Using Javier Vazquez to build for the future, the Diamondbacks have agreed to trade Vazquez to the Chicago White Sox for Orlando "El Duque’’ Hernandez and minor league, center-field prospect Chris Young, sources in the organization said Tuesday night.
The deal is expected to be announced today, pending a final medical review.
"I would tell you there is a decent chance we announce something’’ today, general manager Josh Byrnes said.
The key component in the trade for the D-Backs is Young, 24, a true center fielder with a rare combination of power and speed. Young had a stellar season at Double-A Birmingham of the Southern League, tying for the league lead with 26 home runs while leading the league in doubles (41), total bases (254) and runs (100).
A 16th-round draft pick out of Bellaire (Texas) High School in 2002, Young hit .277 with 77 RBIs and 32 stolen bases this year, the second straight season in which he hit at least 20 homers and stole at least 30 bases after being named the White Sox system’s "best athlete’’ and the "fastest base runner’’ by Baseball America.
And while Young could be considered the center fielder of the future, he is more than likely to open the season at Triple-A Tucson.
Vazquez, at the same time, would seem to solidify the White Sox’s present by joining Freddy Garcia, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras in a starting rotation that could make the White Sox the favorite to repeat as World Series champions.
The addition of Vazquez, owed $24 million over the next two years, also guards against a high-dollar demand by Garland, who is arbitrationeligible this season and will be a free agent next season.
Hernandez, used in relief during Chicago’s postseason run, is expected to fill Vazquez’s spot in the D-Backs’ starting rotation in 2006, the final year of a contract that will pay him $4.5 million, a significant savings over Vazquez’s scheduled $11.5 million.
The D-Backs now have $44.05 million committed toward a payroll expected to be about $60 million in 2006.
Hernandez, listed as 36, was 9-9 with a 5.12 ERA for the White Sox in 2005 after signing as a free agent last winter. The D-Backs asked for Garland or Contreras but were rebuffed.
Hernandez missed four weeks in 2005 with shoulder soreness in June and was moved to the bullpen for the final three weeks of the regular season and remained there in the postseason, when the White Sox went to a four-man rotation.
Hernandez pitched four scoreless innings of playoff relief, three in the Sox’s firstround clinching victory in Boston, but otherwise was unused.
It is likely Hernandez would be a one-year stopgap for a D-Backs’ rotation that will include Brandon Webb, Russ Ortiz, Brad Halsey and Claudio Vargas, although more names could be in play if the D-Backs use some of the newly available cash in the free agent market or work another deal.
Vazquez, the D-Backs’ 2005 opening day starter after being acquired for Randy Johnson last winter, was 11-15 with a 4.42 ERA and gave up 35 home runs.
He had 20 quality starts, second on the team to Webb’s 22.
While dealing Vazquez was the D-Backs’ stated first order of business this offseason, they have added several pieces along the way, another Tuesday after agreeing on a oneyear contract with reliever Jason Grimsley.
Grimsley, 38, is expected to bring a veteran bullpen presence similar to that of Tim Worrell, who signed a twoyear deal with San Francisco earlier in the offseason.
Grimsley was 1-2 with a 5.73 ERA in 22 appearances with Baltimore last season. He missed the first half of the year following Tommy John surgery in October 2004, after a season in which he made 73 appearances for Baltimore and Kansas City.
"Jerry (pro scouting director Dipoto) felt his work ethic would be really important in adding the kind of chemistry
they were looking for in the bullpen,’’ agent Joe Bick said.