There were two signings this week that impacted the Astros to varying degrees. Both of the players that came off the board could have been useful players for Bo Porter in 2014.
But based on the terms that Chris Young and Jason Vargas agreed to with the New York Mets and Kansas City Royals respectively, I think Jeff Luhnow was smart to pass on both players. However, that does not mean that we are without issue here.
Young and Vargas are both mid-level free agents and players that were thought to be viable options for the Astros as they look to improve on last year’s performance. Repeats of Carlos Pena and Rick Ankiel are just not going to cut it. Although at the same time, we also do not burden the Astros payroll with overvalued players.
On paper, Young seemed like the perfect bounce back candidate. The outfielder is talented and has a good mix of both power and speed. The 30-year old has three 20/20 seasons in his career, but has certainly had his share of struggles over the last two seasons. Young hit only .236 in 2011, and followed that up with averages of .231 and .200 in 2012 and 2013.
The Houston native was extremely unlucky last season with just a .237 BABIP, so that makes Young an attractive option for a team on the rebound. But at the same time, Young only had one season where he hit more than .248 (he hit .257 in 2010). There is certainly the potential of another 20/20 season from the outfielder who also is also a very good defender. But a Comeback Player of the Year Award is not something that I would bank on.
At $7.25 million, signing Young would not be prudent. The Astros have a limited amount of money to spend this winter, and spending that much of their budget on a reclamation project would not have been the best way to go.
To be honest, I did not think that the price on Young was going to be that high. I also thought it would have been a foregone conclusion to some degree that Young would be patrolling Tal’s Hill in 2014. Young is from Houston, and was outspoken in his desire to play for the Astros next season.
Vargas is a solid starting pitcher and he will be making an average of $8 million per year for the next four seasons pitching for the Kansas City Royals. The per year salary that Vargas will be earning is a little much as the Astros look to bolster their rotation, and the four year commitment is also on the long side.
The lefty is really nothing more than an average rotation filler. Last season Vargas had a 4.02 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP while striking out 109 batters in 150 innings. It is hard to fully knock what the Royals did here, as this seems to be the going market rate for starting pitchers.