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Could The Orioles Sign LHP Jason Vargas?

November 10, 2017
Throughout the next several weeks, we'll be looking at some prospective free agents the Orioles may be interested in. Not surprisingly, most of them are starting pitchers.
 
Jason Vargas
 
Vital stats: In 12 major league seasons with five teams, Vargas is 85-81 with a 4.17 ERA. The left-hander, who will be 35 next February, led the American League with 18 wins in 2017, the final year of a four-year, $32 million contract with the Kansas City Royals.
 
Orioles connection: Vargas is 2-4 with a 2.23 ERA in nine regular-season starts against the Orioles, and while he's lost all four decisions he's had at Oriole Park, he has a 3.15 ERA there. In 34.1 innings in Baltimore, Vargas has allowed three home runs.
 
He won the clinching game of the 2014 American League Championship Series against the Orioles, allowing one run on two hits in 5.1 innings.
 
Where would he fit? The Orioles would be able to slide a left-hander behind right-handers Dylan Bundy and Kevin Gausman.
 
Throughout the past two seasons, the Orioles have had only 35 games started by left-handers; Wade Miley started 33 of them.
 
Why wouldn't he fit? At 35, Vargas would be the Orioles' oldest starter since Freddy Garcia started 11 games in 2013, and their oldest left-handed starter since Randy Wolf started two late-season games in 2012.
 
Scouting report: "You can count on him to take the ball," a major league scout said. "Thirty starts, you can't walk away from that."

Another scout says there is "no doubt" he would help the Orioles.
 
Vargas had a brilliant first half of last season, with a 12-3 record and 2.62 ERA. That earned him his first All-Star selection, but he had a significant dropoff in the second half, going 6-8 with a 6.38 ERA.
 
He rebounded somewhat in September, winning four straight, but in the season's final game, he allowed six runs in four innings.
 
Perhaps Vargas tired because he missed nearly the entire 2016 season following Tommy John surgery, or he simply reverted to his career norm.
 
He had four more wins than he'd ever had, finishing 18-11. Never had Vargas been more than three games over .500 in a season.
 
There's an important reason the Orioles should be impressed with Vargas, however. Orioles players currently on the roster have a .187 average against him, and they have just two home runs in 91 at-bats.
 
If the Orioles are able to sign another durable free-agent starter, that would make Vargas more valuable because he could profit from more rest.
 
MLBTradeRumors.com predicts Vargas will sign a 1-year, $10 million contract with the Orioles. If that did happen, it would probably be later in the free-agent season. If there's more than a lukewarm market for Vargas, the Orioles shouldn't be shy about risking a second season.
 
While Vargas has thrown 1,400 innings in the majors, he didn't pitch starter's innings until 2010, when he was 27. He's thrown at least 150 innings in six seasons, including 179.2 in 2017.