The Pirates have long received calls on star closer Felipe Vazquez, but on deadline day the club is “listening more actively” than before, according to a report from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic (subscription link). A source even tells Rosenthal that it’s now as likely as not that Vazquez will be dealt today.
It’s tough to rely too much upon that anonymous prediction, but taken as a whole this report represents a notable — and rather sudden — shift in circumstances for an elite relief pitcher. Just yesterday, Rosenthal reported (subscription link) that the Pirates were “show[ing] little appetite for actually making” a deal on the high-powered southpaw, so much so that Vazquez “essentially is not available.”
The Bucs have quite understandably maintained a lofty asking price on Vazquez, who put it all together in his first full season in Pittsburgh (2017). His value only rose with a surprising extension that secured Vazquez’s financial future but conveyed a big bargain to the team. He’s earning just $4MM this year and a guaranteed $13MM over the next two campaigns. The deal includes a pair of $10MM club options thereafter (along with $1.5MM in total buyouts).
That looked like an excellent contract even before Vazquez found yet new heights in the current season. Through 43 1/3 innings this year, he’s not only sporting a 1.87 ERA but carrying peripherals that very nearly support that rarified level of performance. Still pumping upper-nineties heat, Vazquez has boosted his strikeout rate to 38.2%.
You don’t have to squint to see the value here, particularly given that Vazquez only just reached his 28th birthday. We’ll have to wait and see whether any team will dangle a significant-enough package to force the Pirates to make a move. But that now seems that’s a distinct possibility for a Pittsburgh organization that has almost no hope of making a postseason push this year.