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Sox Extend Vasquez's Contract

By Benjy Lipsman in News on Mar 7, 2007 5:24PM

Chicagoist is becoming increasingly concerned about Sox GM Kenny Williams and his mental state. Has he been overworked the past few years? Does he need a break? Is he trying to get himself fired? Does he covet some scouting job with the New York Mets?

2007_03_sports_javier_vasquez.jpgOtherwise, we're at a loss to explain his handling of the White Sox starting rotation since the end of last season. In early December, he traded Freddy Garcia, a workhorse who's averaged about 15 wins a season, to the Phillies for some prospects. OK, so the Sox had six potential starters, and Brandon McCarthy probably deserves a spot in the rotation. A couple of weeks later, he traded Brandon McCarthy to the Rangers. If he was trying to cut payroll or free money up to re-sign the upcoming free agents, why trade the one pitcher whose contract the club controls for the next few years, and at a much lower salary than the rest of the starters?

Now, in perhaps his most perplexing move, Williams has signed Javier Vasquez to a three-year, $34.5 million extension. Why give $11.5 million a year to a guy with a career 100-105 record? Vasquez went 11-12 with a 4.84 ERA last season, and he was perhaps the most enigmatic pitcher in the majors all season. In nearly every start, he’d cruise through the first 4-5 innings before succumbing to a huge inning in the 6th.

He's got great stuff, but his inability to carry it throughout an entire start has maddened managers and general managers throughout his entire career. After showing enough greatness that the Yankees paid him top dollar, he was shipped to the Arizona Diamondbacks, who then sent him to the Sox. From afar he looks too good to pass on, but once seen on a regular basis, one realizes his shortcomings. Except for Kenny Williams, who seems to remain under that mysterious spell.

"He should have won 17 games for us last year," Williams said. "If he had the same run support as a few of the others in the rotation and, aside from … his troubles in the fifth or sixth [innings], he easily could have won five or six [more] games."

Aside from his troubles in the fifth or sixth? That’s a pretty big thing to just cast aside. Getting through the fifth, sixth and even seventh innings is pretty much a required part of the job description for a starting pitcher in the Majors — especially one making an eight-figure salary!

If Williams speaks the truth, and “[Vasquez] was the most asked-about pitcher [the White Sox had this offseason," then it’s too bad he didn’t trade him and keep Garcia.

With Vasquez now locked up until 2010, where does that leave Mark Buehrle, who can become a free agent after the 2007 season? He rejected a three-year, $30 million extension in July that essentially amounted to picking up his 2007 option, locking him up through 2009 and a $10.5 million club option with a buyout for 2010. Now, if Vasquez is suddenly worth $11.5 per season, Buehrle knows he should command at least $13-15 million a year. Whether that comes from the Sox or elsewhere we’ll have to wait and see. We’d much rather see Buehrle stick around than Vasquez, so either Williams has deeper pockets than we’d been led to believe (don’t forget Jermaine Dye and others will also be free agents), or he knows that Buehrle definitely won’t return to the Sox.

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