Javier Vazquez signing a one-year, $7 million deal with the Marlins has seemingly everyone assuming that he’ll fare well going back to the NL and away from New York, and admittedly that was my first thought as well.
After all, Vazquez has a 4.02 ERA in eight career seasons in the NL, compared to 4.65 in four AL seasons, and was an elite starter for the Braves in 2009 with a 2.87 ERA in 219 innings.
However, as David Cameron of Fan Graphs notes Vazquez’s struggles with the Yankees may have had more to do with his declining fastball velocity than his inability to pitch in New York.
His average fastball fell from 91.1 miles per hour in 2009 to 88.7 mph this season as Vazquez posted the lowest ground-ball percentage of his career and served up 34 homers in just 157 innings while batters made contact on more than 80 percent of their swings against him for the first time.
Going from the AL to the NL and from the Yankees’ power-boosting ballpark to the Marlins’ pitcher-friendly home will no doubt help Vazquez, but at age 35 and with his fastball ranking among the slowest in baseball this season it’s also possible that he’s simply no longer as good as he used to be.
Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports that the Royals and first baseman Eric Hosmer have discussed a long-term contract extension. However, Hosmer also indicated that he will head into free agency if a deal is not consummated by Opening Day.
Hosmer, 27, avoided arbitration with the Royals last month, agreeing to a $12.25 million salary for the 2017 season. He is one of four key Royals players who can become a free agent after the season along with Mike Moustakas, Alcides Escobar, and Lorenzo Cain. If Hosmer does reach free agency, he would arguably be the top free agent first baseman.
Hosmer finished the past season hitting .266/.328/.433 with 25 home runs and 104 RBI while making his first All-Star team.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post reports that the Yankees have signed pitcher Jon Niese to a minor league contract, pending a physical. Assuming the deal is finalized, Sherman notes that the Yankees will have Niese work as both a starter and a reliever in big league camp this spring.
According to Sherman, the Yankees were interested in lefty relievers Jerry Blevins and Boone Logan, but didn’t want to commit at their asking prices. They are looking for a lefty set-up man along with Tommy Lane.
Niese, 30, pitched for the Pirates and Mets last season, finishing with a 5.50 ERA and an 88/47 K/BB ratio over 121 innings.