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Jason Vargas Rumors
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.
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. A 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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
- Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports tweets that the Pirates have no plans to move Glasnow, though they still have plenty in the system to acquire Norris. Alex Rios also remains a target for Pittsburgh.
- 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.
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.
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.