I'd rather be surfing.
The Mariners avoided arbitration with both Brandon League and Jason Vargas this afternoon, agreeing to a one-year, $5 million deal with League, and a one-year, $4.85 million deal with Vargas.
League is in his final year of arbitration, and is coming off his only full season as a closer. Last year he replaced David Aardsma, and while his strikeout numbers were disappointing for the second straight season (6.6 K/9), his walk rate dropped to a career-low (1.47 BB/9), and his groundball rate remained very good. There was a chance the Mariners were entering the offseason hoping to trade League, but with the new CBA the Mariners leverage to trade League is very low, and we’ve seen Andrew Bailey and Huston Street get traded for peanuts. The Mariners best chance to get a contributor in exchange for League is to wait for an injury, and trade him to that team. Otherwise, he’ll probably be a very good closer for the team, and if he’s productive again he will probably project as an adjusted Type A free agent, and the team will get a compensatory round for League if they offer him arbitration and he declines.
Vargas is a pitcher with a situation that is much less cut and dry. Last May we speculated that the Mariners should begin the kind of dialogue that leads to an extension with Vargas. About a month later he fell off the face of the earth, and pitched pretty poorly until mid-September when he began using the same style “twist” that Felix Hernandez uses at the end of his leg kick. It’s actually surprising to look back and find out that Vargas was simply as average as he’s ever been. The team has two more years of team control with Vargas, and it seems pretty unlikely that the Mariners will approach an extension with Vargas, but he’s probably a good option to remain in the rotation for this year and next.
EDIT: The team also avoided arbitration with Shawn Kelley, agreeing to a one-year contract worth $600,000. Kelley missed most of last year after surgery to repair his previous Tommy John surgery. When he did return though, he didn’t give up a run in 10 games, had a K/BB over three, though according to Pitch F/X he lost two miles per hour on his fastball. That’s to be expected after surgery, and Kelley is a quality reliever when healthy.