Wednesday, February 28, 2018

Contemplating Kennys Vargas

It's fairly obvious that the addition of Logan Morrison, once it becomes official, makes Kennys Vargas expendable.

Between Joe Mauer, Morrison and Vargas, the Twins have three guys limited to first base in the field. There's no way to fit three such players on the 25-man roster in the era of 12-man pitching staffs, and no practical benefit even if you did. And Vargas is out of options. (I really have no idea how the Twins milked an extra option year for him last season.)

The thing is, if you ignore Morrison's 2017 power surge, there isn't a lot of reason to favor him over Vargas as a hitter. Vargas enters 2018 with a career slash line of of .252/.311/.437, with 35 homers in 859 plate appearances (one HR per 24.5 PA). Morrison entered 2017 with a slash line of .245/.325/.416, with 84 homers in 2,753 PA (one homer per 33.8 PA). Morrison deserves some credit as a more agile defender, Vargas some for being a bit younger and cheaper. You could flip a coin.

But Morrison's 2017 counts. His newfound ability to lift pitches jolted his power numbers. Vargas has 35 career homers in more than a full season's worth of at-bats; Morrison hit 38 last year. Morrison is what you might hope Vargas to become.

So the question isn't if Vargas is leaving the Twins. (Heck, they even took his No. 19 away and gave it to Anibal Sanchez.) The question is when, where and how. He'd probably prefer that it be sooner, but he has no leverage.

I don't imagine that there'll be much of a trade market for him. Look at how little interest there was for Morrison as a free agent. Defense-limited power bats are not in demand. Ultimately he'll be waived, and I don't know who will claim him.

The chatter out of Fort Myers about Vargas's weight loss and new contact lens for the left eye is nice but probably meaningless. If those things can save his career, he probably needed them a year ago. It's possible that he can make the Twins regret going for Morrison over him. Possible, but not likely.

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