Sep 8, 2013; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jason Vargas throws a pitch against the Texas Rangers during the game at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

Jason Vargas Brings Stability to the Royals Rotation

September 18, 2013; Oakland, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels starting pitcher Jason Vargas (60) delivers a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during the first inning at Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

When projecting potential free agent options for the Kansas City Royals in the starting rotation, it was expected that they would target pitchers that, for whatever reason, were considered undervalued assets. Pitchers such as Josh Johnson, Tim Hudson and Phil Hughes were all connected to the Royals, in part because they all would be low risk/high reward free agent pitchers. However, that plan went out the window as Hudson signed with the Giants, and Johnson followed him to the West Coast, inking a deal with the Padres.

With the Royals still needing a starter, it appeared as though Hughes was the only option seemingly available. While he may still end up being signed by the Royals, they filled a spot in their rotation by going outside of their expected shopping list, signing Jason Vargas to a four year, $32 Million contract.

Vargas may not be that impressive when looking at his career numbers, but he has been a much better pitcher over the past four seasons that his career statistics would indicate. Since becoming a full time starter in 2010, Vargas has gone 42-44 with a 3.97 ERA, failing to top 190 innings only once in that time frame. Overall, he appears to be a solid back of the rotation innings eater, someone that may be more likely to replace Bruce Chen as opposed to Ervin Santana.

However, Vargas could thrive in Kansas City. As an extreme fly ball pitcher, his improved performance coincided with pitching for both the Mariners and the Angels. A move to Kauffman, which has been a difficult place to hit home runs, could only help. With a better outfield defense than what Vargas had behind him in either stop, he has the potential to outperform the value of his contract.

Jason Vargas also adds another element for the Royals. Paired with James Shields, he gives the Royals a pair of extremely durable pitchers, capable of taking the ball every fifth day and lasting seven or more innings each time out. In those past four seasons, Vargas failed to make over thirty starts only once, due to a blood clot. Yet, he showed his health by making all his starts down the stretch and firing a shutout in his final start of last year. With the possibility of having Danny Duffy and Yordano Ventura in the rotation next season, being able to give the bullpen more time off could be essential. Vargas, along with Shields, can help bring that type of stability to the rotation.

It is always difficult to trust an extreme fly ball pitcher, especially when he has a tendency to give up home runs. However, Kauffman is where home runs seemingly go to die. With that being the case, Jason Vargas may have landed in the perfect spot, and may outperform his contract.

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  • jimfetterolf

    Great post,couldn’t have said it better.

    • Dave Hill

      Thanks Jim. read your comment about how he’s more of a replacement for Chen after I had this post up. Great minds and all, right?

  • moretrouble

    The lead for the article, something about bringing stability to the rotation, is a good way of characterizing the Vargas signing. The struggles of young pitchers are well known in KC. Observing how effective Guthrie has been, it is reasonable to think Vargas could have a similar degree of success at Kauffman.

    Inserting Vargas into the rotation may mean that Smith becomes the long man and the other spots would have Ventura and Duffy lightly penciled in at this point.

    I totally reject the idea – fostered by posters on a number of sites – that Moore, Yost, etc, don’t know what they’re doing. They’re making some very good moves over there.

    • Dave Hill

      I agree MT. It’s a contract that, compared to some of the other deals that were signed recently, does not seem that bad. I’m not sure what other places are missing with this signing.

  • Ed Connealy

    It’s a good move that becomes a great move if they sign Hughs as well.

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  • Eric Akers

    I want to look at this as to how we can replace Mendoza and Davis on the mound. We were 15-25 combined when those two started. We were 16-16 when Santana started. (Those are the Royals’ record, not the players’ records).

    So, if we replace 15-25 with 20-20, then somebody that can fill Santana’s shoes at maybe 14-18, then we change from 31-41 when those three pitched to 34-38. Can we replace Mendoza and Davis with a 50% winning percentage? That alone would be huge, and means we do not have to necessarily replace Santana, we just need to get close to what he did.

    If we do not have a month like we had in May, it might be easier to get results closer to what Santana had done for us. I know you cannot pin everything on the starting pitcher, but I am pointing out the area that we have the most potential to improve upon.