Jason Vargas Rumors

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.

Angels, Jason Vargas Avoid Arbitration

The Angels avoided arbitration with Jason Vargas, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com reports (on Twitter). The CAA Sports client will earn $8.5MM in 2013.

Mariners, Angels To Swap Morales, Vargas

Two AL West rivals have agreed to exchange prominent players in a deal that will address major needs for both clubs. The Mariners and Angels have agreed to a trade that will send Kendrys Morales to Seattle for left-hander Jason Vargas, the Mariners announced.

Kendrys Morales - Angels (PW)

Angels GM Jerry Dipoto had been hoping to obtain an innings eater for Morales, and that's precisely what he's getting in Vargas. The 29-year-old has completed at least 192 innings in each of the past three seasons. He pitched 217 1/3 innings this past season, posting a 3.85 ERA with 5.8 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and a 40.2% ground ball rate. He joins a rotation that will include Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson. Garrett Richards now projects as the team's sixth starter.

Vargas will go to arbitration for the third and final time this offseason and remains on track to hit free agency one year from now. MLBTR projects a 2013 salary of $7.4MM for Vargas, a CAA Sports client.

Vargas, a fly ball pitcher like Weaver, will have a fleet-footed outfield of Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton covering lots of ground behind him. Mark Trumbo now projects as the Angels' designated hitter. Though Bourjos and Trumbo also surfaced in trade rumors after the Angels signed Hamilton, it now seems likely that they'll stay put.

Morales, who is also one year away from free agency, projects to earn $4.8MM in 2013. He'll add some offense to a Mariners lineup that finished last in the American League in runs scored in 2012. The 29-year-old posted a .273/.320/.467 batting line with 22 home runs and 26 doubles in 522 plate appearances for the Angels this past season after missing the entire 2011 campaign with a leg injury.

The addition of Morales could cost Justin Smoak playing time, assuming the Mariners find a way to get Jesus Montero into the starting lineup most days. The Mariners' rotation will include Felix Hernandez, Hisashi Iwakuma, Blake Beavan and, potentially, promising young arms such as Erasmo RamirezJames Paxton and Danny Hultzen. It's possible GM Jack Zduriencik will add a veteran arm, MLB.com's Greg Johns suggests (on Twitter).

Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com first reported the trade (on Twitter). Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Quick Hits: Ruiz, Mariners, Vargas, Gathright

The Orioles' record-setting success in one-run games continued on Tuesday as they eked out a 1-0 victory over the Rays at Tropicana Field.  Both teams combined for just four hits in the game, with Chris Davis' solo homer accounting for the only run.  James Shields was the tough-luck loser as he threw a complete game two-hitter while striking out 15 O's batters.  The Yankees' 12-inning victory over the Red Sox tonight means that New York still holds a one-game lead over Baltimore for first place in the AL East.

Here's the latest from around the majors as we head towards the last day of the regular season…

  • Picking up Carlos Ruiz's club option for 2013 is "a formality," said Phillies GM Ruben Amaro tells CSNPhilly.com's Jim Salisbury, though the club will still wait until after the World Series to make it official.  The 33-year-old Ruiz delivered a career-best .327/.397/.542 line in 416 plate appearances, making his $5MM option a foregone conclusion to be exercised.
  • Mariners players are happy that Safeco Field's fences will be moved in next season, reports MLB.com's Greg Johns, both for their own sakes and to help the team in acquiring free agent hitters.  "Every time a guy gets on first base, that's all they talk about, how terrible this place is to hit," said Justin Smoak. "Everybody hates hitting here…I'm sure there are a lot of guys out there that have declined coming here because of that reason. This should definitely change some things. Everybody is excited about it."
  • Safeco Field's adjustments will also impact Mariners pitchers, to the point that Fangraphs' Dave Cameron wonders if the M's could non-tender Jason VargasMLBTR's Matt Swartz projects that Vargas will earn $8.1MM in his third trip through the arbitration process, a high price for a pitcher who has had severe home/road splits in three of his four seasons in Seattle.  This season, Vargas has a 2.74 ERA in 14 starts at Safeco and a 4.78 ERA in 19 road starts. 
  • Joey Gathright has tested positive for amphetamines and will face a 50-game suspension when he signs his next contract, reports Bob Dutton of the Kansas City Star (Twitter link).  Gathright last played in the Reds organization before being released by their Triple-A team in July.
  • Gordon Blakeley, a long-time scout and special assistant to Yankees GM Brian Cashman, is reportedly interested in leaving New York for a position with the Red Sox, reports ESPN Boston's Gordon Edes.
  • The Rays and Angels fell short of the postseason due to injuries and unexpected rises from the Orioles and Athletics, but MLB.com's Matthew Leach also points the finger at both teams' failed low-cost signings.  Luke Scott and Carlos Pena provided little offense for Tampa Bay, while LaTroy Hawkins and Jason Isringhausen didn't help stabilize the Halos' bullpen.

Millwood Clears Waivers; Vargas, Felix Claimed

Kevin Millwood cleared waivers but two other Mariners starters were claimed by rival teams, Jon Paul Morosi of FOX Sports reports (Twitter links). Jason Vargas and Felix Hernandez were claimed, but they aren't going anywhere, according to Morosi. 

Millwood, a free agent this offseason, can now be traded to any team. He'd be eligible for postseason rosters if Seattle trades him before midnight tonight. Otherwise he can still be traded, but only as a regular season player. He earns a $1MM salary and has a 4.28 ERA with 6.2 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9 in 145 innings.

Vargas would be more than a rental, since he’s arbitration eligible again this offseason. The left-hander earns $4.85MM this season and can expect a raise to $8MM or so for 2013. Vargas, 29, has a 3.90 ERA with 5.7 K/9 and 2.3 BB/9 in 184 2/3 innings with Seattle. 

It would be a major surprise if Hernandez were traded. The 26-year-old is a leading Cy Young candidate again with an AL-best 2.43 ERA in 196 2/3 innings. He'll earn $19.5MM in 2013 and $20MM in 2014 under his current contract.

If the Mariners are serious about trading Vargas or Hernandez — and there’s no indication this is the case — they could wait until the offseason when more bidders emerge. For now GM Jack Zduriencik can only discuss trade scenarios with the team(s) that won the claims on his pitchers.

Jason Vargas, Kevin Millwood On Waivers

The Mariners have placed both Kevin Millwood and Jason Vargas on waivers, and both players are likely to be claimed, reports Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports (Twitter link). As Rosenthal notes, Vargas is owed just over $1MM for the remainder of the season, while Millwood is owed roughly $200K.

The 29-year-old Vargas is appealing for teams looking to improve their rotation in the short- and long-term; he's controlled through 2013 and is arbitration-eligible for the final time this offseason. Shortly before the trade deadline, MLBTR contributor Matt Swartz projected an $8.1MM salary for Vargas in 2013. He's pitched to a 3.71 ERA since that projection, so he likely hasn't damaged his stock any.

Overall, Vargas has a 3.75 ERA, 5.6 K/9, 2.3 BB/9 and 40.8 percent ground-ball rate in a whopping 180 innings thus far. Vargas' average of 6 2/3 innings per start is likely another appealing element of his game. Interested teams are likely wary of Vargas' struggles away from the spacious Safeco Field. His 2.62 home ERA is two full runs lower than his 4.63 road mark.

Millwood, 37, has a 4.28 ERA, 6.2 K/9, 3.0 BB/9 and 45 percent ground-ball rate in 145 innings for the Mariners this season. Unlike Vargas, he's pitched equally well away from Seattle. The former American League ERA champ signed a minor league deal with the Mariners in January and has gone on to become one of the most successful minor league signees of 2012.

Earlier today it was reported that the Dodgers were in the market for a starting pitcher. Los Angeles has been far and away the most aggressive team in this season's trade market, and they were linked to both Seattle hurlers prior to the non-waiver trade deadline.