Indians Trade Target: Jason Vargas

SEATTLE - APRIL 14: Starting pitcher Jason Vargas #38 of the Seattle Mariners pitches against the Oakland Athletics at Safeco Field on April 14, 2010 in Seattle, Washington. (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)

One in a series of articles previewing the upcoming trade deadline. Previous entries:

An argument to make a trade | Valuing Cleveland's Tradable Assets

Trade Targets: Carlos Quentin | Ryan Dempster | Chase Headley | Matt Garza | Wandy Rodriguez | Alfonso Soriano

We've already looked at three starting pitchers, so why profile a fourth? Well, I think this pitcher is a little differentthan the others in a couple of different ways. But first, some background:


Year Age Tm Lg W L ERA GS IP H R ER HR BB SO ERA+ H/9 HR/9 BB/9 SO/9 SO/BB
2005 22 FLA NL 5 5 4.03 13 73.2 71 34 33 4 31 59 99 8.7 0.5 3.8 7.2 1.90
2006 23 FLA NL 1 2 7.33 5 43.0 50 39 35 9 30 25 59 10.5 1.9 6.3 5.2 0.83
2007 24 NYM NL 0 1 12.19 2 10.1 17 14 14 4 2 4 37 14.8 3.5 1.7 3.5 2.00
2009 26 SEA AL 3 6 4.91 14 91.2 98 53 50 16 24 54 87 9.6 1.6 2.4 5.3 2.25
2010 27 SEA AL 9 12 3.78 31 192.2 187 86 81 18 54 116 104 8.7 0.8 2.5 5.4 2.15
2011 28 SEA AL 10 13 4.25 32 201.0 205 105 95 22 59 131 88 9.2 1.0 2.6 5.9 2.22
2012 29 SEA AL 10 7 3.91 21 138.0 127 61 60 25 38 91 96 8.3 1.6 2.5 5.9 2.39
7 Yrs 38 46 4.41 118 750.1 755 392 368 98 238 480 89 9.1 1.2 2.9 5.8 2.02
Provided by View Original Table
Generated 7/24/2012.

Vargas started his career with the Marlins (2nd round, 2004), and made the majors by age 22. He had a promising rookie year, then was awful in 2006. The Marlins sold low on him, trading him after the season to the Mets in the deal that sent Matt Lindstrom to Florida. Vargas would make just two appearances with the Mets in 2007, and missed the entire 2008 due to a torn labrum in his hip. The Mets would deal him to Seattle after the 2008 season in the three-team that netted the Indians Luis Valbuena and Joe Smith. In Seattle his career turned around, and he's been a serviceable pitcher for going on 4 years.

Vargas throws a high-80s fastball, changeup, and a cutter (which has taken the place of a slider). His change is his best pitch, as you can see from this recent start against the Red Sox:

Vargas has been pitching well lately, having pitched five straight Quality Starts, with the last three coming on the road (where he had really struggled this year). He has a 1.3 WAR and a 96 ERA+, which is better than every starter the Indians have save Zach McAllister (121, though in only 9 starts), so he'd be an upgrade to the rotation, especially if you're removing Derek Lowe (-.4 WAR, 77 ERA+) or Josh Tomlin (-.5 WAR, 73 ERA+) in the process.

Contract Status

Here's why Vargas is a somewhat intriguing trade target: Vargas is making $4.85M this year, and will be eligible for arbitration after the season. He started the 2012 season with 4.114 years of service time, so he won't be eligible for free agency until after the 2013 season. The Indians would be getting Vargas for the 2012 playoff run (if there is one) and would also have him for 2013.

Estimated Cost

Given the paucity of available starting pitchers, and with several already having been dealt, I think the asking price is going to be higher than you'd think for a pitcher like Vargas. Here goes:

RHP Jeanmar Gomez, SS Ronny Rodriguez, and RHP T.J. McFarland

Gomez gives the Mariners a major-league starter, and Rodriguez is a high-upside middle infielder (though several years away). McFarland is already pitching in Columbus, and could probably contribute at the major-league level as a starting pitcher at some point next season.

I look at this package and am rather uncomfortable knowing that the Indians would be trading this package for a pitcher who has a career ERA+ of 89 and has been helped greatly by his home park. I also know that Roberto Hernandez will should be back in mid-August, and that Carlos Carrasco should be back in 2013. But I'm also not confident in Lowe or Tomlin down the stretch, and Vargas would be a definite upgrade over both of them, and with the added benefit of being there in 2013. I think he'd be a logical fit for this club, though the price has to be right.

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