ANAHEIM, Calif.— As the Angels plow through the winter looking for starting pitching, one of their primary targets is now off the board.
Free agent Jason Vargas walked away from the Angels on Thursday, accepting a four-year, $32 million deal from the Kansas City Royals.
The Angels had tried to re-sign Vargas, but were unwilling to go to four years.
Vargas, who was acquired from the Seattle Mariners for Kendrys Morales last year, had a 4.02 ERA in 24 starts during his only season with the Angels. He made $8.5 million in 2013, so his new deal represents a slight reduction in annual salary in exchange for more long-term security.
The Angels had hoped to bring back Vargas, but they were obviously not willing to match the Royals’ offer. The Angels will not get any compensation for losing Vargas because they did not make the $14.1 million qualifying offer.
With Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards as the only locks in the Angels rotation for 2014, the Angels would like to fill two starting spots. If they can’t, they have fallback options of Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Jerome Williams and newly signed Wade LeBlanc and Chris Volstad, who each got minor league deals.
Among free agent pitchers, the Angels might be looking at Bronson Arroyo (who confirmed the Angels’ interest), Phil Hughes or Scott Feldman.
The Angels are also likely to explore trading for a pitcher, preferably a young pitcher who is not eligible for free agency for at least three or four years.
That sort of deal would likely mean trading Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar or Peter Bourjos.
Trade rumors were swirling around the Angels on Thursday after a report from Fox Sports that the Angels and St. Louis Cardinals had a deal for third baseman David Freese.
Despite each team having several players of interest to the other, a deal might be tough to swing.
Bourjos would appeal to the Cardinals because they are looking for a right-handed hitting complement to center fielder John Jay.
It’s likely the Cardinals would not send Freese to the Angels for Bourjos alone, and it’s likely the Angels would balk at including Aybar if the Cardinals won’t include one of their young starters.