Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Pitcher Javier Vazquez returned to the New York Yankees on Tuesday, traded by the Atlanta Braves for outfielder Melky Cabrera in a move that pushed New York’s payroll for next season beyond $200 million.

New York also got left-hander Boone Logan. The Braves also obtained a pair of pitching prospects, left-hander Mike Dunn and right-hander Arodys Vizcaino, along with about $500,000.

The trade leaves New York with an opening in left field, allowing the Yankees to perhaps pursue Mark DeRosa. New York does not appear interested in re-signing Johnny Damon or going after free agents Matt Holliday or Jason Bay.

Atlanta had six starting pitchers and felt free to deal Vazquez, who was 14-10 for the Yankees in 2004. He started 10-5 with a 3.56 ERA that year and made his only All-Star team but faded to a 4-5 record and 6.92 ERA after the break.

Now 33, the right-hander was 15-10 with a 2.87 ERA and 238 strikeouts this year for the Braves, finishing fourth in NL Cy Young Award voting. Vazquez, whose career record is 142-139 in 12 seasons, will make $11.5 million next year and can become a free agent after the season.

He joins a pitching rotation that includes CC Sabathia, A.J. Burnett and Andy Pettitte. New York’s top four starters will combine for $64 million in payroll - more than four teams paid their entire rosters last season.

ORIOLES: Third baseman Garrett Atkins and Baltimore finalized a one-year, $4.5 million contract.

His deal calls for a $4 million salary next year and includes an $8.5 million club option for 2011 with a $500,000 buyout. Atkins can make an additional $500,000 next year: $250,000 each for 550 and 600 plate appearances.

The 30-year-old had spent his seven-year major league career with the Rockies and became a free agent when Colorado failed to offer a 2010 contract.

Atkins slumped to a .226 average with nine homers and 48 RBI last season after hitting .286 with 21 homers and 99 RBI in 2008. Atkins, who made $7.05 million this year, lost the third base job to Ian Stewart by the end of the season.

RANGERS: Reliever Darren Oliver and Texas finalized a one-year, $3.5 million contract that includes a club option for 2011.

After spending the past three seasons with the Los Angeles Angels, Oliver starts his third stint with Texas. The left-hander, 39, began his career with the Rangers, pitching for them from 1993 to 1998. He was back with Texas from 2000 to 2001.

Oliver was 5-1 with a 2.71 ERA in 63 games last season.

TRADE: A baseball official familiar with the talks said the Toronto Blue Jays are close to acquiring former No. 1 draft choice Brandon Morrow from the Seattle Mariners for fellow reliever Brandon League and a prospect.

The deal is pending physicals that were to be taken later Tuesday, the official said. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because neither team has announced the move.

Multiple reports said Seattle also is getting 20-year-old Class A outfielder Yohermyn Chavez. The trade was first reported by

METS: New York is nearing agreement on a minor league contract with knuckleballer R.A. Dickey, a person familiar with the negotiations said.

The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the deal was not yet complete.

Dickey, a 35-year-old right-hander, made 14 starts for Seattle in 2008 but was primarily a reliever for Minnesota last season, when he went 1-1 with a 4.62 ERA in one start and 34 relief appearances.

Pitching his entire career without the ulnar collateral ligament in his right elbow, Dickey is 22-28 with a 5.43 ERA in 48 starts and 96 relief appearances in seven big league seasons. Doctors think he was born without the ligament or it dissolved after a tear.

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