Baltimore Orioles Hot Stove: Why signing Jason Vargas makes sense
The Baltimore Orioles need at least two starting pitchers in this Hot Stove season and free agent Jason Vargas makes sense to fill one of those spots.
Only two starters in the Baltimore Orioles rotation will be back for the 2018 season, Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
There is a chance that Gabriel Ynoa and Miguel Castro could fill spots, but they have to perform at their peak in spring training. So, if the Orioles are planning on playing in October, they will need pitchers with strong and consistent track records.
Jason Vargas has proven himself to be both a strong and consistent pitcher.
A few Orioles numbers
Bundy finished the 2017 season with an ERA of 4.24 and Gausman finished the season with an ERA of 4.68. These were the two best ERAs in the starting rotation. If the Orioles do not add better pitchers, there is no way they will make it to October. Signing strong pitchers is an imperative.
Vargas’s numbers in 2017
Vargas finished 2017 with an ERA of 4.16 and his career ERA is 4.17. He’s pitched for several teams, but his best pitching was in his last four seasons with the Kansas City Royals, where he had a 3.88 ERA. His best season was 2017, which happened to be his first and only All-Star season, too. This season, he finished with an AL-leading 18 wins in 32 games. He had one complete game in 2017.
In 2017, Vargas pitched 179.2 innings. This was not the highest number of innings he pitched, but after two short seasons, the Royals were clearly not going to overuse him. In two of his seasons with the Seattle Mariners, he threw over 200 innings. His last 200+ season was 2012.
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Vargas will be 35 years old during the 2018 season. This shouldn’t be much of an issue, especially if the Orioles are looking for a win-now season. He’s already got a World Series ring under his belt and he has wins in the ALCS and ALDS. He pitched one game in the World Series in 2014, but he did not pitch well against the San Francisco Giants and only lasted four innings.
Vargas is not a pitcher who is going to blow a fastball past a batter. His specialty is placement with his changeup, slider, and curveball. According to Fangraphs, his fastball and slider is in the mid-80s, while his other pitches are in the low 80s and 70s. But, he still manages to strikeout batters with his slider and changeup. If batters do not strikeout swinging, they ground out into the infield.
When Vargas is pitching, players who reach on his pitches usually hit bloop singles, which is evident by the fact that he only gave up 27 home runs. Consider that Ubaldo Jimenez gave up 33 home runs. Gausman and Bundy combined to give up 64 long balls in 2017. In 2017, Rick Porcello led the MLB giving up 38 home runs.
Along with Vargas’s numbers, he has two other good reasons to sign him to pitch in Birdland. First, he’s a left-handed pitcher and there just aren’t many available. Second, he’s affordable. In his last season with the Royals, he made $8 million. In 2016, he made a career-high $8.5 million.
Next: There is so much for the Orioles to lose in 2018
If the Orioles are all-in for 2018, Vargas may not be the most exciting signing. But, he would not be a bad choice. Vargas can get outs, which is what the Orioles need.