The Red Sox rotation is set in a lot of ways -- there are five pitchers in it, for one, and all of them have cases for being productive hurlers in 2013 -- but that doesn't mean Boston should avoid looking for either upgrades or insurance policies if they can. That's where Javier Vazquez, who skipped out on the 2012 season in order to spend time in his native Puerto Rico, comes in.
The Red Sox have been scouting Vazquez while he pitches in Puerto Rico, and did so again on Wednesday night. Vazquez went six innings, striking out five while scattering three hits and walking none. According to Ken Rosenthal, Vazquez hit 93 on the gun with his fastball, a little quicker than he has in the recent past, but between throwing in a short-season league and the year off he took, it's not out of the realm of possibility. (Even if, were he to pitch in the majors this year, he would likely settle in around 91 miles per hour.)
Boston wasn't alone in scouting Vazquez, as the Tampa Bay Rays, Washington Nationals, and Kansas City Royals were also in attendance. It's a strange combination of teams, in a way. The Royals could use Vazquez more than anyone, but likely do not have the money to make something work if it comes down to it. The Rays aren't loaded, but they can afford Vazquez -- the question is if they will bother extending an offer, given they still have a full rotation and depth, too, despite trading away James Shields. The Nationals have a full rotation as well, but lack starting depth and have the money to bring on Vazquez, so they might be the top opponent for Boston. This is especially true when you consider that they're the lone National League team in the mix -- where Vazquez's best work has come -- are the former Expos (where he spent much of his career), and are the most-likely of the four clubs to head to the postseason, where Vazquez would very much like to be by season's end.
At this point, with this many teams involved and Vazquez looking as good as he is, you have to assume he's going to be a major-league pitcher next year. Now it just comes down to where -- is it going to be who makes the first competitive offer, or will this be 2013's version of the Roy Oswalt Chase?
For more on Javier Vazquez's abilities and his 2011, read "Red Sox Scouting Javier Vazquez"