Source confirms deal for Vazquez

Source confirms deal for Vazquez

CHICAGO -- It would have been enough during this offseason for Ken Williams to bring in Jim Thome via trade from the Phillies and re-sign free agent Paul Konerko to a five-year deal, strengthening the middle of a somewhat inconsistent offense.

And it would have been more than enough for Williams to add super-sub Rob Mackowiak, as both an insurance policy for Joe Crede at third base and a semi-regular in both the infield and the outfield, in exchange for left-handed reliever Damaso Marte. After all, the White Sox won their first World Series title since 1917 last season, so how much repair work could this group really need?

For the White Sox general manager, though, it's not about the instant help provided by one big pickup. It's not solely about putting his team in the best position to win a second straight title in 2006.

Williams is always looking to sustained success in the future.

With that thought in mind, the trade for Javier Vazquez, which was confirmed by a Major League source on Wednesday, might not be Williams' last maneuver of the offseason. Vazquez, 29, who had requested a trade from Arizona in order to be closer to his family in Puerto Rico, was acquired from the Diamondbacks in exchange for right-handed starter Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez, right-handed reliever Luis Vizcaino and top outfield prospect Chris Young. WSCR Radio in Chicago also is reporting the Diamondbacks added $5 million to offset the $24 million owed to Vazquez in the next two seasons.

This trade now brings the total to six players on the active roster for the World Series sweep of the Astros in October who no longer are with the White Sox. Nobody in the organization seems to be complaining about Williams' aggressive ways.

"If I'm sitting in the other Major League cities as a fan, I'm saying, 'Holy cow. The White Sox are really serious about what they are doing and winning another title,'" said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper of the Vazquez trade, speaking mostly in the hypothetical, with the deal not expected to become official until Friday or the beginning of next week, after physicals and approval from the Commissioner's office.

"This team has added Jim Thome, Rob Mackowiak and if and when this trade becomes official, a quality right-handed pitcher in Javier Vazquez," Cooper added. "Kenny is not messing around. He's looking to get this team stronger, not just for now, but for the future."

Vazquez seems to fit the mold of the White Sox starting rotation, in that he's not a No. 1 starter, per se, but has the ability to give the South Siders 14-to-16 victories and at least 200 innings pitched. Vazquez has worked 200 innings during five of his last six seasons, and he logged 198 innings for the Yankees in 2004.

The best year for Vazquez came in 2003 with the Expos, when he finished 13-12 but allowed just 198 hits over 230 2/3 innings. He struck out a career-high 241 and walked 57, posting a 3.24 ERA.

Cooper's goal, when all of the Is are dotted and Ts are crossed, is to get Vazquez back into that sort of form. But his first target, much the same as the team did with Jose Contreras, is to produce an environment for Vazquez conducive to his top effort.

"The plan would be no more or no less than getting him to help us win another championship," Cooper said. "I have an idea what he's done the last two years. When this is official, I will then have film, look at numbers and find out more and more information about him and come up with a plan for him.

"He's a good, quality guy, and we have to get him back to when he was at his best, which looks like when he was with Montreal," Cooper added. "It's nice to have that sort of quality you can count on. Every time we ran out one of our six starters last year, we felt like we had a chance to win. There's no change at all with this group."

Vazquez's impending addition gives the White Sox six quality starters on their staff, but at least two sources close to the situation expect all six to start Spring Training with the team in Tucson. Jon Garland currently is arbitration eligible and reportedly turned down a three-year offer from the White Sox, leaving him to test the free agent waters after the 2006 season.

Contreras, who will earn $8 million in 2006, also can become a free agent if the White Sox don't sign him to a new deal by Nov. 15, 2006. Vazquez provides insurance against either one of those hurlers exiting. With the departure of Hernandez, Marte and Vizcaino, sixth starter Brandon McCarthy figures to open the season out of the bullpen. However, he is expected to be a rotation stalwart in the not too distant future.

The six starters also guard against the workload amassed by pitchers such as Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia and Garland over the last four or five years, not to mention Buehrle and Garcia's foray into the inaugural World Baseball Classic. Both were issues mentioned by Williams at the Winter Meetings.

"That's all speculation, until we sit down and examine all we have and say what's best," said Cooper of McCarthy's possible move to the bullpen. "I'll tell you one thing -- the decision will be made for the good of the organization and the team first, not the individuals.

"I bet if you asked McCarthy about pitching in the bullpen, developing, getting his feet wet and learning a new tool to make himself an asset to the organization and to benefit himself, or whether he wants to go to Triple-A and pitch, you know the answer," Cooper added.

Cooper praised Vizcaino for being able to fit into any role the team threw at him last year, while Hernandez was a valuable, knowledgeable and colorful addition to the White Sox staff. Young, 22, seems to be the key to the trade for the Diamondbacks, showing off his 30-30 potential for Double-A Birmingham in 2005 with 26 home runs and 32 stolen bases.

Young was expected to compete with Brian Anderson for the starting center field spot, as is Jerry Owens. Young pitchers such as Sean Tracey and Paulino Reynoso also might be called upon to step up for the White Sox out of the bullpen, according to Cooper.

Williams has the best of both worlds working. He continues to improve his team at the Major League level while drawing on his system to fill other voids.

"I sit back and wait for Kenny to do stuff, and I know he will be doing things, and I've never been disappointed," Cooper said. "We've made great moves to make our team stronger and created chances for young guys to prove themselves. That sort of thing always seems to be true of the best teams."

Scott Merkin is a reporter for This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.