NEW YORK — Pitcher Javy Vazquez was traded back to the Yankees by the Atlanta Braves on Tuesday for outfielder Melky Cabrera, a move that pushed New York’s payroll for next season over US$200 million.
New York also got left-hander Boone Logan as part of the deal, and the Braves obtained a pair of pitching prospects, left-hander Mike Dunn and right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, along with about $500,000.
“I didn’t want to leave my first time out,” Vazquez said. “I’m glad to be back.”
The trade leaves New York with an opening in left field, allowing the Yankees to perhaps pursue Mark DeRosa. The club does not appear interested in re-signing Johnny Damon or going after free agents Matt Holliday and Jason Bay of Trail. B.C.
Atlanta had six starting pitchers and felt free to deal Vazquez, who was 14-10 for the Yankees in 2004. He started 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA that year and made his only all-star team but faded to a 4-5 record and 6.92 ERA after the break, when he was bothered by an aching shoulder.
“The second half of ’04, which was poor, cannot erase the long success he’s had as a major league pitcher,” Yankees general manager Brian Cashman said.
His first stint in New York ended miserably, when he relieved Kevin Brown trailing 2-0 in Game 7 of the AL championship series against Boston and allowed a first-pitch grand slam to Damon, then gave up a two-run homer to Damon in the fourth.
“Hopefully, I can erase those memories,” Vazquez said.
Vazquez was dealt to the Arizona Diamondbacks after the season in the trade that brought Randy Johnson to New York. He spent one year with Arizona, then went to the Chicago White Sox for three seasons.
Now 33, the right-hander was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts this year for the Braves, and finished fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting. Vazquez, whose career record is 142-139 in 12 seasons, will make $11.5 million next year and can become a free agent after the season.
He joins a pitching rotation that includes CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. New York’s top four starters will combine for $64 million in payroll — more than four teams paid their entire rosters last season.
With the trade and including the still-pending signing of free-agent designated hitter Nick Johnson, the Yankees payroll for next season stands at $200.9 million for 16 signed players. That includes two not expected to make the opening-day roster: pitcher Andrew Brackman and infielder Juan Miranda.
Vazquez’s arrival allows the Yankees to keep either Joba Chamberlain or Phil Hughes in the bullpen.
Cabrera had been the Yankees’ starting centre fielder for most of the last three seasons. After losing the job to Brett Gardner during spring training this year, he quickly regained it and hit .274 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs, helping the Yankees win the World Series for the first time since 2000. But he has a .239 post-season average with just six RBIs in 67 at-bats.
Cabrera made $1.425 million last season and is eligible for free agency after the 2012 season.
“He has the ability to play all three outfield positions,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “That versatility really helps our ballclub.”
Logan, acquired by the Braves from the White Sox in the Vazquez trade last December, was 1-1 with a 5.19 ERA in 20 relief appearances. He held left-handers to a .231 average and figures to fill the hole created by the departure of Phil Coke, who was sent to Detroit in a deal that brought New York centre-fielder Curtis Granderson.
Atlanta had a surplus of starting pitching after giving Tim Hudson a $28 million, three-year contract in November. The trade left the Braves with a rotation that includes Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, Tommy Hanson, Derek Lowe and Kenshin Kawakami.
“We knew that we would have an extra pitcher that would allow us to improve our club in other areas.” Wren said.
Dunn, 24, had a combined 99 strikeouts in 73 1-3 innings at triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre and double-A Trenton, going 4-3 with a 3.31 ERA in 38 relief appearances. He made his major league debut Sept. 4 and had a 6.75 ERA in four appearances.
Vizcaino, who is 19, was 2-4 with a 2.13 ERA at single-A Staten Island, striking out 52 in 42 1-3 innings.