ANAHEIM -- The Angels' hopes of bringing back free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.
The average annual value of Vargas' new deal, a reported $32 million, would've been reasonable for the Angels, but they weren't willing to give the 30-year-old four guaranteed years (they were hesitant in the past to even tender a third year).
So the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation. Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton -- if not released this offseason -- isn't expected to go into 2014 with a spot in the rotation.
General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender Vargas the $14.1 million qualifying offer because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would have already been dangerously close to the luxury-tax threshold of $189 million.
The Angels have always been expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas' void. And while they aren't expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren and Bronson Arroyo, among many others -- including the yet-to-be-posted Masahiro Tanaka -- could be of interest.
Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings of a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.
There was strong hope for a return, with Dipoto saying on the eve of free agency, "We'll maintain a rhetoric with him and do have interest in him returning. I think it's a mutual interest."
But the Angels weren't going to give Vargas a four-year contract.
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez.