Atlanta adds Vazquez to new-look staff

Atlanta adds Vazquez to rotation

ATLANTA -- Growing up in the same hometown as Javy Lopez, Javier Vazquez had reason to be a Braves fan. Like many of the other natives of Ponce, Puerto Rico, he enjoyed the opportunity to see Lopez play alongside the likes of John Smoltz, Tom Glavine and Chipper Jones.

But Vazquez actually developed a passion for the Braves during the days when it seemed ridiculous to think October baseball could become an annual tradition in Atlanta. With the help of TBS, he found himself developing his Major League dreams while watching Dale Murphy and listening to the familiar voices of Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren.

"I've been following the Braves since I was a kid," Vazquez said. "Now I'm going to get to play for them and have one of those guys that I watched, Glenn Hubbard, be one of my coaches."

When this week arrived, there was growing reason to wonder if the Braves would be able to avoid one of those forgettable seasons that became all too familiar during the days that Murphy and Hubbard were two of owner Ted Turner's most recognizable players. An industry-wide slow offseason had led pessimists to wonder if Atlanta would land the starting pitchers that it has been actively pursuing.

But the pessimism has at least waned since Tuesday night, when the Braves and White Sox agreed to terms on a six-player trade that brings Vazquez and left-handed reliever Boone Logan to Atlanta in exchange for shortstop Brent Lillibridge, catcher Tyler Flowers, third baseman Jon Gilmore and left-handed pitcher Santos Rodriguez.

The trade became official Thursday morning, after Braves doctors viewed the results of an MRI exam that Vazquez took on Wednesday night.

"I consider Javy [Vazquez] to be an elite pitcher," Braves manager Bobby Cox said. "His stuff is way above average and he's a great athlete. ... I think it's a tremendous deal for the Braves to have Javy in our uniform."

While Vazquez alone doesn't provide a solution, his addition to the Atlanta rotation at least provides Braves general manager Frank Wren with a building block as he continues his attempt to complete his rotation-reconstruction project with the acquisition of an ace.

After introducing Vazquez during Thursday morning's press conference, Wren confirmed that he has made an offer to A.J. Burnett, whom the Braves are targeting to serve as their next ace. A Major League source, who was in contact with Burnett on Wednesday night, said Atlanta offered a four-year contract with a vesting fifth-year option that the source deemed "very attainable."

"We're trying to get another starting pitcher," Wren said. "That's been our focus throughout the offseason. But getting Javy was a big first step."

The Braves actually started actively pursuing this deal two weeks ago, after Wren called White Sox general manager Kenny Williams to discuss Logan, a 6-foot-5, hard-throwing left-hander whom the Braves also consider to be a key piece in this trade.

Hot Stove

This discussion led the two general managers to begin talking about Vazquez, whose durability is shown through the fact that Livan Hernandez is the only Major League pitcher to have completed more innings since the start of the 2000 season.

During each of the past nine seasons, Vazquez has pitched at least 198 innings and recorded 10 wins. The only year he didn't compile at least 200 innings during this span was 2004, when he won 14 games for the Yankees and earned his only All-Star selection.

"[Compiling innings] is something I take great pride in," Vazquez said. "I'm a guy who has been able to stay healthy. But the bottom line is to win, and that's what I'm here for."

After capturing a career-high 15 wins and notching seven complete games for the White Sox in 2007, Vazquez returned this past season and didn't enjoy the same kind of success. In 33 starts, he went 12-16 with a 4.67 ERA and 200 strikeouts. Still, this marked the third straight season in which he ranked among the top four American League pitchers in strikeouts.

"I have a lot of good years left," said the 32-year-old Vazquez, who will make $11.5 million in each of the next two seasons and then be eligible for free agency.

While Vazquez is the most recognizable piece of this trade, the Braves are also excited about the opportunity to add Logan's live young arm to their bullpen. At just 24 years old, the left-handed reliever has already made 144 career appearances.

During his first 36 appearances in 2008, Logan posted a 1.95 ERA and limited opponents to a .223 batting average. But after posting a 19.13 ERA and allowing opponents to hit .500 in his next 12 appearances, he found himself in manager Ozzie Guillen's doghouse and on the way to the Minors.

"He's a key piece," Wren said of Logan. "He's got the kind of live young arm that we were seeking."

Earlier this week, the Braves indicated that Logan's acquisition didn't necessarily mean they wouldn't continue to attempt to re-sign left-handed reliever Will Ohman. But doing so isn't a current priority, and Atlanta realizes Ohman could sign elsewhere before it could choose to make him another offer.

Of the four players the Braves sent to the White Sox, Flowers was the one who fans seemed most disheartened to see included. The hulking catcher hit 17 homers with Advanced Class A Myrtle Beach this past season, and then improved his stock while hitting 12 homers in 20 Arizona Fall League games, some of which were played with Williams in attendance.

"I'm sorry to see Flowers go," Braves third baseman Chipper Jones said. "That kid is going to be really good. But to get something good, you have to give up something good."

Mark Bowman is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.