Another cautionary tale of taking AAA stats with a grain of salt
- Rating: 3.50
- Age: 29
- 2020 Stats: 24 G, 54 PA, .536 OPS (.196/.222/.314)
- 2020 Salary: $575,000 (league minimum)
- 2021 Status: Designated for assignment on August 6th, traded to the Minnesota Twins for cash considerations, designated for assignment by the Twins and claimed by his current team, the Chicago Cubs.
Signed as a 16-year-old international free agent by the Cardinals in 2008, Ildemaro Vargas spent 7 years developing in their organization, mostly sticking in Rookie level leagues. He never showed much with the bat during the early years, mostly playing a passable shortstop and second base. After those 7 years and only reaching AA for a handful of at-bats, he was released from the team.
Ildemaro spent a brief month with the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic Professional Baseball League, before signing a minor-league contract with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Arizona promoted him to single-A Kane County and he performed admirably, posting a .823 OPS while playing both middle infield positions. This performance led the team to add Ildemaro to the 40-man roster for the 2016 season.
Vargas continued working as a utility depth piece for the D-backs in the minor leagues until 2017, when the team added him to the MLB roster for the first time. 2018 was the same story, used as a fringe replacement player totaling less than 20 ABs each time with the D-backs.
2019 finally saw Ildemaro break through with the team in a part-time fashion, totaling 211 PA’s, slashing a decent .269/.299/.413 with 5 HR’s while playing 5 different positions.
Vargas exploded out of the gates in Spring Training, with a .395/.425/.605 slash along with 2 HR’s and rumors were the team was going to try to find playing time to get his bat in the lineup. Unfortunately, the long COVID-19 break did not help Ildemaro as he struggled, going 3 for 20 in 8 games, and as an out-of-options 29-year old, he was DFA’d by the team in favor of younger players like Andy Young.
It did not take long for interest to show, as the Twins grabbed him in a trade for cash considerations. The same struggles continued with Minnesota, with Vargas going 5 for 22 and he was DFA’d as well. The Chicago Cubs scooped him up, and while he wasn’t very good with the Cubs either (2 for 9), he hit a homer off Josh Hader.
As a pre-arb player, it’s easy to see what kind of position Vargas will have on an MLB roster. A perfect bench guy as long as you don’t expect gaudy on-base numbers, surprise power, and lots of positional flexibility. The Cubs still control his rights but it wouldn’t surprise me to see him bounce from team to team this offseason as they try to push him through waivers to get him on a AAA roster. Unfortunately for the D-backs, they will be on the outside looking in on the Ildemaro Vargas experience.