diego

It figures that Padres center fielder Tony Gwynn Jr. is more comfortable playing at home in San Diego, and Towers says his hitting style is well-suited for the big, expansive gaps at Petco Park. Gwynn, however, says the pressure to hit for power with the Brewers came not just from playing at hitter-friendly Miller Park, but also from being part of a stacked lineup. "I don't know if it was the park," Gwynn says. "You look at the lineup, it leads you down that road. From one to eight, anybody can get you at any given time. I've got one career homer. Going into this year, I had none. But that's how they built their team."

Reading the Tea-hen leaves

The Royals do not seem terribly inclined to trade Mark Teahen, whom one club official describes as "our most consistent player, day in and day out." Teahen, 27, could end up on an outfield corner next season if Jose Guillen becomes the full-time DH, but his salary will rise to the $4 million to $5 million range in arbitration — and then go even higher the year after that. More than one rival executive believes the Royals need to maximize Teahen's value sooner rather than later. A left-handed hitter, he would be a perfect fit for say, the Tigers or Giants, among other clubs.

Mr. Indecisive: The Dodgers' Wolf

Dodgers left-hander Randy Wolf, with 12 no-decisions in 18 starts, could approach Bert Blyleven's record of 20 no-decisions in a season. Wolf is aware of the mark, and over the weekend he even shared with reporters a wry quote from Blyleven: "I played on a team that loved to score late." Actually, things did not work out too badly for Blyleven with the 1979 Pirates. The team won the World Series, with Blyleven earning a victory in both the NLCS and the Series.

Around the horn

  • One reason the Brewers are interested in Diamondbacks left-hander Doug Davis: They know now that they undervalued Davis in his first stint with the club. Desperate for catching, the Brewers traded Davis, left- hander Dana Eveland and outfielder David Krynzel to the D-Backs for catcher Johnny Estrada, right-hander Greg Aquino and right-hander Claudio Vargas on Nov. 25, 2006. Estrada lasted one season with the club . . .
  • Have the Orioles already waited too long to move right-handed setup man Danys Baez? Well, Baez is not helping his value, that's for sure. He has allowed eight runs in his last 5 2/3 innings, raising his ERA from 3.32 to 4.50. And, as one rival scout notes, he has yet to pitch on back-to-back days this season . . .
  • All-Star second baseman Orlando Hudson, who has one hit in his last 28 at-bats, assessed himself thusly last Friday: "I suck right now. You can write it. I've got no answer for it, no excuses. I've got a great manager, a great hitting coach. I'm not even close to being a decent ballplayer right now. I'm not helping my team in any way, shape or form. I'm just terrible." . . .
  • One player the Pirates would love to get as a possible replacement for second baseman Freddie Sanchez: Eric Young Jr., who has a .386 on-base percentage at Class AAA with the Rockies. But Young, 24, also looms as a potential replacement for the Rockies' current second baseman, Clint Barmes, who has two more years of arbitration. Barmes for reliever Matt Capps? It would make little sense of the Pirates, who are going young and cheap . . .
  • Martin Prado is the Braves' new version of Mark DeRosa; he plays first base, second and third, and has even been a left fielder in the Venezuelan winter league. He played with a groin problem for two months that would have forced most players to the disabled list, one club official says. Needless to say, his teammates love him . . .
  • One Tigers official says of right fielder Magglio Ordonez: "If he hits at all in the second half, we win this thing." Bold words perhaps, but the Tigers have played more road games (47) than any club. They're 21-26 on the road, 23-11 at Comerica Park . . .
  • Losing two of three to the Diamondbacks was not a good sign for the Rockies, who need to take advantage of a soft part of their schedule. That series marked the start of a stretch of 17 straight games against sub-.500 clubs, including 13 against the D-Backs, Nationals and Padres, the three worst clubs in the NL . . .
  • One thought for the Indians would be to trade a young hitter such as Matt LaPorta for a comparable pitching prospect. The A's, in need of offense, are deep in such pitchers, but such depth can erode quickly. Left-hander Josh Outman is headed for Tommy John surgery, and righty Trevor Cahill is struggling against left-handed hitters. Righties are hitting .234-.290-.366 against Cahill, lefties .299-.383-.614 . . .
  • The best quote I've heard yet from a scout on Mariners first baseman Russell Branyan: "He's doing things as a hitter he had never done before, fundamental stuff. He's laying off pitches, covering the plate, reading breaking balls. I've got to give him credit. I've never been a fan of his. But I'm changing my mind on him."
  • Tagged: Orioles, Red Sox, White Sox, Indians, Tigers, Royals, Brewers, Athletics, Mariners, Braves, Dodgers, Nationals, Mets, Pirates, Padres, Rockies, Marlins, Diamondbacks, Rays, Derek Lowe, Magglio Ordonez, Danys Baez, Tim Hudson, Javier Vazquez, Randy Wolf, Carlos Pena, Orlando Hudson, Carl Crawford, Scott Hairston, Luis Ayala, Jeremy Bonderman, Dontrelle Willis, J.J. Putz, Edwin Jackson, Scott Kazmir, Matt Holliday, Corey Hart, Lance Cormier, Mark Teahen, George Sherrill, Jeremy Hermida, Dana Eveland, Cameron Maybin, Tony Gwynn Jr., Jeff Niemann, Matt Lindstrom, Joakim Soria, Rick van den Hurk, Jo-Jo Reyes, David Price, Wade Davis, Matt Joyce, Charlie Morton, Bobby Parnell, Gaby Sanchez, Everth Cabrera, Kris Medlen

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