The Royals have signed free agent pitcher Jason Vargas to a 4 year, $32 million contract, pending a physical, according to Jeff Passan. Vargas pitched for the Angels in 2013, throwing 150 innings with a 4.02 ERA and 6.54 strikeouts per 9 innings.
The 31 year old lefty has pitched at least 150 innings in each of the past 4 seasons, including a career high 217.1 innings in 2012. Dayton Moore has said that he wants to get a lot of innings from his starters, so using that logic, I can see why he wanted to sign Vargas. While he won’t be able to duplicate the success of Ervin Santana, Vargas should be able to supply around 180 innings with an ERA near the league average. There is some value in a pitcher like that, and the Royals are hoping spacious Kauffman Stadium and arguably the best defense in baseball can help Vargas improve upon his past results.
Vargas is one of those pitchers who doesn’t do anything exceptionally well, but he also isn’t terrible at anything. His strikeout rate is below average while his walk rate is slightly above average. His ground ball rate could be better, but isn’t awful (40.2% in the last 2 seasons). And his career ERA of 4.30 is slightly higher than the league average. Not a glamorous signing, but the team has done worse.
MLB Trade Rumors had predicted a 3 year deal worth $28.5 million for Vargas, so it appears the Royals felt the need to tack on an extra year in order to make sure they signed their man. Vargas’ upside is incredibly limited, so it is hard to see why the front office felt so inclined to offer him a longer deal than the older Jeremy Guthrie received last winter. Regardless of their reasoning, the Royals have made their first move of this much-anticipated offseason, and there will (hopefully) be more to come.