Jason Vargas Rumors

Central Notes: Bruce, Phillips, Arroyo, Johan

While Jay Bruce's agent, Matt Sosnick, said his client hasn't discussed an extension with the Reds, he didn't quash the idea either, writes Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.  "Obviously, Jay loves playing in Cincinnati. He's made it clear in the past that all things equal, he'd like to finish his career there and certainly would be open to anything," said Sosnick.  While the Reds control Bruce through 2017 with three guaranteed years at $34.5MM and a team option for $13MM, the idea of a pre-emptive extension makes sense since the slugger will only be 30 upon hitting the open market.  Here's more out of the Central divisions..

  • Passan spoke to one exec who said that Brandon Phillips is as good as "gone" in Cincinnati.  Yesterday we learned that the Yankees made a preliminary inquiry on the second baseman, but it's possible that they're simply looking for leverage in talks with Robinson Cano.
  • The Twins have expressed interest in free agent pitchers Bronson Arroyo, Phil Hughes, and Jason Vargas, sources tell Mike Berardino of the Pioneer Press.  While the Twins have yet to make a formal offer to Arroyo, the interest appears to be mutual between the club and the 36-year-old.
  • The Twins have also called on Scott Kazmir and Johan Santana, tweets Darren Wolfson of 1500 ESPN.
  • Ken Rosenthal of MLB Network (video link) spoke with Tigers pitcher Max Scherzer about dealing with trade speculation and the possibility of hammering out an extension.
  • It might not have made a difference, but the Red Sox weren't showing any indication that they were ready to let Torey Lovullo go to the Cubs, according to Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (via Twitter).  The Cubs agreed not to poach personnel from the Red Sox after Theo Epstein left to take over their operations.

Angels Notes: DiSarcina, Vargas, Tanaka

The Angels have hired former infielder Gary DiSarcina to be their new third base coach, a source told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. DiSarcina, 45, spent his entire 12-year playing career in an Angels uniform, batting .258/.292/.341 in 1,086 games. He takes over for Dino Ebel, who was promoted to bench coach. Here's more on the Halos as the offseason gets underway…

  • The Angels would like to retain Jason Vargas, but they don't want to give him a three-year pact, writes Gonzalez. The Halos also don't want to approach an average annual value of $10MM for Vargas, who would slot as their fourth starter. As MLBTR's Zach Links explained in the Angels' Offseason Outlook, they'll be working with limited breathing room this winter as they try to steer clear of the luxury tax. Still, the team is currently prioritizing Vargas over other free agents, DiPoto tells Gonzalez.
  • Angels GM Jerry Dipoto confirmed that he has interest in Japanese sensation Masahiro Tanaka, tweets Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times. Dipoto says that the club has scouted the right-hander "multiple times." Tanaka, who some executive believe will be more expensive than Yu Darvish, has already been connected to other big market clubs like the Yankees and Dodgers.

Zach Links contributed to this post.


Free Agent Profile: Jason Vargas

Looking for more stability in their rotation last offseason, the Angels dealt from their surplus of corner bats and sent Kendrys Morales to the Mariners in exchange for innings eater Jason Vargas. A freak injury cost Vargas about 50 or so innings of his season, but his final numbers look similar to what he's produced over the three previous years. He'll look to cash in on that consistency as a free agent.

Strengths/Pros

Vargas is an innings eater, and there's something to be said for free agents who can be expected to take the ball every fifth day. Vargas-JasonA freak blood clot that required surgery landed him on the shelf for nearly two months, but aside from that, Vargas hasn't been on the disabled list since 2008. He's had only one arm-related injury in his career — a minor offseason procedure to remove bone chips from his elbow in October 2007.

Even though he missed nearly two months in 2013, Vargas still racked up 150 innings, and the missed time brought his yearly average down to a still-strong 190 innings dating back to 2010. Vargas has a 3.97 ERA in that time, thanks largely to his plus command (2.5 BB/9 in that stretch). His strikeout rate has steadily crept upward over the past four seasons as well.

Vargas pitches left-handed, but he doesn't have much of a platoon split. Over the past four seasons, lefties have hit .257/.306/.383 against him, and right-handers have a similar .253/.309/.419 batting line.

Vargas was a late bloomer and did some of his early work out of the bullpen. As such, he has just under 1,400 professional innings under his belt. He doesn't have a lot of mileage on his arm for a 31-year-old, and he won't be attached to draft pick compensation, as the Angels don't figure to make him a qualifying offer due to luxury tax concerns.

Weaknesses/Cons

Vargas' strikeout rate may be on the rise, but even the career-best K/9 that he posted this season was a below-average 6.5. His fastball sits in the 87-88 mph range, so he's not going to overpower any hitters.

Vargas is a fly-ball pitcher that has benefited from pitching in pitchers parks such as Seattle's Safeco Field and Angels Stadium in Anaheim over the past four seasons. Vargas' 4.61 road ERA, 4.70 road FIP and 4.73 road xFIP point to the fact that he's benefited tremendously from those spacious environments. His home numbers — 3.39, 3.76 and 4.23, respectively — are much stronger and suggest that he's best-suited for a bigger park.

In particular, he struggles with homers on the road. Vargas has allowed just 48 homers in 497 home innings (0.87 HR/9) throughout his career, but he's yielded 77 big flies in 482 2/3 innings (1.43 HR/9).

Personal

Vargas is an excellent athlete that played three seasons at quarterback in high school football and is an avid golfer in his free time. His arrival with the Angels reunited him with college teammate Jered Weaver. Baseball runs in Vargas' family, as he is the second cousin of Randy Velarde, who enjoyed a 16-year career as an infielder with the Yankees, Angels and A's. Vargas is very active in charities and co-founded Estrella Youth Sports in Goodyear, Ariz. — a non-profit youth program that aims to develop positive role models through participation in sports.

Market

Vargas isn't an elite rotation piece, and teams that need top-of-the-rotation arms aren't likely to make him a prime target. He's a strong back-end starter and can slide into the middle of a rotation if needed, and plenty of teams will be looking for such arms. The Angels will likely make an effort to re-sign Vargas to a multiyear deal, and the Apple Valley, Calif. native is interested in a return. The Orioles showed some interest on the trade market this summer.

In addition to the O's and Angels, I'd expect contenders like the Royals, Indians and Pirates to show interest. Teams that didn't contend in 2013 but simply need reliable innings could show interest as well, with the Twins, Mariners, Brewers, Padres and Giants coming to mind.

Teams in smaller parks will likely be more hesitant regarding Vargas, but the Phillies, Yankees and Blue Jays are all looking for pitching help as well. Vargas and agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports should have plenty of interested teams to negotiate with over the course of the winter.

Expected Contract

Vargas doesn't come with a ton of upside, but he's a consistent source of 200 or so innings at or slightly below the league average. Even if he's not an outstanding performer, durability pays on the open market. Vargas is younger than Jeremy Guthrie, and his four years prior to free agency are similar to Guthrie's in terms of innings pitched, ERA+, K/9 and BB/9. In terms of superficial stats, Vargas stacks up well against Ricky Nolasco over the past four years, though the latter has him dwarfed in terms of sabermetric stats. He's similar to Scott Feldman in terms of performance, but Vargas has a much more consistent track record.

Balelo could try to parlay his client's durability and consistency into a four-year contract, given his relative youth, but three years is more realistic for someone with Vargas' limited upside. He should be able to top Guthrie's contract but is likely to fall short of whatever amount Nolasco will receive.

I waffled between a three-year, $27MM deal and a three-year, $30MM deal for Vargas, so I'm splitting the difference and predicting a three-year, $28.5MM contract.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.



AL West Notes: Mariners, Angels, Astros

The Mariners interviewed Dave Valle for their managerial opening this week, Ted Keith of SI.com reports. Valle played in ten seasons for the Mariners, primarily at catcher, but has no prior coaching experience. As Keith notes, teams appear to value prior managing experience, at least, less than they once did, with Mike Matheny, Robin Ventura, Bryan Price, Don Mattingly and John Farrell all winning jobs without prior managing experience in the Majors or the minors. Valle has recently worked in broadcasting. Here's more on the AL West.

  • The Angels aren't likely to extend a qualifying offer to free agent Jason Vargas, but they might sign him to a multiyear deal anyway, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Vargas would likely decline the Angels' qualifying offer, DiGiovanna says, but the Angels don't want to offer one because the $14.1MM commitment if Vargas were to accept would move them close to the $189MM luxury tax threshold.
  • The Angels' luxury-tax issues will likely mean they'll attempt to upgrade their rotation primarily through trades, explains Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. If they bring Vargas back, it would appear to be for less on a yearly basis than the $14.1MM qualifying offer. In the meantime, they'll hope to acquire young pitching by dealing players like Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or Peter Bourjos. Doing so might also help them shed salary.
  • The Astros' payroll could rise to $50MM or $60MM next year, writes MLB.com's Brian McTaggart. That doesn't sound like much, but it's a huge increase over the team's $13MM 2013 payroll. "If you add three or four key positions and bring in a couple of guys [from the Minor Leagues] that are ready, this team is pretty competitive pretty quickly with the starting pitching we've got," says owner Jim Crane. "We're deep in pitching." McTaggart writes that the Astros will look for bullpen help, but they could also in a power hitter (perhaps a corner outfielder) and a starting pitcher.

Angels Notes: Dipoto, Vargas, Trout

Jerry Dipoto is plotting the Angels' future, even though, after a very disappointing 2013 season, it's unclear whether he'll still be around to see his plans bear fruit, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes. "I'm not going to get into it," says Dipoto when asked about his future. "I don't want to have this conversation." DiGiovanna notes that, although there's been buzz for months about the possibility of either Dipoto or manager Mike Scioscia leaving after the season, it looks increasingly possible that both could stay. Dipoto says that he will be looking for "young, controllable starting pitching," and DiGiovanna implies that one way of acquiring it would be to trade Howie Kendrick or Mark Trumbo. Here are more notes on the Angels.

  • The Angels appear unlikely to extend a qualifying offer to Jason Vargas, writes Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The team will already be close to the luxury-tax threshold of $189MM, and Gonzalez notes that if Vargas took the qualifying offer of around $14MM, the Angels would "basically already be over budget." Vargas has posted a 4.01 ERA with 6.6 K/9 and 2.8 BB/9 in 143 2/3 innings in 2013.
  • The luxury tax is an obstacle to signing Mike Trout to an extension, Gonzalez writes. The luxury tax is calculated based on the average annual value of the players on a team's 40-man roster. So, Gonzalez notes, if the Angels were to sign Trout to a ten-year, $300MM deal, $30MM per year would count toward the luxury tax, even if the contract is backloaded. Without an extension, Trout will again make near the league minimum in 2014.

AL West Notes: Angels, M’s Ownership, Barton

The Mariners/Angels game on Sunday at Angel Stadium was twice delayed due to a swarm of bees, as chronicled by MLB.com's Greg Johns.  The initial delay took 23 minutes, as the bees moved from the infield to the outfield and were eventually chased off with the help of John Poto, an apiarist who was attending the game as a fan.  "There was a softball-sized bee colony on the ground. It was amazing. I've never seen that before. That dude just came out of the stands, 'It's OK, I'm a beekeeper.' It was like a Seinfeld episode," C.J. Wilson said.  Poto's assistance didn't go unrewarded, as Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times tweets that Poto received a ball signed by Mike Trout.

Here's the latest buzz (#ObviousPunAlert) from around the AL West…

  • The Angels will try to re-sign Jason Vargas and will likely bid on Masahiro Tanaka as the club tries to fix its pitching situation for next season, Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times writes.  While the Halos are 21-8 over their last 29 games, DiGiovanna warns that the team shouldn't let this strong finish convince them that their roster doesn't need upgrades for 2014, particularly in the pitching staff.
  • Mariners team chairman and CEO Howard Lincoln says that team majority owners Nintendo of America "has no plans" to sell their shares, Patti Payne of the Puget Sound Business Journal reports.  There had been some questions about the future of the club's ownership since Hiroshi Yamauchi's passing earlier this week, but Lincoln says that the current Nintendo management and the Mariners' group of minority owners are as committed as ever to the club.
  • The Mariners' ownership news isn't surprising to Ryan Divish of the Tacoma News Tribune, who notes that Nintendo isn't apt to walk away from a profitable business and that Lincoln has enough influence to remain CEO for as long as he wishes.
  • Daric Barton has revived his career and likely earned a spot on the Athletics' postseason roster after a strong September performance, Carl Steward of the Bay Area News Group writes.  Barton, the longest-tenured player on the Oakland roster, struggled in 2011-12 and was twice designated for assignment earlier this year.  After being recalled from Triple-A on August 26, however, Barton has hit .319/.386/.431 in 83 PA.  "He's always had the advantage of the G.M. being a big fan of his," general manager Billy Beane said.  "I think he has all the skills that sometimes don't necessarily show up in the boxscore….And he's really grown up a lot. To see him contribute and be part of these last few weeks has been great and satisfying for all of us in the organization."
  • From earlier today on MLBTR, we published a collection of Rangers notes.

Mutual Interest Between Angels, Jason Vargas

Given the recent success of the Angels' starters, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez examines whether or not a top four of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Jason Vargas and Garrett Richards would be enough to field a competitive rotation. Within his piece, Gonzalez reports that there is mutual interest between the Angels and Vargas in working out a new deal this offseason, but he cautions that re-signing Vargas is "no slam dunk." According to Gonzalez, the Angels don't have the means or desire to overpay for the soon-to-be-31-year-old.

Vargas, a native of Apple Valley, Calif. (roughly 90 miles from Angel Stadium), has a 3.80 ERA on the season with career-bests in K/9 (6.3) and ground-ball rate (41.9 percent). His 3.0 BB/9 rate, while still solid, is the worst full-season mark of his career. Vargas missed nearly two months of games due to a blood clot but has returned and shown enough to calm some of the worry surrounding that injury. While his 4.33 ERA in five post-DL starts isn't great, he's twice worked into the seventh inning and topped 100 pitches, suggesting that he's not feeling limited following surgery to remove the clot.

For a pitcher whose value is tied so strongly to his innings totals — Vargas averaged 203 2/3 innings per season and 6 1/3 innings per start from 2010-12 — the injury is a blow to his free agent value. However, he and agent Nez Balelo of CAA Sports can also point out that the injury wasn't the result of any structural damage and therefore shouldn't have lingering effects.

Vargas, who was placed on revocable trade waivers in August but clearly pulled back (he wasn't traded and it seems incredibly unlikely that he'd go unclaimed), will be one of the better left-handed starters on the free agent market this offseason, joining Paul Maholm, Jorge De La Rosa and Scott Kazmir.


Placed On Waivers: DeJesus, Vargas, Aybar

Here is Monday's list of notable players who have been placed on revocable trade waivers…

  • The Nationals acquired David DeJesus from the Cubs earlier today and "almost immediately" put the outfielder on waivers, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports.  DeJesus' claiming period is up on Wednesday.  Rival executives speculate that the Nats are trying to rid themselves of the approximately $2.5MM remaining on DeJesus' contract ($975K in salary, $1.5MM in a buyout of his 2014 option).  This could be an attempt by the Nats to flip DeJesus, simply a procedural move or perhaps they never expected the Cubs to accept their original waiver claim on DeJesus in the first place.  Amanda Comak of the Washington Times (Twitter link) opines that perhaps the Nats claimed DeJesus to keep him away from another contender.
  • The Angels placed left-hander Jason Vargas and shortstop Erick Aybar on waivers, FOX Sports' Ken Rosenthal reports (Twitter link).  The claiming period for both players expires on Wednesday.  Vargas was dealt to Anaheim from Seattle in exchange for Kendrys Morales last December and has posted a 3.92 ERA, 6.1 K/9 and 2.00 K/BB ratio in 101 IP in 2013, though he spent almost two months on the DL recovering from a blood clot in his left armpit.  Vargas has roughly $1.5MM still owed to him from his $8.5MM salary for the season and the southpaw is a free agent this winter.  He could make a cheap pickup for a team looking for starting pitching depth during the pennant race, though Vargas' career road splits indicate that he struggles when he isn't at a pitcher-friendly ballpark like Angel Stadium or Safeco Field.
  • Aybar signed a four-year, $35MM extension in April 2012 that covered the 2013-16 seasons and Aybar is hitting .282/.316/.380 in 417 PA in the first year of that new contract.  Though the 29-year-old is known more for his solid glove (he won a Gold Glove in 2011), Aybar has a below-average -8.2 UZR.150 this season.  The Cardinals had some interest in Aybar before the trade deadline but had no interest in giving up a top prospect in exchange for the veteran shortstop.

For a reminder on how revocable trade waivers and August trades work, check out MLBTR's August trades primer.


AL Notes: White Sox, Vargas, Morneau

GM Rick Hahn of the White Sox says he plans on spending more on young talent in 2014, Scott Merkin of MLB.com reports. The White Sox have saved plenty of money in their recent trades of Jake Peavy and Alex Rios, and it sounds like Hahn doesn't plan on using those savings on Major League payroll right away. "It's going to go to making the big league club better for the long haul, no doubt," says Hahn. "One of the positives of an unfortunate season like this is we're going to have the opportunity in all probability to spend a lot more money on amateur talent." Before the season, Baseball America ranked the White Sox's farm system the second-worst of any organization. Hahn also says the White Sox could continue trading this August. Here are more notes from the American League.

  • The Angels are no longer in the playoff hunt, but free-agent-to-be Jason Vargas still has something to play for, the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna writes. Vargas will soon rejoin the Angels' rotation after missing more than a month with a blood clot. Before that, he had a 3.65 ERA with 6.1 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 91 1/3 innings this season. His performance down the stretch will likely impact his standing on the free agent market this winter, says DiGiovanna, who also notes that the Angels are interested in keeping Vargas around. One possibility is that the Angels could deal Vargas this month, then attempt to acquire him again once he becomes a free agent.
  • Twins first baseman Justin Morneau isn't sure about his waiver status, Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer Press writes (on Twitter). "I have no idea if I’ve been put through waivers or claimed on waivers or whatever it is," Morneau says. "That’s still a possibility." Morneau is making $14MM in the final year of his contract.

Bud Norris Rumors: Tuesday

28-year-old Astros starter Bud Norris was scratched from his start in Baltimore today amid swirling trade rumors.  The righty is under team control through 2015.  The latest:

Earlier Updates

  • In addition to the Orioles and Pirates, the Diamondbacks are also in the mix for Norris, according to McTaggart (on Twitter). The D'Backs are also said to be hot after Jake Peavy, though I imagine they're only interested in adding one of the two arms.
  • Astros manager Bo Porter told reporters, including Brian McTaggart of MLB.com that trade talkes regarding Norris have "gotten deeper." Norris will start for Houston tomorrow if he isn't traded, adds McTaggart (Twitter links).
  • The Orioles have yet to make an offer on Norris, reports Danny Knobler of CBS Sports.  They appear to have interest in the Angels' Jason Vargas, more of an August trade candidate after he recovers from a blood clot in his left armpit.
  • Three teams are hard after Norris, reports McTaggart, including the Orioles, though no deal is imminent.
  • Norris is very likely to be traded today, tweets Yahoo's Jeff Passan, and Pittsburgh could be his landing spot.  He adds that the Pirates won't trade center field Gregory Polanco for Norris, but the Astros do like righty Tyler Glasnow.  Passan goes on to write that other teams are still in on Norris, and one executive says the Astros are motivated to move him.
  • Brian T. Smith of the Houston Chronicle says that while Norris hasn't been informed he's been traded, all signs point to a deal by the deadline.  In contrast, Danny Knobler of CBS Sports hears the Astros have no trade close with anyone as of now.

Steve Adams contributed to this post.