Toronto Blue Jays: Is Jason Vargas the short-term solution?

CLEVELAND, OH - SEPTEMBER 15: Jason Vargas /

With the Toronto Blue Jays ideally wanting to find another starter but likely not in a position to sign one of the top free agents, does Jason Vargas represent a good alternative?

If the Toronto Blue Jays are to challenge in 2018, it’s important for the starting pitchers to show more durability than they did last year. Certainly, the rotation has some excellent talent in the form of Marcus Stroman and Aaron Sanchez, while Marco Estrada and J.A. Happ have shown their ability to step up in recent seasons.

However, apart from remaining healthy, the rotation could also ideally use another quality starter. While Joe Biagini provisionally holds the role as fifth starter, the preference would be to return him to the bullpen, especially with Dominic Leone no longer on the team.

The issue with bringing in another arm for the rotation, is the widely held belief the Blue Jays do not have much money available to sign any of the top-ranked free agents. As such, who can they realistically target?

One possibility is Jason Vargas, at least according to Gregor Chisholm of With the Jays apparently having around $10 million available, Chisholm writes that Vargas fits right into the category of who they can afford. (He earned $8 million in 2017.)

As you would expect, there are plenty of pros and cons to going after the 2004 second round draft pick. Starting with the positives, he is coming off a campaign which saw him set a career-high with 18 wins (tied for most in the American League), while also being selected to his first ever All-Star Game.

The 2017 campaign proved to be extremely satisfying for Vargas, who missed most of the 2015 and 2016 seasons, after undergoing  Tommy John surgery. Any concerns were soon dismissed, as he pitched 179.2 innings.

In fact, Vargas has proved to be somewhat of an innings eater for the most part. As noted by Chisholm, he has pitched at least 150 innings in six of the last eight seasons, including twice going over 200.

The fact Vargas has just turned 35 shouldn’t prove to be much of an issue. By all accounts, the Blue Jays will be rebuilding sooner than later — if they haven’t begun already — so the left-handed pitcher works as a short-term solution in that respect.

Turning to the negatives, the former Seattle Mariners’ ERA of 4.16 in 2017 looks decidedly average. In fact, it virtually lined up with his career average of 4.17 over 12 years in the Majors.

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There is also the question of which version of Vargas the Toronto Blue Jays would potentially see? After a fantastic start to 2017, he slumped in July and August, with a record of 2-6 in 10 starts and an average ERA over seven. (In fairness he did recover in September, with a 4-2 record in six starts.)

One final factor to consider in all of this, is the Apple Valley, California native’s pitching velocity, which is below average. On the flip side, he has obviously had enough savvy to last as long as he has, with an overall record of 85-81 in 228 career starts.

In terms of Vargas’ pitching arsenal, Brooks Baseball notes he primarily relies on his sinker. He uses a Two-seam Fastball grip (86mph) and Changeup using a Circle Change grip (80mph).

Overall, there are worse options the Blue Jays could consider, in their search for a fifth starter. Whether they actually make a move for Vargas, however, remains to be seen.

Next: Way forward looks unclear for Jose Bautista

What’s your take on Vargas? Would you be on board with the Toronto Blue Jays signing him, or is there someone else in particular (realistically) you want them to pursue? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.