Javier Vazquez and the Nats Peculiar Problem
There was a time, not that long ago, when the Nats starting staff contained pitchers like Odalis Perez, Tim Redding, Pedro Astacio, Mike Bacsik, Micah Bowie, Jason Simontacchi and many other pitchers looking for that one last shot at major league glory. Thankfully those days are beyond the Nats, but there is one downside to no longer being the last stop on the train to obscurity. The Nationals still have a need for those types of pitchers, but now have trouble attracting them.
In the bygone days when those washed up pitchers played for the Nationals they had trouble attracting free agents. The Nationals had to scrape the bottom of the barrel in order to even field a 25 man roster and five man rotation. Being that they had no prospects waiting in the wings, and no good major league talent standing in the way pitchers looking for that one last shot were willing to give the Nationals a try.
With the news that the Nationals are one of several teams scouting Javier Vazquez, as he looks to come out of retirement, this becomes an issue. In 2007, 2008, or 2009 this wouldn't be a problem. The Nats could offer what few other teams could, a chance to pitch in the majors. Now the Nationals can't offer that. If Javier Vazquez wants to be guaranteed to pitch in the majors in 2013 then the Nationals are not the team for him. The Nationals rotation is set and while Vazquez will be offered an invite to Spring Training he won't have much of a chance to make the team.
The role Vazquez or a player like him would serve on the Nationals is to be the sixth starter. Having this level of depth would allow the Nationals to either give up on the idea of Christian Garcia as a starter and keep him in the bullpen, or to add even further depth at the AAA level. Vazquez is the exact type of player the Nationals need for this role. A pitcher that was once good and had great success at the major league level and wants to play again, but the problem is that he is going to want to play and not spend most of his season riding buses in Syracuse while waiting for a doubleheader or injury.
Vazquez is the perfect candidate for this role. When protecting against injury it isn't smart to sign a player who may get injured themselves and for his career Vazquez has been one of the most durable starters out there. In 14 major league seasons he has pitched under 190 innings three times, and two of those seasons came in the first two years of his career. In nine seasons as an NL pitcher Vazquez has an ERA of 3.99 and K/BB ratio of 3.54. His overall career ERA of 4.22 is tarnished a bit by the five seasons he pitched in the AL with a 4.65 ERA.
For what the Nationals need Vazquez is the perfect guy, but there are more than a few teams out there that don't need an emergency starter to stash in AAA and can offer Vazquez a chance to make a club out of Spring Training. Unless things go terribly wrong that is not a chance the Nationals offer, and that puts them at a peculiar disadvantage when negotiating with a player like Vazquez.