Vazquez formally joins Marlins' fold
Veteran right-hander expected to be reliable addition to rotation
MIAMI -- Familiarity with the organization and proximity to his home in Puerto Rico were a couple of reasons why Javier Vazquez picked the Marlins.
Another factor is the veteran right-hander is joining a club that he feels has a chance to win.
Vazquez, one of baseball's most durable right-handers, signed a one-year contract with the Marlins. The announcement came on Thursday, after both sides agreed to terms over Thanksgiving weekend.
Vazquez completed a physical on Wednesday in South Florida before the signing became official.
"It was just a combination of a lot of things," Vazquez said. "Being from Puerto Rico, it's not a secret that I wanted to be close. Miami fits me well, and my family. I also have a place in Miami. And the team the Marlins have -- they're a good team. Hopefully, we can get to the playoffs."
From Florida's standpoint, adding a proven performer like Vazquez made perfect sense for a team looking to improve its rotation.
"Javier Vazquez is a pitcher that we've seen and admired from across the dugout for a number of years," Marlins general manager Michael Hill said. "It was very exciting when we were able to come to an agreement and make him a Florida Marlin."
Vazquez will earn $7 million, and he has a full no-trade clause. Another stipulation in the contract is that Florida also agreed not to offer Vazquez salary arbitration after the 2011 season.
The conditions of the contract pretty much guarantee that Vazquez will be part of the Marlins for all of 2011, though if the team falls out of contention and wishes to shop the right-hander in a possible trade, it could ask him to waive his no-trade clause.
Vazquez, 34, is a 13-year veteran who was 10-10 with a 5.32 ERA in 157 1/3 innings with the Yankees in 2010.
Once again in the National League, Vazquez is looking for a bounce-back season. The Marlins' scouts watched him pitch late in the year and didn't see any dropoff in his velocity.
"I had a really tough year last year," Vazquez said. "I can say that I don't know what happened to my velocity. Now, I'm working with a physical therapist in Puerto Rico. I've always worked hard with my offseason program with my arm. I guess I'm to the point in my career where I'm 34 now and I have a lot of innings in my arm. I have started working with my physical therapist on my exercising and stretching."
According to an MRI he took during his physical, Vazquez is completely healthy.
"I feel good. My arm feels great," Vazquez said. "I can't say right now that  was injury related, because it wasn't. In the MRI, everything was clean."
Bringing in Vazquez solidifies Florida's all right-handed rotation, which also projects to include Josh Johnson, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad.
"As we looked to put this rotation together, we just wanted the five best," Hill said. "It just happened to be all right-handers."
Vazquez broke in with the Montreal Expos during the time Jeffrey Loria, the current Marlins owner, owned the Expos.
Vazquez also has a close relationship with Florida manager Edwin Rodriguez, the first Puerto Rican-born manager in Major League history.
Like Vazquez, Rodriguez is from Ponce, and the two have known each other for about 20 years.
In fact, when Rodriguez was a scout and manager in Tampa Bay's system in 1999, he managed Carlos Vazquez, Javier's younger brother. They were together on a team that included Josh Hamilton, Jorge Cantu and Matt Diaz.
Also, when Carlos Vazquez was a teenager in Ponce, Rodriguez was his hitting instructor.
Rodriguez used his past history with Javier to help convince the right-hander to sign with Florida. A couple of weeks ago, when Vazquez was exploring his options, he met with Rodriguez in Puerto Rico.
"I knew Edwin as a scout in Puerto Rico," Javier Vazquez said. "Being from Ponce, everybody knows Edwin as a scout and a teacher. People from Puerto Rico and from Ponce are very proud of his accomplishments."
On the open market, Vazquez attracted interest from several clubs, including the Nationals.
Vazquez said he turned down a couple of multiyear offers because he liked the fit with Florida.
"I had a couple of multiyear offers, but right now, I'm at the point of my career where I'm not looking for many more years [on a contract]," the right-hander said. "I identified a few teams that I wanted to play for, and talking with my agent, I tried to make it work out with those teams."
Known for his durability, Vazquez was an All-Star with the Yankees in 2004. He also has appeared on two playoff teams -- New York ('04) and the White Sox ('08).
Although he was with the Yankees last season, Vazquez was not on New York's postseason roster for the American League Division Series and AL Championship Series.
Adding depth to its rotation has been high on Florida's offseason wish list.
In 2010, the Marlins' starters ranked 27 out of 30 teams in innings pitched, which is one reason why the organization coveted an innings-eater like Vazquez.
From 2005-09, Vazquez logged more than 200 innings in each season. He has surpassed the 200-innings plateau nine times and made at least 30 starts per season from 2000-09.
Vazquez has won at least 10 games in 11 straight seasons. He was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA with Atlanta in 2009.
Securing Vazquez is yet another offseason pickup for Florida prior to next week's Winter Meetings in Lake Buena Vista, Fla. The Marlins signed All-Star catcher John Buck to a three-year contract last month. Additionally, they have made three trades to add depth to their bullpen.
"As soon as we signed John Buck this offseason, we turned our attention to identifying and signing a veteran presence to our rotation," Hill said. "[We wanted] someone who could partner with Josh Johnson and Ricky Nolasco and Anibal Sanchez and Chris Volstad, and give us a very formidable starting rotation."