On Thursday afternoon, the Kansas City Royals announced that they would have a major announcement to make.
They were due for one, since three other AL Central teams had made a noteworthy addition already this offseason. The White Sox signed Jose Abreu, the Indians added David Murphy, and the Tigers upped the ante with the Prince Fielder-Ian Kinsler swap.
Now it was the Royals' turn, and they built up the anticipation.
#Royals say they have a "major baseball-related announcement" to make at 4 p.m. That suggests -- suggests -- a free-agent signing.— Bob Dutton (@Royals_Report) November 21, 2013
Bob Dutton was correct, and this was the haul.
Yes, the Royals signed Jason Vargas for four years and $32 million. He found his stride in the Mariners organization and has built up a decent career out in the AL West with Seattle and Los Angeles as a changeup-based lefty who can't break 90.
|AL (5 yrs)||45||50||4.07||143||134||852.2||853||108||238||551||95|
He's been a sturdy rotation piece over this stretch, and so an $8 million salary isn't a stretch. The length of the contract is what caught everybody's attention, especially in the immediate reaction over at Royals Review. I think they would've been excited had Dayton Moore been able to land his Plan A, which was Tim Hudson. Vargas runs the threat of being another Jeremy Guthrie signing by comparison.
When you filter out the backlash from the buildup and the subsequent letdown, it might just be one of those year-too-long free agent contracts that are inevitable when the player has the leverage on the open market. Like Vargas' performance, the worst of the reactions from the analyst gallery aren't that bad, but there's no excitement, either.
A four-year deal requires upside to counterbalance the inherent downside. The Royals didn’t get any here. Vargas is what he is: a quiet, comfortable, league-average innings eater. He might look a little better than that in 2014, if the Royals’ defense comes through for him – but keep in mind that the quality of a team’s defense can change quickly, and there’s no guarantee the Royals will even have an above-average defense by the last half of this contract. But there’s essentially no chance that Vargas is going to get any Cy Young votes during his four years with the team. There’s a good chance that he’ll be worth what he’s paid, and a decent chance he’ll get hurt and be overpaid, but very little chance that he’ll be underpaid.
This can’t be the Royals big off-season move. Vargas fills a hole with the expectation of reasonable performance, but he doesn’t really make them better than they were, especially since he’s replacing Ervin Santana. They’re going to have to find other ways to upgrade if they want to become a contender. But this is also a decent enough contract for a decent enough pitcher to make sure that they don’t throw away their season by handing a rotation spot to a total scrub. Jason Vargas might not raise the Royals ceiling all that much, but he does raise their floor. And there’s value in that kind of transaction.
The Kansas City Royals were right to target an affordable starting pitcher this winter, but giving Jason Vargas, a fifth starter who might be a No. 4 in the right situation, a four-year deal shows way too much faith in his ability to adapt and survive as a finesse guy -- even though the annual salary ($8 million) isn't that high.
Jason Vargas' lifetime ERA against the White Sox is more than double Bruce Chen's (6.31 to 3.13).— South Side Sox (@SouthSideSox) November 21, 2013
- Michael Weiner, MLBPA head, was remarkably courageous, remarkably kind - MLB News | FOX Sports on MSN
- Michael Weiner, executive director of the MLBPA, has passed away. - ESPN
MLBPA executive director Michael Weiner died at the age of 51 on Thursday, losing a prolonged battle with brain cancer. He had only been on the job for a couple years before he and the union needed to start working on a succession plan, but it looks like he'll have established a strong legacy in a too-brief time, considering the interests he had to balance. In the end, he held up his end of labor peace and maintained the support of the players while working with Major League Baseball to strengthen the drug-testing program -- and making it look easy. Ken Rosenthal and Jerry Crasnick each wrote fine tributes.
Jeff Zimmermann calls 2013 "a banner season for players going on the disabled list," and the White Sox helped with a worse-than-usual year for them.
On the flipside of company-labor relations, Jerry Reinsdorf heaps plenty of praise on Bud Selig, whom he calls "the best commissioner we in baseball have ever had." It gets more interesting when he compares Selig with David Stern -- although he likes operating under Selig more, since Selig asks for more input from the owners.
Mike Berardino of the St. Paul Pioneer-Press says the Twins are looking into Gavin Floyd, but their top target remains Bronson Arroyo. Signing Arroyo seems like a very Twins-like thing to do.
- Peter Gammons' goof, and things Alex Rodriguez does not resemble - SBNation.com
- Objective writers don’t compare A-Rod to the Boston Marathon bombers - Getting Blanked
So Peter Gammons compared Alex Rodriguez to the Tsarnaev brothers, which seems very unlike Gammons. His subsequent apologies were very like Gammons, so he's close to back to Square One. Still, A-Rod's bizarre behavior tends to evoke similar bizarre behavior, which makes me glad that he's not our news story.