Press Box: What's in a word?

So much for 'major' news

To quote Princess Bride, I don’t think that word means what you think it means.

On Thursday, the Royals let it be known the team would have a “major” announcement later in the afternoon.

OK, for about the last 20 years, a major announcement by the Royals meant somebody was getting fired. But these are the new and improved 86-76 Royals, major means something good. Let our imaginations run wild in the brave new world of Royal fandom.

Pitching ace James Shields was signing a contract extension. Yes. Wil Myers may have won the Rookie of the Year, but the Royals got a No. 1 starter locked up for a lot of years in the trade with the Rays.

Carlos Beltran was returning to where he started to patrol the outfield again. All right, a proven big-league bat to help a lineup that needs one.

A trade? Billy Butler has been mentioned in off-season rumors. They’d better be getting something very good in return.

Press conference time rolled around and …

Jason Vargas, a free-agent left-handed starter, signed for four years in the $32-million range. Hmmm.

Yeah, I know he’s never heard of me either. But “major?”

OK, the positives. Since becoming a full-time starter in 2010, Vargas has posted a 42-44 record with a 3.97 ERA and didn’t pitch 190 or more innings in one of those seasons.

The numbers say durable, dependable and while he may save your bullpen some innings, not somebody you would build your starting staff around.

And while the numbers aren’t great, they figure to improve as Vargas gets half his starts in Kauffman Stadium. He’s a fly-ball pitcher and the spacious Kauffman outfield combined with the very good outfield defense of the Royals should turn some of his past home runs into 2014 fly outs.

Figure to plug Vargas somewhere into the No. 3-5 spot in the rotation, maybe No. 2 if he can out-pitch Jeremy Guthrie.

So at best, it’s a Vargas for Ervin Santana trade. Santana, who like Vargas came from the Los Angeles Angels to the Royals, was 9-10 with a 3.24 in his only season in Kansas City before becoming a free agent. And while the Royals likely would have welcomed Santana back, his five-year, $100-million asking price was way out of their league.

So they got a cheaper version of Santana. Good idea, the Royals are at least going to get a little bang for their buck and spend some money elsewhere.

Maybe not. A little something that slipped under the radar Thursday was to make room for Vargas on the 40-man roster, the Royals released back-up catcher George Kottaras. No big deal, except he was one of the best hitters off the bench for the team last year with a .349 on-base percentage as well as playing pretty good defense. He was designated for assignment after figuring to receive a $200,000 raise from his $1 million contract of 2013 in arbitration.

Cut for $200,000? Inconceivable! Unless you’re the Royals. Or a Royals fan.

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