According to a report in the Chicago Sun-Times (via MLBTradeRumors), White Sox GM Kenny Williams's biggest priority this offseason is trading 32 year-old Javier Vazquez. Vazquez fell out of favor with White Sox manager/lunatic Ozzie Guillen towards the end of 2008 after pitching miserably in his final 3 starts. Williams reportedly seeks an infielder in return. Vazquez is owed $11.5 million a year from 2009-2010.
Based on this report, it seems as if the White Sox are willing to sell low on Vazquez. I would be in favor of his acquisition, assuming the Mets don't have to surrender Daniel Murphy, Fernando Martinez or some other comparable top prospect. Vazquez has been an underrated pitcher over the last 9 years or so, and had the bad luck of pitching for some terrible defensive clubs, namely the early 2000's Expos and the 2006-2008 White Sox. While his career ERA is 4.32, his career FIP, "fielding independent pitching" (what you would expect his ERA to be, based on K's, BB's, HR allowed) is 3.93. ERA as a stat is heavily influenced by the defense played behind a pitcher. FIP removes this factor. (Note: other defense independent stats include dERA and DICE)
Consider this excerpt from a post about Vazquez at FanGraphs by Eric Seidman:
"From 2000-2008, there are only six starting pitchers who made at least 190 starts, with a K/9 above 8.0 and a BB/9 below 3.0, and Vazquez has the highest inclusive ERA of them all at 4.11. For good measure, the others are: Pedro Martinez (2.99), Randy Johnson (3.25), Jake Peavy (3.25), Roger Clemens (3.34), and Josh Beckett (3.78)."
ERA is a useful stat, enabling one to gain a general understanding of a pitcher's success. However, peripheral stats and defense independent pitching stats should also be considered when determing a pitcher's expected future performance. The Mets are a great defensive club, as Baseball Prospectus lists their defensive efficiency in 2008 at 2nd in the NL and 6th in all of baseball. This fact would go a long way in improving Vazquez's ERA. To sum up, the Mets should look to make a play for Vazquez, as it appears he will be available for a fraction of what he's really worth.