AL Central Notes: Vargas, Beltran, Tigers, White Sox

In a lengthy and thorough breakdown of the Jason Vargas signing for the Royals, Rany on the Royals argues that the deal misses the point: as he puts it, Kansas City should have been pursuing upside, not roughly average innings. Noting that Bruce Chen could have filled the same role for a shorter term and less dollars, Rany says that GM Dayton Moore would have been best served outbidding the Giants for Tim Hudson or even taking a chance on someone like Phil Hughes. Here's more from KC and its counterparts in the American League Central:

  • Late last night, we noted some potential landing spots for free agent outfielder Carlos Beltran in the AL Central, including Kansas City, Cleveland, and Detroit. As noted in that piece, the Royals appear already to be pressing up on their target payroll for 2014, according to a report from Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star
  • Clearing the salary of Prince Fielder, and thus opening more space for a big extension of Max Scherzer, does not necessarily resolve the Tigers' starting pitching questions, writes MLB.com's Jason Beck. Scherzer is set to hit the open market next year, but right on his heels are fellow rotation men Rick Porcello and Doug Fister, who will qualify for free agency before the 2016 season. And the cash infusion does not make it easy to just throw money at all of them — or even just Scherzer — to keep them from hitting the open market. 
  • Beck is correct to note that near-term savings may be gobbled up by arbitration raises, that the club will not spend a huge amount less on an annual basis before 2018, and that the $30MM going with Fielder to Texas will limit the benefit. All that being said, though, I think he may be underselling somewhat the impact on the Tigers' future commitments. As reflected in my breakdown of the broader impact of the trade, the real impact was on Detroit's distant payroll. The club cleared an enormous amount of future obligations from its long-term ledger: $13MM in 2018 and $18MM in both 2019 and 2020. In essence, instead of being on the hook for Fielder and Justin Verlander over that period, the club now has just one super long-term deal on the books. Even better, it no longer has to worry about spending that money on an aging player who is no longer worth his annual salary. While it is hardly a guarantee that Scherzer will be inked to a massive extension, there is no question that the departure of Fielder clears a major obstacle to that possibility. Of course, as Beck notes, that still does not address the fact that Porcello and Fister will also need to be addressed.
  • While some seemingly unsubstantiated rumors hit the waves yesterday about Robinson Cano meeting with the Tigers, Dombrowski told Chris Iott of MLive.com that the club plans on using Ian Kinsler as its second baseman in 2014. From my perspective, while anything is possible with a player of Cano's caliber, it would seem that the Tigers have more to gain by upgrading an area that is not currently occupied by a player that has put up 29.1 fWAR over the 2006-13 period. Kinsler — who is just four months older than Cano — put up only seven wins less than did Cano during that same time frame. 
  • A former White Sox scout has received an eight month prison sentence for his role in a Latin American player signing kickback scandal, reports the Associated Press (via ESPNChicago.com). Victor Mateo becomes the second implicated club official to get jail time, joining David Wilder in the pen.

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