Adam Kilgore of the Washington Post reports that the Nationals sent a “top scout” to Vazquez’s most recent start in the Puerto Rican winter league, and have interest in signing him to a minor league deal.
The 36-year old hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2011, when the then-34-year old went 13-11 with a 3.69 for the then-Florida Marlins. However, Vazquez has a career 4.22 ERA, 6 seasons of under-4 ERA under his belt, and finished in the top-5 in Cy Young voting as recently as 2009, when he went 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA for the Chicago White Sox.
Though Vazquez will probably not put up those numbers ever again, he will provide a low risk, high reward depth option for a team with Dan Haren as its fifth starter. The recently-signed Haren almost didn’t pass his physical back in December, and had hip issues last season, so signing a veteran like Vazquez as insurance will give the Nationals a replacement option for Haren those issues repeat themselves in 2013. With John Lannan gone, Zach Duke is currently the only veteran option the Nationals could turn to in the event that Haren or another starter went down, and in the event that two of them went down, the Nats would be forced to either rely on an unproven arm or go to a four-man rotation, which seems unlikely given Davey Johnson‘s style.
Vazquez has reportedly been hitting 92-93 MPH in his starts, so the stuff still appears to be there. If that’s the case, expect the Nationals to be aggressive in their pursuit.
Vazquez was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in 1994, and won 64 games for the Expos/Nationals franchise from 1998-2003. In that time he also led the league in shutouts (3) in 2001, posted ERAs under 4 three times and pitched more than 215 innings in four seasons. Hopefully he’ll choose to finish his career where he started it.