The Royals made another one of their "major announcements" this afternoon, this time the news being that the team had reached a four year, $32 million pact with left hander Jason Vargas.
Jason Vargas is actually a pitcher that I have advocated for the Royals to acquire before, but I have to admit that a four year deal is two more years than I am comfortable. I realize that in free agency, you typically have to give one more year than you would like, so I would have been alright with three (allegedly this is what the Vargas camp was demanding.)
There have been whispers that the Royals were actually able to lower the annual value of the deal, while obtaining an extra year of team control. For instance, if Vargas was demanding 3 years, $30 million, the Royals are theoretically paying an extra $2 million for another year of control. What do you think, is an extra year at marginal additional cost worth it? Where would you draw the line for the extra year in terms of additional guaranteed money? $2 million? $3 million? $5 million? Ultimately, at just $8 million per year this isn't a deal that should cripple the payroll.
Another comment that I heard regarding the Vargas deal is that while four years seems like to much the market says otherwise. Really? Are you referring to the market that has hardly been set yet. A far superior, albeit older, pitcher Tim Hudson received two years at $24 million. Injury prone, but extremely talented Josh Johnson netted himself $8 million a season, unfortunately it was just a one year contract. I don't know that the market for Vargas has been set, but those two signings don't scream to me that Vargas should require a four year contract.
The most similar pitchers to Jason Vargas to hit free agency over the last couple of seasons are guys that Royals fans should be very familiar with. Jeremy Guthrie and Bruce Chen are both flyball pitchers with less than stellar strike out rates. Guthrie received a $25 million deal over three years that many people believe was too large of a contract. Chen on the other, perhaps the most comparable pitcher to Vargas in baseball over the past three seasons, will definitely not be receiving four years this winter.
I can't help but wonder, will this really be the only upgrade to the rotation this offseason. On several occasions we've heard that the Royals are only looking to add one starter, well if that proves to be true they definitely went the safe route. Vargas doesn't have the upside of other available options, but he is a safe bet to post an ERA around 4.00 to 4.50.
After missing out on Josh Johnson and Tim Hudson, did the Royals hit the panic button? Not wanting to be the last team standing when the music turned off? Was the Royals interest in Phil Hughes exaggerated or has the bidding already surpassed what the Royals were willing to spend.
Personally, I think we'll see the Royals bring in another starter before February 14 gets here. I don't think Vargas is a bad option, only that it seems like an overpay and just the latest edition of Dayton Moore's front office jumping the market. Will this instance prove to be another poor piece of judgement in the way the market is heading? Only time will tell.