Jason Vargas Rumors

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.


AL West Notes: Vargas, Burnett, Mariners, Rangers

We're less than two weeks away from the non-waiver trade deadline, and with the rumor mill heating up, here's the latest out of the AL West…

  • Angels lefties Jason Vargas and Sean Burnett aren't likely to return before the trade deadline, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. The duo could return shortly after July 31, however. Both southpaws would have been attractive July trading chips, as Vargas is a free agent at season's end, and Burnett is on the first year of an affordable two-year, $8MM contract.
  • Larry Stone of the Seattle Times writes that Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik and manager Eric Wedge are in a tricky position. The duo will likely be judged based on the team's record, which would be better if they hang onto Kendrys Morales, Joe Saunders, Raul Ibanez and the rest of the team's trade chips. However, that also does little to build for the future, leading Stone to say that they could be in a lose-lose situation.
  • In addition to their talks with the Cubs regarding Matt Garza, the Rangers are also seeking a right-handed bat, GM Jon Daniels told reporters today (including Todd Wills of ESPNDallas.com). Alex Rios and Alfonso Soriano "have been mentioned as possible acquisitions," according to Wills, who adds that the Rangers aren't yet ready to give Manny Ramirez a chance at the big league level.
  • From that same piece, Daniels adds that the Rangers aren't panicking over Nelson Cruz's connection to the Biogenesis scandal.

Injury Updates On Impending Free Agent Starters

The upcoming crop of free agent starters has been rife with injuries this season. While Matt Garza and Josh Johnson look to have returned from the DL healthy and very effective since our last look-in on injured hurlers, others haven't been so fortunate yet. Here's an update on some hurlers whose stock is suffering due to injuries…

  • Roy Halladay told MLB.com's Todd Zolecki that he's feeling good and has been tossing from 60 feet for the past few days. The Phils are hopeful that Halladay, who underwent shoulder surgery in May, will pitch again this season, but that might not happen until late August, if it happens at all. The 36-year-old could end posting his lowest innings total since 2000 as a 23-year-old — the year prior to his breakout as one of baseball's most dominant forces.
  • MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez reports that Jason Vargas will undergo surgery to alleviate a blood clot in his left armpit. The procedure will shut down Vargas entirely for two weeks, and he might not be back on a Major League mound until the end of July. Vargas averages nearly 6 2/3 innings per start, so those five weeks could cost him between 40 and 50 innings of work. The injury couldn't come at a worse time, as Vargas is in the midst of his best season, and his durability is one of his greatest assets. Beyond that, the loss of one of their best starters this season could place the Halos in a deeper hole and push them toward selling at this year's deadline.
  • Dan Haren hit the disabled list this weekend with a vague shoulder injury. Manager Davey Johnson told MLB.com's Bill Ladson the soreness has kept Haren from getting loose prior to his past couple of outings. Haren sounded irritated by his placement on the DL, according to Ladson, and noted any soreness he's feeling is nothing he hasn't pitched through before. Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington tweets that Haren's MRI came back clean and he received a cortisone shot yesterday. Haren's ERA is a bloated 6.15, and he is tied for the Major League lead in homers allowed.
  • As of this Sunday, Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review noted that A.J. Burnett has yet to throw off a mound since being placed on the disabled list by the Pirates. Burnett is in the midst of one of the finest seasons of his career, but has no timetable for his return. His bout with free agency this offseason figured to be an intriguing one anyhow, as he's stated publicly that he would likely only return to the Pirates or retire. A serious DL stint could make him question a return even more.

If Vargas can recover on time and finish the season healthy, he could still net a multi-year free agent deal. Any significant setback, however, would likely line him up for a one-year deal, which is likely the fate of both Haren and Halladay at this point as well. Burnett ranked eight on the most recent edition of Tim Dierkes' Free Agent Power Rankings, but an extended DL stint would likely knock him from the Top 10.


Quick Hits: Nolasco, Angels, Twins, Norris

Peter Gammons reported earlier today that there was buzz amongst the league's general managers that Ricky Nolasco would end up with the Giants before the trade deadline.  This sentiment is shared even by another general manager who is himself interested in Nolasco; this mystery GM tells USA Today's Bob Nightengale that he expects Brian Sabean to outbid the field in the race for the Marlins righty.

Here are some more items from around the majors…

  • The Angels might make pending free agents Jason Vargas or Scott Downs available at the trade deadline if they decide to sell, MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez opines, though there won't be any major moves.  "I'm told nothing will cause them to blow up the roster and start all over again," Gonzalez writes, since the front office still believes the club can be contenders in 2014 and beyond and the Josh Hamilton/Albert Pujols contracts make it difficult to truly rebuild.
  • The Angels have nothing to show for their efforts in acquiring big-name pitchers (Scott Kazmir, Dan Haren and Zack Greinke) at the trade deadline in three of the last four seasons, MLB.com's Lyle Spencer writes.  Making matters worse for the Halos is that they dealt several top prospects in those trades, giving away such notable talents as Jean Segura, Patrick Corbin, Tyler Skaggs and Alex Torres.
  • The Twins have exceeded expectations this year but "it's hard to see a scenario in which they'll be buyers" at the trade deadline, MLB.com's Rhett Bollinger writes as part of a reader mailbag.  A hot streak over the next month could change plans, though with the Tigers unlikely to be caught atop the AL Central, Bollinger suspects the Twins will stick with their rebuilding plan.
  • Bud Norris noted that he hasn't discussed a long-term deal with the Astros and he wouldn't be surprised if he is traded, the right-hander tells MLB.com's Brian McTaggart.  "If the trade deadline is here and I'm still in an Astros uniform, I'll be happy with that," Norris said.  "I understand something could happen, but at the end of the day, my focus right now is still in Houston, and that's where it's going to stay."  The Pirates, Orioles and Giants have all reportedly considered acquiring Norris and more suitors are likely to follow.
  • Phillies GM Ruben Amaro was non-committal about whether or not the Phils would call up Carlos Zambrano before his July 1 opt-out date.  Amaro told reporters (including Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer) that Zambrano has "been inconsistent" in the minors and that he doesn't see the righty as a relief pitcher.

Orioles Seeking Rotation Upgrades

At 42-31, the Orioles have the second-best record in the American League. That impressive win total comes despite the fact that their starting pitchers, as a whole, have the fourth-worst ERA in the Majors at 4.76. Given that number, it's no surprise to see MLB.com's Brittany Ghiroli write that the Orioles will be in the market for starting pitching help in her latest Orioles Inbox. According to Ghiroli, names like Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Jason Vargas and Joe Saunders are on the team's radar. She adds that Mike Pelfrey's name has also surfaced.

No one from that group stands out as an ace-caliber pitcher, which meshes with Ghiroli's statement that the Orioles "would like to add at least one more pitcher to help eat innings and keep the bullpen fresh." That trade could come prior to the July 31 non-waiver deadline, or, if asking prices are high, executive VP of baseball operations Dan Duquette could make a waiver trade in August as he did in 2012 when he acquired Saunders from the Diamondbacks for Matt Lindstrom.

Asked about the Orioles seeking a potential upgrade at second base via the trade market, Ghiroli said that the team isn't looking for second base upgrades. Baltimore is satisfied with the defense of Ryan Flaherty, and Brian Roberts is nearing a rehab assignment. According to Ghiroli, the Orioles would prefer to "[funnel] any and all resources and trade chips into helping out the rotation."

Not surprisingly, the Orioles aren't willing to discuss Kevin Gausman or Dylan Bundy in trades, which is likely the reason for focusing on second- and third-tier trade targets. Of the five names mentioned, Norris figures to have the highest asking price. Only he is controlled beyond 2013; each of the other four can be free agents at season's end.

Earlier this season the O's were said to be looking for a top-of-the-rotation starter, but they seem to have shifted that focus. Given their unwillingness to part with Gausman or Bundy, it stands to reason that acquiring an ace-caliber arm would've been an unrealistic goal.


Quick Hits: Phillies, Appel, Haren, Vargas, Hughes

For those of you still up watching the epic Giants-Dodgers game unfold tonight, here are a few final notes from today:

  • Assessing the Phillies' front office performance this past offseason, Bob Ford of the Philadelphia Inquirer leaves litle doubt as to his stance. He writes (via the Miami Herald) that the Phillies built their 2013 team "on the precarious hope that their aging veteran starters would pitch well and that their aging everyday players would regain their productivity. Around that central theme, the front office sprinkled journeymen and prospects who might be good enough if everything else went right." While the Philadelphia sits only three games under .500, that record has been built on a 9-3 mark against the Mets and Marlins. Unfortunately, opines Ford, there is little that the team can do at this point, especially as the team lacks impact minor league talent ready to help the big league club. With a turnaround always at least possible given the team's starting pitching corps, and with trade value difficult to maximize at this point in the year, Ford says that all the Phillies can do is continue down the path they have chosen and continue to hope for the best.
  • In yesterday's matchup between likely first-round pitchers Mark Appel of Stanford and Trevor Williams of Arizona State, it was Appel that came up out on top, writes Keith Law of ESPN (on Insider). Law came away impressed with all of Appel's three primary pitches, along with his athleticism and mechanics. He noted that the Astros and Cubs scouts in attendance likely felt the same. Those two clubs, of course, possess the first two picks in the upcoming amateur draft.
  • The prospective class of 2014 free agent starters is beginning to look deeper, tweets Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com. Heyman points to recent solid starts from Dan Haren, Jason Vargas, and Phil Hughes. While Heyman also notes that Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum have settled down since their less-than-promising beginnings to the season, both were roughed up again in their latest outings. With more question marks than sure things among the best rotation options in the 2014 market, pitchers like Haren, Vargas, and Hughes have a lot of room to improve their market positioning over the course of this season. Haren, a 32-year-old one-time ace, has battled through an abysmal early-going to register two consecutive starts that were more reminiscent of his former dominance. The 30-year-old Vargas has buttressed his case as a solid innings-eater, going deep into his last three games and maintaining a 3.72 ERA over 38 2/3 innings. And Hughes, still just 26, has steadily improved all year since returning from injury, most recently tossing an eight-inning, four-hit, nine-strikeout, no-run gem against the Athletics.