The Angels, as expected, did not extend a one-year, $14.1-million qualifying offer to pitcher Jason Vargas by Monday’s deadline, so they will not receive draft-pick compensation if the free-agent left-hander signs elsewhere.
Monday’s decision does not preclude the Angels from pursuing a multi-year deal with Vargas, who had a 9-8 record and 4.02 earned-run average in 24 starts during an injury-plagued 2013 season, and there appears to be interest in such a deal on both sides. But beginning Tuesday, Vargas can negotiate with all 30 teams.
The Angels did not make the $14.1-million qualifying offer to Vargas because it would push them right up against the $189-million luxury tax threshold for 2014. They would prefer to sign Vargas to something closer to $10 million per year.
Vargas sat out from mid-June to mid-August because of surgery to remove a blood clot in his left armpit, but he has been one of the more consistent left-handers, with a 51-58 record and 4.30 ERA in 174 games over eight seasons.
With $126.5 million committed to 10 players under contract for 2014 and another $20 million or so needed to retain six to eight arbitration-eligible players, the Angels are not expected to make another huge free-agent splash after spending $365 million on sluggers Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton the last two off-seasons.
They plan to make a run at Japanese right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, who is expected to be posted by the Rakuten Eagles after finishing 24-0 with a 1.27 ERA during the regular season and helping his team win the Japan Series over the weekend, throwing 160 pitches in a complete-game loss Saturday and 15 pitches in relief Sunday.
But part of the appeal of Tanaka, outside of the 25-year-old’s 94-mph fastball and a devastating split-fingered fastball, is that his posting fee, which some predict could approach $75 million, does not count toward a team’s luxury-tax payroll.
The competition for Tanaka will be fierce, but his contract could resemble something closer to the six-year, $56-million deal Yu Darvish signed with the Texas Rangers, a contract with an average annual value of $9.3 million.
Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto will likely spend much of the off-season pursuing deals for young pitchers, using players such as Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Peter Bourjos, Kole Calhoun and Chris Iannetta as trade bait.