Vargas at peace with decision to leave Angels
Left-hander says fourth year on deal with Royals was major factor
SAN FRANCISCO -- The Angels went into last year's offseason with a desire to acquire cost-controlled starting pitching, which they ultimately attained by using Mark Trumbo to land Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. But they also coveted a steady veteran, and their first priority was to re-sign Jason Vargas, a guy they thought was coming back until he accepted a last-minute four-year, $32 million offer from the eventual American League-champion Royals on Nov. 21, 2013.
That guaranteed fourth year, something the Angels weren't willing to offer, played a major factor in Vargas' decision.
"That does a lot for your family," Vargas said. "I mean, that's the No. 1 priority. That's your No. 1 team. Not that, that made the decision itself, but they're the highest priority on the list for me."
Vargas is at peace with his decision, and frankly it's hard not to be. He's in the World Series, slated to start Game 4 on Saturday at AT&T Park (4:30 p.m. PT airtime, 5:07 first pitch on FOX). And he's been a steady contributor on a young team that plays dynamic defense in a spacious ballpark.
But Vargas -- acquired by the Angels in the one-for-one deal that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle on Dec. 19, 2012 -- grew up in nearby San Bernardino County and forged a strong relationship with Angels ace Jered Weaver, his teammate at Long Beach State University and a guy he'll vacation with this offseason.
The prevailing sentiment around this time last year was that Vargas would find his way back to Southern California, until he didn't.
"It's one of those things where it's hard to leave a group because you've established relationships, and it was as close to where I grew up as it could be, but there were a lot of emotional decisions, as well," Vargas said. "I couldn't be happier with how it all worked out. I'm glad [the Angels] had a fantastic season. Everybody for the most part was able to stay healthy, and you always want that for old teammates and old friends."
Vargas had a pretty typical season with the Royals, posting a 3.71 ERA, a 1.27 WHIP and a career-best 3.12 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 187 innings. The 31-year-old left-hander gave up 18 runs in 18 innings in his last four regular-season starts, then he made a couple of mechanical adjustments -- "just some fine-tuning," Vargas said -- and recaptured his success in two prior October outings, giving up three runs on five hits and four walks in 11 1/3 innings.
Vargas' first postseason start, which saw him pitch six innings of two-run ball in Game 1 of the AL Division Series at Angel Stadium, brought it all full circle.
"To get a chance to compete against them, and get that start back there, it was unbelievable," said Vargas, whose Royals swept an Angels team that finished with a Major League-leading 98 wins. "There wasn't any animosity or anything like that, but you just see how unpredictable baseball is. I know we say it a lot. We don't have a crystal ball, right?"