It’s safe to say that the Baltimore Orioles are not going to chase after Jake Arrieta, Yu Darvish, Lance Lynn, or any of the other pricy starting pitchers.
So, with the lack of options available in free agency, the Baltimore Orioles should get busy signing pitchers who are more affordable.
One of those is Jason Vargas, formerly of the Kansas City Royals.
He is a solid option who has recovered nicely from his Tommy John surgery that kept him out of the rotation for much of 2015 and 2016. In fact, he recovered so well that his 2017 ERA was 4.16 in 32 starts. Of those starts, he had a league-high 18 wins. He finished the 2017 season with a 3.8 WAR.
Consider this, his WAR was higher than all of the Orioles starters combined. Dylan Bundy had the highest with 2.2 and Kevin Gausman was right behind him with 1.9, but Chris Tillman‘s -2.2 and Ubaldo Jimenez‘s -1.3 washed that right out. Jeremy Hellickson and Wade Miley also posted negatives.
Despite those 18 wins, Vargas struggled a bit in the second half of the season, but he still proved to be better than more than half of the Orioles 2017 rotation. His worst game of the season was against the struggling Detroit Tigers on September 5 where he gave up seven runs in two innings pitched. But, he managed to get four big wins in his next starts that month.
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Vargas is 34 years old, so the Orioles would not need to sign him to anything long term. He would offer solid veteran leadership to the young group of pitchers. And, as a lefty, he offers something that the Orioles definitely need. Even better, he appears to be affordable as the Royals paid him $8 million in 2017. The highest annual contract he received was $8.5 million. That’s significantly less than the $13.5 million that Jimenez received and the $10.5 million that Tillman received for their horrible work in 2017.
Vargas’s numbers don’t lie. He would be a good fit for the Orioles and Camden Yards. In 2017, he had a 40% ground-ball rate and a low walk rate of 2.91 per nine. Even his home run rate was low (considering the immense numbers of home runs in 2017) – 1.35 per nine.
Vargas has proven himself to be a good pitcher and a man dedicated to improving his craft. He has recovered from Tommy John surgery and he pitched like a man who knew free agency was calling. He is a bargain free agent with the stats to back up a reasonable contract. The Orioles should jump on this opportunity before someone else does. And, another team will.