Jason Vargas, much like his colleague in the Bronx, has figured it out. No longer a thrower, with no flash he just gets the job done…
Jason Vargas regularly threw his fastball to major league hitters at 84 mph the other night. Mixing in 78 mph sliders and change-ups, Vargas cruised through five innings of no-run ball, giving the Mets a better than even chance to win the ballgame. He may not look like much (above photo), but in today’s game, unless your name is Justin Verlander, Max Scherzer, or Shane Bieber, it usually doesn’t get much better than that.
Whether consciously or not, what Jason Vargas has done over the last year or so is to model himself in the mold of future Hall Of Famer, 39-year-old CC Sabathia.
A former flame thrower when he was with the Indians and Brewers, Sabathia tediously discovered another way to get hitters out. Relying on pinpoint control and using a steady diet of pitches that raise and lower a batter’s eye level, together with tantalizing in and out pitches just off the plate, Sabathia survives these days on guile and deceit.
Reaching the “Aha” Moment
Jason Vargas has reached the same plateau, and what’s even better is he’s done it much sooner than Sabathia, with the promise that if the stars align just right, he too will be retiring major league hitters approaching and possibly into his forties.
Within the next few days, the Mets may or may not trade Jason Vargas. Come November, he can become an unrestricted free agent. If the Mets hold on to him, which is the prevailing thinking because he is pitching so well, the team’s options increase but so do the complications.
The Mets, of course, can sign Vargas to a new contract in competition with other teams. They can also extend what is called a qualifying offer to Vargas, expected to be worth $18 million. Vargas can either accept the one-year deal or proceed with the open market
At that point, any team signing Vargas owes the Mets a first-round draft pick.
For the Mets, this is the most logical and fruitful path to follow, especially given their penchant for not spending freely in the open market. Whereas a trade at this point in the season is not likely to bring anywhere near the value of the rental Vargas represents today.
Paul Rabin offers a better and more interesting scenario surrounding the future of Vargas and the Mets. Paul is a member of Baseball – A Way Of Life on Facebook. (Thanks, Paul)
Paul Rabin Hey Steve: Jason Vargas does not become an unrestricted free agent in November. In fact, the Mets have an $8 million option to retain him in 2020. If they choose to let him become a free agent, they’re required to pay him a $2 million buyout So since it will cost them at least $2 million either way. it’s basically another $6 million to retain him. That makes your story considerably more interesting, don’t you think? Vargas is their second-best pitcher this year. At $6 million, he’d be a bargain to hold on to for 2020. Also, he’d be pitching for another contract. On the other hand, that also makes him very valuable to any team they might trade him to, as his new suitor would be the beneficiary of a very friendly contract. What do you think?
On Why The Yankees Should Be In On Vargas
So if the Mets are out, why shouldn’t the Yankees be in on Jason Vargas? Sabathia is retiring at the end of this campaign, and Vargas can continue to complement the Yankees staff of hard-throwing 21st Century type pitchers so prevalent in baseball today.
The home run is changing everything in baseball today. Already, there are five teams on a pace to break last year’s record set by the Yankees for home runs in a season, including the Yankees themselves again.
Baseball, the game of adjustments, is already seeing a movement by pitchers to adjust to the free-swinging devil may care approach by hitters these days.
The return of the finesse pitcher is on the way back. Sabathia and Vargas may be in the vanguard at the moment, but right behind them are Luis Castillo (Reds), Kyle Hendricks (Cardinals), David Price, who’s lost a step or two (Red Sox), and Clayton Kershaw, who is currently in a segway to more finesse and less oomph (energy expended).
These are all pitchers quietly redefining the art of pitching in order to meet the challenge of the long ball, and they are having success doing it.
Vargas: The Outline Of A Deal With The Yankees
At 36, Jason Vargas will be pitching at the age of 37 next season. Unlike Sabathia who continues to labor with two broken knees, Vargas appears to be in premium big-league shape. Arm issues also appear to be a thing of the past, and the reduced stress of not having to overpower batters who can’t be overpowered anyway is likely to give Vargas at least two premium seasons beginning in 2020. This a two-year deal worth between $24-28 million.
To reiterate, Sabathia complements the rest of the Yankee’s rotation. Mixed in there with Luis Severino, James Paxton, and (occasionally) Masahiro Tanaka, Vargas has a niche as the number four starter.
Character is something the Yankees always pay attention to. The team is likely to have noticed the altercation between Vargas and a reporter from NJ.com a few weeks ago. They’ll need to check around more, but this appears to be an “oops” moment in Vargas’s baseball life. Plus, it can be said he was merely protecting his manager, Mickey Callaway, from inflicting further damage on himself, as well as the Mets organization.
I say go for it. What say you?