Some fans of the Kansas City Royals may still be unaware of what they’re getting in Jason Vargas. Why would KC drop $32 million on a starter with an ERA that steadily hovers at or below the MLB average? Well, it’s actually that steadiness that makes Vargas so valuable to this team.
In his three final seasons with the Seattle Mariners, Vargas threw between 192.2 and 217.1 innings and recorded an ERA between 3.78 and 4.25. The following year’s transition to the Los Angeles Angels‘ rotation did very little to shake his ability to steadily perform. Despite losing time with a blood clot in his throwing arm(pit), Vargas still threw 150 innings for L.A. and posted a 4.02 ERA.
If his performance in the Cactus League is any indication of what this season will bring, fans will be happy to welcome this newcomer to Kansas City.
In six starts and 24 innings, Vargas has an even 3.00 ERA. His 1.21 WHIP is the best he’s ever posted in Spring Training. Once he arrives in KC, Vargas will excel in a stadium that’s slightly larger than his latest homes at Angel Stadium and Safeco Field. Kauffman Stadium will also be blanketed by an undeniably superior defense that won three Gold Gloves last season and could be due for many more. At 31, this should be the best season of his career so far.
If the Royals are only counting on Vargas to eat a bunch of innings and post the highest ERA among KC starters, they’re in fine shape. This means they need consistent positive output from the likes of Yordano Ventura and/or Danny Duffy all throughout the season — output that exceeds whatever Vargas would provide. KC can’t hope for a postseason berth with Vargas and Bruce Chen both in the rotation and the younger pitchers struggling to get outs.
With at least one young starter earning starts and the addition of Vargas’ average output, KC much more closely resembles a playoff team. There’s no guarantee that the Royals can outmatch their new arch rivals, the Detroit Tigers, but KC cannot reach the playoffs without both Vargas and one young arm performing well this year. Thankfully, fans can rest assured that at the very least, Vargas will provide some consistency.