Jason Vargas Rumors
As teams scan the trade market for pieces that can make a difference down the stretch, many GMs are experiencing sticker shock, writes Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe. “Some of the demands out there are ludicrous,” said one NL adviser. “We asked about a lefty pitcher and they asked us for our best pitching, best hitting, and a couple of other established players. I said, ‘Are you kidding me?’ That’s why I’m thinking despite all the talking, I’m not sure much is going to get done.” Here's more from Cafardo..
- The Rays have sniffed around on Rockies catcher Ramon Hernandez. The Mets and Nationals are also said to have interest in the veteran, though teams are wary of the $3.2MM owed to him in 2013.
- Diamondbacks rightfielder Justin Upton hasn’t drawn as much interest as expected. The Pirates obviously have a great deal of interest in him but find the asking price was prohibitive. Pittsburgh may also be interested in B.J. Upton of the Rays and they inquired on Billy Butler of the Royals and the Phillies' Shane Victorino.
- The Cubs could be interested in Red Sox pitcher Daniel Bard in a Matt Garza trade. Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod all have a strong history with the right-hander.
- There hasn't been much news about him in the last week or so, but Red Sox catcher Kelly Shoppach remains a viable option for teams like the Mets in need of a catcher. Boston can afford to part with him as well with Ryan Lavarnway waiting in Pawtucket.
- Cafardo cautions not to dismiss possible interest by the Yankees in Royals outfielder Alex Gordon, with Brett Gardner having surgery.
- The Orioles, Tigers, and Royals are among the teams that have made inquiries on Mariners left-hander Jason Vargas.
The Braves are looking at possible bullpen upgrades in addition to starting pitching options, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (on Twitter). Here are more news items from Morosi with precisely two weeks to go before this year’s trade deadline...
- The Tigers would like to add a left-handed starter, but are wary of taking on all of Wandy Rodriguez’s contract, Morosi reports (on Twitter). Rodriguez earns $10MM this year and $13MM next year. His contract includes a $13MM option for 2014 that becomes a player option if the Astros trade Rodriguez.
- Jason Vargas is a similar pitcher to Rodriguez on a more affordable contract who could appeal to the Tigers, in my opinion. Alternatively, Houston could absorb salary to facilitate a trade.
- The Cardinals continue to monitor the market for starters and relievers, Morosi and Ken Rosenthal write. The Mariners recently scouted Cardinals pitching prospect Tyrell Jenkins, but it’s not known if the teams are actively discussing a trade for Vargas or anyone else.
- Morosi gets the sense that Brewers right-hander Zack Greinke will stay put in Milwaukee this year (video link).
- Morosi explains that he believes Cole Hamels is a better fit for the Rangers than the Angels (video link).
Mariners GM Jack Zduriencik expects to keep right fielder Ichiro Suzuki past the July 31st trade deadline, and also expects the 38-year-old back with the team in 2013, he told Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports. Ichiro remains a "franchise player" in Zduriencik's eyes despite a .260/.286/.348 line so far in 2012. Ichiro seems to be entering the most difficult phase of a superstar's career, coming up for a new contract as his game declines across the board. I imagine his $17MM salary would have to be more than cut in half, but if Ichiro's struggles continue, even a starting role will be a debatable choice.
As for Felix Hernandez, Zduriencik continued to hammer home the ace's unavailability. Instead, Morosi reminds of us Jason Vargas' trade candidacy, noting that "Zduriencik is expected to look for offense in return" for the lefty.
Nick Cafardo of the Boston Globe spoke about Florida baseball with Bud Selig and he had mixed emotions on how successful it is, as he's frustrated with the Rays' attendance figures but noted that the Marlins' numbers are up significantly after the opening of their park. "They’ve run a great operation," the commissioner said. "They’re a very competitive organization, a very competitive team. As I study the attendance every day and looking at where they are, to see they’re No. 29 [in attendance] is inexcusable. Nobody can defend that." Here's more from today's column..
- The Red Sox have shown interest in Rockies right-hander Rafael Betancourt and have scouted him a few times. Boston likely wouldn't want to give up prospects for him but could offer an outfielder. Recently, Buster Olney of ESPN.com reported that Colorado would have to be overwhelmed to part with the reliever.
- Jon Lester has been on Pirates' radar along with Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, Ryan Dempster, and Matt Garza but it doesn’t appear the Sox would move him unless they got an outstanding deal. Pittsburgh probably won't part with pitching prospect Gerrit Cole which makes a trade unlikely.
- The Mariners' Jason Vargas has emerged as a hot name for contending teams and one American League GM told Cafardo that teams were hoping to "slip in and take him for less than full value." Now, however, the M's know that he's in demand and won't just give him away. The Orioles, Blue Jays, Pirates, Cardinals, and Tigers are among teams that may have interest.
- The Blue Jays, Yankees, and Braves have all scouted Twins pitcher Francisco Liriano, who Cafardo suggests should be traded before he falters again.
- Twins GM Terry Ryan will have to be blown away to part with outfielder Josh Willingham.
- Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria may soon be faced with the question about selling at the deadline, something he wanted to avoid in the first year of the club's new ballpark. The best thing they could do to improve their farm system likely involves trading guys like Anibal Sanchez, Omar Infante, and the newly acquired Carlos Lee.
- White Sox GM Kenny Williams always thinks big and it would not be surprising to see him get in on pitcher such as Zack Greinke. The problem is that his farm system doesn't have much to offer and they don't want to give up pieces off the big league roster while contending.
- The best guess right now has the Padres keeping Carlos Quentin and trading Chase Headley. Rosenthal says it's simple supply-and-demand; as many as ten teams have shown interest in the third baseman Headley. The team isn't sure they can get more for Quentin in a trade than they would by letting him walk as a free agent and recouping draft picks after the season.
- The Orioles are clearly buyers. They're willing to trade any prospect not named Dylan Bundy or Manny Machado, but they probably don't have enough to get Greinke. They do have interest in lesser arms like Joe Blanton and Jason Vargas, as well as leadoff man Juan Pierre.
- The Brewers could pit the Rangers and Angels against each other in the Greinke sweepstakes. Texas is unwilling to trade Mike Olt, Jurickson Profar, or Martin Perez for a rental, which could create an opening for the Halos if they're willing to deal Major League talent.
- The Phillies do not intend to trade Cliff Lee to create payroll room for Cole Hamels. If they do keep Hamels long-term, they could have $140MM tied up in just eight players going into next season.
Here's some news from the Twitter feed of ESPN's Jayson Stark...
- Two executives who have recently spoken to the Cubs say that Chicago is mentioning Bryan LaHair's name in trade talks. LaHair made the All-Star team after a hot start, though as Stark notes, is hitting just .220/.278/.341 since May 15.
- Stark was somewhat surprised by Edwin Encarnacion's three-year extension with the Blue Jays, as he reports the Jays were gauging trade interest in Encarnacion as late as last week.
- The Orioles' interest in Matt Garza has faded and the O's are now "poking around on Jason Vargas." The Braves are also known to be looking at the Mariners southpaw, as Stark reported last month. MLBTR's Ben Nicholson-Smith recently examined Vargas as a trade candidate.
Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports (video link) caught up with Josh Hamilton in Kansas City and asked him which team he'll be representing this time next year at Citi Field. "Hopefully an American League team, and hopefully back with the Rangers, that'd be nice," said the outfielder. Here's more out of the American League West..
- The Angels will look to improve their bullpen this month but they have no interest in bringing back struggling left-hander Brian Fuentes, tweets Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com. Fuentes was released by the A's earlier today.
- Mike Napoli, who is in his contract year with the Rangers, says that he prefers to catch, writes Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports. “I’d rather catch than play first base,” he said. "Sometimes, at first base, I feel a little lost. I just want to make the routine play. Knock it down and flip it to the pitcher — that’s basically my mindset," Napoli explained.
- Geoff Baker of the Seattle Times (via Twitter) is a bit suspicious that the Mariners won't be starting Jason Vargas this weekend during their homestand and are instead pushing him to Monday in Kansas City. Baker theorizes that this could be to show that the left-hander can pitch on the road for interested teams. Ben Nicholson-Smith recently examined Vargas as a trade candidate.
Arizona general manager Kevin Towers says he’s been impressed by Mike Trout and Bryce Harper from an offensive and defensive standpoint, ESPN.com’s Jayson Stark reports. "They can beat you on the basepaths. They impact the game defensively,” Towers said. “They can beat you with key hits or the long ball. They're both very special." Here are Stark’s latest rumors from around MLB...
- One American League executive says the Cubs are basing their asking price for Matt Garza on last summer’s Ubaldo Jimenez deal. This means it’ll take two controllable, young players with upside to pry the right-hander away from Jed Hoyer and Theo Epstein.
- Other teams say the Orioles are involved in the Garza talks. However, Manny Machado and Dylan Bundy aren’t going to be available in summer trade talks with any club.
- The Braves are looking for "an impact starting pitcher" and they’ve scouted trade candidate Jason Vargas extensively
- The Angels are desperate to add a really good bullpen piece and would dangle Peter Bourjos in the right deal, according to rival teams.
- One executive doesn’t expect Luke Gregerson of the Padres to become available, though there would be heavy demand if San Diego were willing to listen.
- Another executive suggests the Red Sox could trade Kelly Shoppach and call Ryan Lavarnway up from the minor leagues.
- The Twins continue to tell teams they expect to hold onto Josh Willingham.
- The Marlins are telling rival teams they haven’t discussed becoming sellers this summer. The Phillies also seem to want to add, not subtract. The Phils are considering a long list of relievers and have asked the Padres about Chase Headley.
- The Diamondbacks have “window-shopped” for bullpen depth, Stark writes. Towers says he prefers his current team, now 38-37, to the one that won the NL West a year ago.
- Stark also reported on the Blue Jays' approach to the trade deadline and you can read the details here.
In a trade market that’s expected to feature some effective but expensive left-handed starters, Jason Vargas could have considerable value. His $4.85MM salary is less than half of Wandy Rodriguez’s salary, and less than one third of Cole Hamels’ salary.
Vargas’ back of the baseball card numbers are remarkably similar to those of Rodriguez, as demonstrated below. But interested teams will note that Vargas is younger, faces designated hitters instead of pitchers, and will be more affordable in the short and long-term.
Vargas could slot comfortably into the rotation of many contending teams. He’s not an ace and probably never will be, but he successfully limits the opposition with a repertoire based on his changeup and modest 88 mph fastball. The combination typically results in an ERA around 4.00, twice as many strikeouts as walks and lots of fly balls in 200 innings or so. So far this year, Vargas has a 3.95 ERA with 5.7 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 40.1% ground ball rate in 98 innings.
However, Vargas has been more homer-prone than usual this year and he’s generating fewer swings and misses than he ordinarily does. Just five qualified starters are inducing swings and misses less frequently than Vargas, whose 5.8% swinging strike rate is his lowest since joining the Mariners three and a half years ago.
Potential suitors wouldn't be looking at a three-month rental. The 29-year-old CAA client is under team control through 2013 when he’ll be arbitration eligible for the final time. He’s on track for a substantial raise next year -- possibly a salary of $7MM-plus.
The last-place Mariners, now 30-40, will presumably acknowledge that this isn’t their year within a month or so and start listening to trade offers. General manager Jack Zduriencik has dealt from starting pitching depth twice in the past year, yet the Mariners still have many young arms. The rotation of the Jackson Generals, Seattle’s Double-A affiliate, includes top prospects Danny Hultzen, James Paxton and Taijuan Walker.
The Mariners probably won’t be able to trade Vargas for an elite hitting prospect like Jesus Montero. But Zduriencik acquired Charlie Furbush, Chance Ruffin and Casper Wells for Doug Fister and David Pauley a year ago. Perhaps they’ll see similarly intriguing offers for Vargas this summer, when some contenders will be willing to part with controllable players for experienced starting pitching help.