Braves close in on Javier Vazquez

The Braves are close to getting their first new starting pitcher of the offseason.

The Braves will finalize a trade today with the Chicago White Sox bringing right-handed starter Javier Vazquez and lefty reliever Boone Logan to Atlanta.

The trade will help fill one of Atlanta's main needs for the offseason: improving the starting rotation. The Braves will send catching prospect Tyler Flowers and infielder Brent Lillibridge to the White Sox.

The Braves has confirmed that contrary to the original reports on ESPN and lefty starter Jo Jo Reyes will not be in the deal. The White Sox and Braves discussed Reyes and right-hander Charlie Morton. The AJC reports there are two other players involved, third base prospect Jon Gilmore and left-hander Santos Rodriguez.

Atlanta has long sought Vazquez, who was 12-16 last season in Chicago with a 4.67 ERA in 33 games. He allowed 214 hits in 208.1 innings, with 61 walks, and 200 strikeouts. It was the ninth straight season Vazquez recorded at least 10 wins, 30 starts, and 150 strikeouts, and he's the only pitcher to do that in the big leagues.

Vazquez was originally drafted by the Montreal Expos in the fifth round of the 1993 draft. He made it to the big leagues in 1998 and made 32 starts. The Braves tried to acquire Vazquez in 2003 from Montreal, but talks died when the Expos wanted rookie pitcher Horacio Ramirez.

The 32-year-old Vazquez has been very consistent since 2000. He's averaged 215 innings pitched and 196 strikeouts over the past nine seasons. Vazquez has also averaged 54 walks per season in that span.

Vazquez will slide into Atlanta's rotation, but until the team completes its rotation makeover, it's unclear if he'll be the number two starting pitcher or the number three. Either way, the Braves now have an innings-eater that was desperately needed.

The Braves will have Vazquez under contract for the next two seasons. He's due $11.5 million in both 2009 and 2010.

Logan is a tall (6'5") left-hander who pitched in 55 games out of the Chicago bullpen last season. He had a 5.95 ERA with a 2-3 record, three holds, one blown save, 57 hits allowed in 42.1 innings, 14 walks, and 42 strikeouts. Logan was sent to Triple-A in August and pitched five games for Charlotte.

Logan was signed as a draft-and-follow player by the White Sox from the 2002 draft. He first made the big leagues in 2006 and pitched in 21 games. Then in 2007 Logan had 68 appearances and had a 4.97 ERA.

Last season for Chicago Logan started off very well. Before the All-Star Break Logan had a 3.00 ERA in 39 games, with 32 strikeouts in 33 innings. But after the break Logan had a 16.39 ERA in 16 games. Lefty batters hit .291 against Logan in 2008, while in 2007 Logan kept lefty hitters to a .221 average.

Flowers is coming off an impressive performance in the Arizona Fall League. The right-handed hitting catcher hit .387 with 12 home runs and 23 RBI in 75 at bats. This past season in Myrtle Beach Flowers hit .288 with 17 home runs and 88 RBI, with a .427 on base percentage.

With Brian McCann entrenched at catcher, Flowers is somewhat blocked in Atlanta. He has played some at first base in his career (22 games in 2006 and 69 games in 2007), but the Braves have Casey Kotchman at first for the next two seasons and Freddie Freeman, who spent last year in Rome, is considered a better prospect.

Lillibridge played in 29 games in Atlanta and hit .200 in 80 at bats with one home run and two stolen bases. In Richmond Lillibridge hit .220 with 4 home runs and 39 RBI in 355 at bats. He's considered a potential utility man in the big leagues by most scouts.

If Gilmore and Rodriguez are involved in the deal the Braves will give up two prospects who are several years away from the big leagues. Gilmore split last season between Danville and Rome and hit .294 in 360 at bats. Rodriguez is a lanky lefty reliever who was in the GCL last season. He had 45 strikeouts in 29 innings pitched.

The trade is expected to be announced after Vazquez passes his physical, which will take place in Atlanta on Wednesday.

Bill Shanks hosts The Braves Show Talk Show, The Atlanta Baseball Show on 680 the Fan in Atlanta, and The Bill Shanks Show on SportsRadio 105.5 the Fan in Macon. He is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team. You can email Bill at

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