Wednesday, August 9, 2017

The Vargas Carousel Revolves Again

As the Minnesota Twins are faced with another roster shuffle, it appears Kennys Vargas is in fact on his way back to the big leagues. After Adalberto Mejia went down, Paul Molitor was faced with an open roster spot. Needing another starter in the coming days, the Twins could turn to already rostered Dillon Gee. With an opportunity to bring up another bat, it's Vargas who gets his seventh transaction, and fourth recall, of the year.

While there's plenty of reason to be excited about a player that looks like the shadow of David Ortiz, the reality is that the comparisons stop there. Now 27 years old, Vargas is hardly a prospect (and was never considered a top 100 entrant even when he had prospect status), and he's done little to separate himself at the highest level. Across parts of four big league seasons, Vargas owns a .738 OPS and a 228/55 K/BB ratio. With 32 homers to his credit, he hasn't exactly excelled at launching the long ball either.

In 2017, things have gotten even worse for what Minnesota may have hoped Vargas could provide. As a switch hitter, he's generally been more dangerous from the right side. Unfortunately this season, Vargas owns a .170/.231/.277 line against left handed pitchers, and just one of his eight long balls have come from that side of the dish. In 47 at bats versus lefties, he's compiled just three extra base hits, and the .507 OPS leaves an incredible amount to be desired.

Quite arguably a greater source of frustration is not necessarily Vargas' struggles, but how they could be avoided. In continuing to promote him, the Twins have passed by alternative options. Mitch Garver and ByungHo Park both represent a higher ceiling addition to the big league club, despite neither of them getting a chance. The Twins roster construction has begged for a right handed power bat virtually all season, and both of the aforementioned names also profiles better in the field.

Through 82 games for Triple-A Rochester, Garver owns a .909 OPS and has been an asset behind the plate. As a catcher, it could be argued that he should've replaced veteran backup Chris Gimenez some time ago. Knowing he can play first base and some outfield as well, his not being added to the big league roster is confusing at best. Garver almost certainly make the 25 man next spring, and not jump-starting his debut seems a bit foolish.

Although Park is not currently on the 40 man, that's hardly an issue for the Twins. Given the club has open spots, as well as an opportunity to trim if they need to, Park should've found his way back. After missing time to start the year, he's hit well at Rochester. Since June 17, Park owns a .309/.355/.495 slash line at Triple-A. The lack of power has been odd (he has just six homers), and the swing and miss tendencies have remained poor (63/11 K/BB). That said, he's 31 and coming up on the latter half of his current deal with the Twins.

Between Garver and Park, Minnesota has two avenues they could choose to push the envelope with. The former appears ready to jump in and contribute at a high level, while the latter represents more of an alternative to Vargas that has some crash and burn potential. What's somewhat frustrating however, is that Vargas represents a move that really doesn't move the needle at all. Despite realistically being a long shot for the playoffs, Minnesota is still playing meaningful games. By making the move they did, it seems Minnesota chose the lowest common denominator.

If everything breaks perfectly for Kennys Vargas, he's a serviceable bench bat. When a team has opportunity to aim higher and make a bigger impact, it would seem to reason that they should. Minnesota will probably welcome one or both of Garver and Park in September, but it'll represent at least a month of missed opportunity.

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