Who swings? Zack Wheeler vs. Jason Vargas

Baseball is closer than we think. Here in New York yesterday, the temperature got up to 78 degrees. On February 21. Exhibition games start tomorrow. The Mets have a small controversy. Heck, it may as well be June.

It’s that mini-controversy we’re going to discuss. As spring training moves along apace, the usual articles and puff-pieces on TV have sprung up: Dominic Smith is in the best shape of his life, Juan Lagares has a new swing, we’re all sad about the end of David Wright’s career, etc. There was a new wrinkle yesterday. On SNY’s Daily News Live! show yesterday, there was a discussion about a NYDN story on Zack Wheeler being used out of the bullpen. “Front office” sources told Kristie Ackert that was going to be the plan. Manager Mickey Callaway rebutted that statement, saying categorically that Wheeler will be a starter. The DNL! panel then made up that there may be a rift between the front office and Callaway. “Not a good way to start,” said Bob Raissman, a hint of glee in his tone. Looking at the merits from a baseball standpoint, though, that move may make some sense: Wheeler’s fastball velocity definitely would play in short bursts out of the ‘pen. The downside, of course, is that no one knows if his arm would be up to the task of pitching back-to-back days. He’s never had to do it in his pro career and to ask that of him while he continues to recover is playing a somewhat dangerous game with his health.

As the Daily News piece states, this was all precipitated by the Mets’ acquisition of Jason Vargas last week. Vargas would appear to be a welcome addition to the pitching staff. He’s a left-hander and his first-half performance last season led to his first All-Star game appearance. With the well-publicized precarious health of the staff in addition to Wheeler, he provides some nice insurance should one or more hurler fall away again. And if the pipe dream comes true, if everyone stays healthy, the talk is that he can be a valuable swing-man, both a starter and a reliever. The downside to that is that Vargas also hasn’t done it that much in his career. Since he started getting regular innings in 2009, he’s made 217 starts, nine relief appearances – all of those in 2009. That’s besides the fact that last year was his first healthy season since 2014. Over here, it looks like he would be less than ideal to fill that role.

Every successful team needs someone who can give you long stretches out of the bullpen and maybe make the occasional start or two – Darren Oliver’s 2006 season comes to mind – and the Mets are searching for that right now. From here, it looks like they need to search elsewhere. Neither Vargas nor Wheeler is perfect for the spot. Is there someone else in camp who could take it on? Possibly.

We have to wait until the next usual story about someone who’s been opening eyes in camp.

Follow me on Twitter @CharlieHangley.

8 comments for “Who swings? Zack Wheeler vs. Jason Vargas

  1. February 22, 2018 at 9:24 am

    I’m not sure why the default assumption is that Vargas has a rotation slot locked up. Check that – I do know – his salary is why.

    On one hand, I know it’s silly that starting rotation slots should be determined by 15-20 Spring Training innings. But I also think it’s unwise to completely ignore the last 16 starts and 78.2 IP that Vargas threw last year.

    If Gsellman, Harvey, Lugo, Matz and Wheeler have to win a spot – Vargas should, too.

    • Name
      February 22, 2018 at 9:41 am

      Conditioning? Fatigue? He’s almost always struggles in the 2nd half.

      Career: 1st half – 3.74 ERA, 2nd half – 4.81 ERA
      2017: 1st half – 2.62 ERA, 2nd half – 6.38 ERA
      2014: 1st half – 3.51 ERA, 2nd half – 4.50 ERA
      2013: 1st half – 3.65 ERA, 2nd half – 4.60 ERA
      2012: 1st half – 4.07 ERA, 2nd half – 3.55 ERA
      2011: 1st half – 3.49 ERA, 2nd half – 5.42 ERA
      2010: 1st half – 3.09 ERA, 2nd half – 4.66 ERA
      2009: 1st half – 3.82 ERA, 2nd half – 7.89 ERA

  2. Steevy
    February 22, 2018 at 10:31 am

    Thise second half ERS’s are ugly.Hopefully Callaway sees something he can fix.

  3. Mike Walczak
    February 22, 2018 at 11:36 am

    Wheeler should be happy to be in the bullpen. He needs to work himself back into pitching shape and overcome his control problems. He could be a great reliever. Dennis Eckersley was not great until he moved to the bullpen.

  4. Hunter
    February 22, 2018 at 12:02 pm

    LOL he’s in the rotation the first half of the season,is replaced by Lugo or Gsellman the second half.

  5. Pete In Iowa
    February 22, 2018 at 1:51 pm

    Given the state of the potential Met starters — injuries/lack of performance, etc. — it seems rather senseless to even ponder this situation less than one week into camp. Sheez, at this point we haven’t a clue how many, or which ones, will be healthy and ready to go on March 29.
    While it gives entities such as the Daily News and SNY some tasty fat to chew, I say lets wait and see what develops. Even if everyone is healthy, we likely will have some clue — based upon Spring performance — who the five should be. And if they are all healthy, even better.
    It would be a nice problem to have.

  6. Metsense
    February 22, 2018 at 7:49 pm

    The Mets signed Vargas and his 179 innings and 4.15 ERA to start the season as their #3 starter. The battle should be for the 4th and fifth spots among Harvey, Matz, Wheeler, Lugo and Gsellman. Take two of the “losers” and pitch them in middle relief at 2-4 innings at a time and keep them stretch out and save innings for the short men.

  7. Eraff
    February 22, 2018 at 10:13 pm

    I predict a 6 man rotation, if they’re all healthy. that’s 26-27 starts/ 160 innings apiece from each slot, assuming 6 innings…. 7 Innings is 186 innings

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