Braves ship Vazquez to Yanks for Melky
Team also nets prospects Dunn, Vizcaino from Bombers
A surplus of quality starting pitching put the Braves in position to explore deals to upgrade the club in other areas.
On Tuesday, the organization spun off one of its talented right-handers to add an experienced outfielder with a World Series championship under his belt.
Vazquez became expendable after Atlanta re-signed Tim Hudson in late October. The 33-year-old Vazquez was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA in 32 starts for Atlanta last year.
"Javier had a very good year for us in 2009," Braves executive vice president and general manager Frank Wren said. "But all along, as we went into our winter planning, we knew that we would have an extra pitcher that would allow us to improve our club in another area, after signing Tim Hudson back in October.
"So we have worked hard the last two months to try to figure out the best package that we could acquire that would best improve our club for 2010, as well as improve the depth in our farm system. I feel very happy with the deal we made."
Starting pitching anchored the Braves in 2009. Their rotation topped the National League with a 3.52 ERA.
By dealing Vazquez, and the $11.5 million he was set to earn in 2010, the Braves probably are in better position to retain Derek Lowe, who has been mentioned repeatedly in possible trade scenarios.
Lowe is set to make $15 million next season, and he has three years and $45 million remaining on his contract. Vazquez returns to the Yankees, a team he played for in 2004.
Atlanta's rotation now shapes up, in no particular order, as Lowe, Tommy Hanson, Hudson, Jair Jurrjens, and Kenshin Kawakami.
With so much trade talk around Lowe, Wren said he has already spoken with the veteran right-hander about his status with the club.
"I made it pretty clear all winter long that once we made the decision to pursue Tim Hudson this offseason that we were going to have depth at that position to do other things with our club," Wren said.
Cabrera, 25, addresses a need for outfield depth in Atlanta.
"Obviously, Melky Cabrera gives us a player with postseason experience -- most recently, obviously, in the World Series this past year," Wren said. "He has the ability to play all three outfield positions. That versatility helps our ballclub a lot.
"We have some good pieces in place in our outfield. We're also still looking to add to our offense. But we think Melky is a perfect fit."
While Cabrera is an addition who will help defensively, Wren noted the Braves are still in the market to improve the power in their lineup.
"We're waiting for the right match," Wren said. "We're working towards that."
A switch-hitter, Cabrera batted .274 with 13 homers and 68 RBIs while helping the Yankees claim their 27th World Series championship. He played in 154 games, mostly in center field, and started in 130 games.
Where he bats in the lineup, Wren said, would be up to manager Bobby Cox.
While Cabrera has played a lot of center, Nate McLouth is considered the front-runner at that spot. Heading into Spring Training, Cabrera may wind up playing right field. Prized prospect Jason Heyward is another candidate for right field, but the sensation may not be big league-ready by Opening Day.
"Being a switch-hitter, he has a lot of versatility," Wren said. "I think we'll probably use that versatility and allow him to play different positions, to give Matt Diaz a break, either in left or right. If Jason Heyward is with our club in 2010, [Cabrera] would be a good addition to complement [right field], and also Nate McLouth. Melky has a lot value in that he can do a lot of things."
Dunn, meanwhile, is a 24-year-old lefty with a mid-90s fastball. He appeared in 26 games and was 3-3 with a 3.71 ERA at Double-A Trenton last year. In 53 1/3 innings, the lefty struck out 76 and walked 32.
The general feeling is he is close to being big league-ready.
"Mike Dunn is a power left-handed reliever," Wren said. "We saw him do really well in the Arizona Fall League."
Dunn fanned 20 in 10 1/3 innings in the AFL, and with a strong spring, he could be earn a spot on the Opening Day roster.
Vizcaino is another prospect the Braves are high on, and they were insistent that he was in the deal.
At short-season Class A Staten Island, the 19-year-old Vizcaino was 2-4 with a 2.13 ERA in 10 starts. In 42 1/3 innings, the right-hander struck out 52 and walked 15.
"He's a very talented young pitcher," Wren said. "We feel like we have another really fine young prospect to add to our stable of pitchers already. We feel very fortunate to be able to make a deal like this."
Joe Frisaro is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.