The Kansas City Royals have done an excellent job in building depth in both their bullpen and in their starting pitching rotation. Will Jason Vargas be healthy enough to be a part of that depth this season?
Jason Vargas was expected to be a key part of the Kansas City Royals rotation last season. He had been what the Royals expected in his first year with the team, posting a respectable 3.71 ERA and a 1.273 WHiP, pitching more than six innings a start and giving the bullpen a chance to rest. He had been exactly as advertised, a fly ball pitcher who would find Kauffman Stadium to his liking.
Last season, when healthy, Vargas was able to build off of his excellent debut in Kansas City. Despite two stints to the disabled list, Vargas posted a 5-2 record with a 3.98 ERA and a 1.349 WHiP. While not quite as good as his performance during the previous year, that production was good enough for a middle of the rotation starter.
Then, Vargas’ elbow issues became truly problematic. Lasting four outs into his first start back from the disabled list, Vargas would eventually be shut down, undergoing Tommy John surgery on August 5th. It is that date which makes it questionable as to whether or not Vargas will be a factor this year.
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It will be very close to the end of the season if Vargas is able to return. While the Royals are optimistic that Vargas will be able to contribute later this season, it seems unlikely. As Rustin Dodd stated, they tend to be cautious when it comes to rehabbing pitchers coming off of Tommy John surgery, pushing his likely return to the latter end of the typical twelve to fourteen months.
With the timeline being that close to the end of the season, it simply does not make sense for the Royals to push Vargas to return. While he could be an asset over the final couple of weeks of the regular season, or even in the playoffs, the Royals have the pitching depth where Vargas’ return is not a necessity. Instead, they can focus on making sure that he is healthy and ready to contribute during the 2017 season.
That 2017 season will also have an added incentive for Vargas. Pitching in the final year of his contract, he is going to want to show that he is healthy and can be that dependable innings eater of previous years once again. It may be in his best interest if he holds back as well, waiting for the following season to make his return.
There is every possibility that Jason Vargas could help the Kansas City Royals at the end of next season. However, for both sides, it may not be worth the risk to rush back from surgery.