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