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Tim Hudson vs. Javier Vazquez: The Braves can't keep both

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Ken Rosenthal brings to our attention something many people have been overlooking, that the 2010 option on Tim Hudson's contract is essentially a mutual option. That means both the Braves then Tim have to agree to pick it up. K-Ros says that the lack of top-flight free agent pitchers this off-season, and Hudson's status as a non-compensation free agent could lead to a big payday for Timmy.

We obviously assume that Hudson likes it in Atlanta, but to stay he would likely need a guarantee that he would be in the rotation next season, and as a 10-and-5 man he can veto any trade. That means we'd be backed into a corner and have to trade one of our other starters. 

Hudson could also use this clause to extract a longer term deal from the Braves, something the team may be reluctant to do after signing Derek Lowe to long-term deal, and the uncertainty of Hudson post-TJ surgery. Remember, the Braves just got burnt by a really expensive pitcher in a really long-term contract who was consistently injured.

All of those factors may land Hudson on the free agent market. To clarify Rosenthal's statement, the ball is first in the hands of the Braves. Per Cot's Baseball Contracts, "if club exercises 2010 option, Hudson may void & forfeit buyout." Hudson would have to bail on a sure-thing $12 million if the Braves pick up his option, with the hope that he would get more on the FA market -- a likely assumption.

It will be interesting to see how the Braves handle it. They may choose, instead of renewing Hudson, to extend Javier Vazquez with a long-term deal. Javy, after all, is a year and 9 days younger, and not coming off of Tommy John surgery -- making a big committment to him may make more sense.

In many ways Tim Hudson and Javier Vazquez are the same caliber of pitcher. Over the last four years Hudson has posted a 113 ERA+, while Vazquez has posted a 112 ERA+, which is adjusted for league and ballpark. Hudson has certainly been the more consistent pitcher, but Vazquez can be more dominant, though he hasn't displayed that for any prolonged period of time in the majors.

It will be a tough choice. Ideally, one hopes the Braves can keep both pitchers... but then who else goes?