On the surface, the trade of Eli Marrero to the Royals for a minor leaguer looks kind of one-sided. Marrero is a solid major leaguer, while right-hander Jorge Vasquez has only two games in the big leagues. But it's obvious there is a method to John Schuerholz's madness, and to question him would be like going ahead and doubting the Braves will be in the playoff hunt next season.
Marrero is a good player, a solid player. But he never warmed the cockles of Bobby Cox's heart. Marrero was never someone Cox wanted to put his full confidence in. If he had been, the Braves probably wouldn't have traded Marrero right after trading his platoon partner in left field last season, Charles Thomas.
The Braves obviously have some trade or move coming that would have made Marrero insignificant, but would also make his $3 million salary a little more desirable to move. It's not like he was going to take over left-field next season and become a star. Chances are, even with Thomas gone the Braves would have had left-handed hitting Ryan Langerhans come up and platoon with Marrero next season. So now, with the extra $3 million (minus some cash we're paying to the Royals), the Braves can go out and find the outfielder they truly want, and having a younger platoon in left-field with Langerhans and most likely right-handed hitting outfielder Billy McCarthy.
The Braves received right-hander Jorge Vasquez in the trade for Marrero. Vasquez is a six-foot-one, 165-pounder from the Dominican Republic. He was signed as a non-drafted free agent back in 1998 as a 20-year-old. Vasquez spent the 2004 season with AA Wichita. He went 4-5 with a 4.68 ERA and 18 saves, 52 hits allowed in 59.2 innings pitched, only 27 walks, and 71 strikeouts. Vasquez then was promoted to the Royals where he pitched in two games. He allowed three earned runs and four hits in 3.1 innings of work along with one walk and four strikeouts.
Obviously, one of the Braves scouts put in a good report on Vasquez and believes he can be a candidate for our roster at some point next season. Reports have Vasquez armed with a solid fastball and slider. We'll see if he battles for one of our last bullpen spots next spring. If not, he'll head to Richmond and be ready if needed.
Again, you might want to judge this trade after we see which outfielder Braves GM John Schuerholz is going to bring in over the next few weeks. It's obvious this was simply a precursor to another move that should make the Braves even stronger in 2005.
Bill Shanks can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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