Rest of AL East should just give up now

BY Ken Rosenthal • December 22, 2009

How would you like to be the Tampa Bay Rays? The Baltimore Orioles? The Toronto Blue Jays?

Now pitching for the Yankees in 2010: CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, Andy Pettitte and Javier Vazquez.

Now pitching for the Red Sox: Josh Beckett, John Lackey, Jon Lester and Clay Buchholz.

And rest assured, the two AL East super-powers are not done.

The Yankees will find an outfielder to replace Melky Cabrera, who is headed to the Braves in the Vazquez deal.

Welcome back, Johnny Damon? Not necessarily. The Yankees still might find Damon, Jason Bay and Matt Holliday too expensive.

But I guarantee you, their outfield next season will not be Curtis Granderson, Nick Swisher and Brett Gardner.

The Red Sox, meanwhile, still could add a corner infielder, either by trading for Padres first baseman Adrian Gonzalez or signing free-agent third baseman Adrian Beltre.

The Sox signed Lackey. The Yankees traded for Vazquez. One of the two will add another bat. The other will respond.

Yes, Vazquez was something of a flop with the Yankees in 2004, but not in the first half, when he went 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA and made his only All-Star team.

He had an ERA of nearly 7.00 after the All-Star Game that year and was brutal in the playoffs, but the Yankees were not discouraged by the relatively small sample.

Vazquez, 33, was sixth in the National League with a career-best 2.87 ERA last season. He has pitched 200 innings in each of the past 10 seasons except 2004, when he worked – ahem! – 198.

Is he something of an enigma, a pitcher whose stuff should long ago have translated into greater stardom? Sure. But his prior stint with the Yankees not only was his first experience in the AL, but also his first experience outside of Montreal, where he pitched in relative obscurity.

Ozzie Guillen, Vazquez’s former manager with the White Sox, all but labeled him “soft” and insinuated that he is more of an NL pitcher.

Well, Vazquez is 86-86 with a career 4.07 ERA in the NL, 56-53 with a career 4.40 ERA in the AL. Not much difference really, considering that the AL is more of a hitter’s league.

Sabathia, Burnett and Pettitte will welcome Vazquez, make him feel comfortable, help him relax. Vazquez will be in the final year of his contract, pitching for one last big free-agent score. Yes, there are questions about him, just as there are questions about Lackey, who has been on the disabled list with arm injuries in each of the past two seasons.

Tell it to Tampa Bay. Tell it to Baltimore. Tell it to Toronto.

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