Vargas had a decent outing on Saturday. Not good, not bad, but decent. One of the major problems with Vargas was illuminated in that start. Vargas was taken out of the game after four innings, he had thrown 75 pitches and as Gary Cohen mentioned on the SNY Mets broadcast, Vargas’ production drops dramatically after 80 pitches.
If Vargas can’t get out of the 4th inning without throwing more than 70 pitches, and he can’t be trusted after a pitch count over 80 at this point in his career, he belongs in the bullpen and the Mets need to find a quality starting pitcher to solidify the back end of the rotation.
The two pitchers that are still, for whatever reason, on the market, are starting pitcher Dallas Keuchel and reliever Craig Kimbrel. If the Mets signed Keuchel, they could insert him directly into the rotation, if they signed Kimbrel, they could move either Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman to the rotation and put Kimbrel into the bullpen. The Mets could then put Vargas into the bullpen or release him outright.
For many fans, this is a no-brainer. It’s easy for us, we don’t have to consider all of the various factors, and we haven’t been privy to discussions between the club and the player’s agents. To be perfectly blunt – we don’t know why the Mets (or any other MLB team) hasn’t signed either of these two pitchers. The fact that both of them remain unemployed shows us that it is certainly not a “no-brainer.”
Besides Keuchel and Kimbrel, the Mets have a few options. They could promote Zamora, Gagnon or Oswalt from Syracuse and move up Lugo to the starting rotation. They could also move Gsellman into the starting rotation, but Lugo seems like the more likely choice.
The Mets could also trade for a pitcher. Mets Junkies Gem Tablak wrote that Bob Nightengale reported that the Mets are investigating a trade for Rangers pitcher Mike Minor.
A new possibility has arisen within the last few hours. According to MLB Network insider Mark Feinsand Gio Gonzalez is expected to opt out of his contract if the Yankees don’t add him to the roster, which he does not expect the Yankees to do. Gonzalez has struggled in his short Yankees career. His ERA for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders is 6.00. He’s surrendered 10 earned runs on 19 hits in 15 innings pitched. Even with these numbers, he would still be an upgrade over Jason Vargas.
Gonzales signed a one-year incentive laden contract with a $3 million base salary in March. His previous salary with the nationals was a one-year $10 million deal.
Finally, the Mets could simply move Lugo into the rotation and put Vargas in long relief. However, as we have seen through this series with the Cardinals, the Mets really need better bullpen pitching, moving Lugo out and Vargas in, may improve the starting rotation, but it will make the bullpen considerably worse.
Regardless of what the Mets do, it’s time to act. The batting for the Mets has been very good. The Mets are fourth in the MLB for overall batting, they are second in the National League for runs scored and the young hitters on this team are thriving. Much like Mets hitters wasted Jacob deGrom’s starts by not hitting last year, the starting pitchers are wasting the young hitters at bats, with poor pitching.
History tells us the Mets pitching core, will come around in the coming weeks – there’s just too much skill there, for that not to be the case. However, the Mets need to act quickly to add more quality around that core to support them as the season progresses.