We're always looking for context in this day an age, when numbers and information are plentiful. MLB Trade Rumors has a nice breakdown of the recent four-year, $32 million contract the Royals gave lefty Jason Vargas -- who is the very definition of an average, or even slightly below average, starting pitcher based on ERA+.

In some ways, it makes the Twins' contract for Kevin Correia last season -- a similar pitcher, albeit a righty -- seem like a relative bargain. Correia got two years and $10 million total. He was coming off a four-year stretch with a 46-43 record and a regular-old ERA of about 4.5. Vargas is 42-44 over the last four seasons with an ERA right around 4. He's slightly better than Correia, but we're not sure he's two years and $22 million better than Correia.

If you want to look in the other direction -- future, not past -- it could spell trouble when it comes to the Twins and what they are willing to spend in free agency.

Pitchers are available, of course. It's just a matter of how much Minnesota is willing to pay. If there's one thing we know, it's that Terry Ryan certainly likes value. We always trickle back to this passage from La Velle E. Neal's story in September:

Ryan contends that the signing of Josh Willingham to a three-year, $21 million contract before the 2012 season — a record deal for a Twins free agent — is evidence that he will take a plunge into the rich end of the free-agent pool. “I think you are mistaken when you don’t think $21 million is huge,” Ryan said.

If that's the framework -- and again, we're just going by what Ryan said there and conceding that times and people can change -- we really do wonder if the Twins will make a serious play for anyone better than Vargas (AKA anyone better than average) or if they'll continue to look for relative bargains and wait for their own prospects to develop.

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