CLEVELAND -- The next step in Jason Vargas' rehab will be determined within the next couple of days. He felt perfectly fine after his 4 2/3-innings rehab start for Triple-A Salt Lake on Thursday, even though he gave up four runs and three homers, but the Angels will evaluate Vargas within the next couple of days to see if he needs another tune-up.
Not long after that, the next step in Vargas' career will be determined.
In three months, Vargas will be a free agent for the first time in his career. And given the state of the Angels -- 13 games out of first place in the American League West entering Friday and in need of replenishing a depleted farm system -- there's a good chance they'll explore a trade for the left-hander shortly after he's activated off the disabled list.
But that wouldn't deter the Angels from exploring an offseason contract with Vargas, who will join a very thin free-agent starting pitching crop. And residing in Southern California surely would help their case.
"It's been a while since I lived in California, but this is definitely where I grew up and what's real familiar for me, going to school down there for a little bit," said Vargas, who grew up in Apple Valley, Calif., and played with Jered Weaver at Long Beach State. "It'd be great for my family, it'd be great for me. It's one of those things that you don't worry about, because ultimately, you can't control those things."
But Vargas can control where he signs as a free agent. And though he was a steady contributor the previous three years in Seattle, posting a 3.96 ERA over 611 innings, his next contract could hinge on how he does in his last eight or nine starts of 2013.
The Angels would very much be interested in signing Vargas long term, a source said, but those talks are likely to wait until the offseason. In the meantime, they probably wouldn't shy away from parting ways with him if the right match materializes through trade waivers.
But Vargas admits being dealt in-season would inevitably affect his desire to return.
"It's business, but I think it would affect anybody," said Vargas, who's 6-4 with a 3.65 ERA in 14 starts for the Angels. "You meet a new group of people. It's just how it works out. Circumstances change then. When's the last time it worked? Cliff Lee?
"It just all depends on how it plays out. I feel capable in what I bring to the table, so all I'm trying to worry about is get out there and hopefully pitching in New York [next week]."
Alden Gonzalez is a reporter for MLB.com. Read his blog, Gonzo and "The Show", and follow him on Twitter @Alden_Gonzalez. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.