I was having a discussion this morning with @NYBD on twitter, and he raised an interesting question that I wanted to pose to you: if the Yankees had known that Phil Hughes would be as good as he has been thus far, would they have made the move for Javier Vazquez? To elaborate, let’s assume that Hughes finishes the year with 14-16 wins and an ERA below 4.00. If you had guaranteed to Brian Cashman that Hughes would turn in that sort of season, would he have felt it necessary to bring in Javier Vazquez and relinquish Arodys Vizcaino? Or would he have allowed Hughes to be the 4th starter and gone with Joba Chamberlain or possibly Alfredo Aceves at #5?
I happen to think that Vazquez would be a Yankee no matter what the Yankees expected out of Hughes. The allure of Vazquez had a lot less to do with his sub-3.00 ERA in the NL last year and a lot more to do with the fact that he is practically a lock for 200 league average innings every year. With Hughes on an innings limit, Andy Pettitte aging, and the two horses at the front of the rotation having thrown a lot of innings last year, Vazquez represented a quality insurance policy against injury. Having 200 guaranteed innings in the rotation is something that takes a lot of pressure off the GM, and the quality level of Phil’s 170 innings does not really impact those considerations.
Conversely, one could argue that Cashman made the move with the playoffs in mind. After being forced to use just 3 starters in last year’s postseason, Brian wanted to assure that he would have 4 solid starters come playoff time. Under this angle of reasoning, Hughes stepping up and becoming a reliable rotation member might have precluded a move for a veteran such as Vazquez. A playoff rotation with Sabathia, Burnett, Pettitte, and an effective Hughes would be more than adequate, and would probably make the Yankees the favorite in any playoff series. If the move was made with the playoffs as the primary consideration, then Hughes’ emergence might have rendered it moot.
I lean towards the belief that the move would have been made regardless of the emergence of Phil Hughes as a strong starter. How about you?