Jason Vargas struggles so Plan B looms

The Mets have two starting pitchers, Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom, who have been solid performers this year. They have two pitchers, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler, who have been roughed up some but have looked better in their most recent starts. Then there is the fifth starter, Jason Vargas, who has had a dreadful season so far. With a couple of off days this week, Mickey Callaway will skip Vargas in the rotation, but within two weeks or so, Vargas, or some other fifth starter, will need to make a start.

The 35 year old Vargas missed the early part of the season, when the Mets were rolling, due to a hand injury to his non-throwing arm. Since he was activated, he has started three games, pitched 12.1 innings, yielded 26 hits, and owns an 0-3 record with a stratospheric ERA of 13.86. We are near, or maybe at, the point where the Mets will need to implement plan B for that fifth starter slot. The trouble is, there is no slam dunk choice for plan B.

Plan B (1) would involve moving one of the multi-inning relievers to the starter role. Both Robert Gsellman and Seth Lugo have experience as starters, they made important contributions as starters for the Mets in the 2016 wild card season. Both also did regress in 2017, and both have pitched exclusively out of the bullpen this year. Gsellman has 3.16 ERA with a 1.32 WHIP this year, and Lugo has been even better with a 2.42 ERA and 1.12 WHIP.

Despite their good records, there are reasons not to move one or the other into the rotation. They are thriving in the relief relief role, and keeping a stellar bullpen is important. As starters, both had tendencies to have trouble once they got to the third time through the lineup.

Plan B (2) could mean using one of their SP prospects as the fifth man. This would likely be either P.J. Conlon, who actually did get one spot start this year, and did reasonably well. The other option would be Corey Oswalt, who is on the Mets roster at the current time and has made one relief appearance for the Mets this year.

The downside for this approach is that both likely need more seasoning. Both have been hit hard in AAA this year, Oswalt has a 6.62 ERA in four starts at Vegas this year, and Conlon is not much better at 6.10. Sure, Las Vegas is a hitter’s park, but still those numbers are not encouraging.

Plan B (3) might mean going outside the organization to pick up a fifth starter, either via trade or perhaps FA signing. The most intriguing possibility would be R. A. Dickey, who pitched for the Mets from 2010-2012, winning the Cy Young Award in his last year with the Mets. The 43 year old knuckleballer pitched for the Braves in 2017, and did respectably. He posted a 10-10 record in 31 starts last year, with 191 IP, 4.26 ERA, 1.37 WHIP. The Braves did not pick up his option, but he does not appear to be officially retired.

Of course, after missing some turns and working with the coaches, Vargas might be able to recover his old form, and surely he will get a start down the road to show if that is the case. But if he keeps getting banged around, his tenure with the Mets could prove to be abbreviated.

18 comments for “Jason Vargas struggles so Plan B looms

  1. b
    May 15, 2018 at 9:02 am

    trash . vargas has 2 year contract

    • Rae
      May 16, 2018 at 1:48 am

      Vargas sucks and he needs to be replaced immediately. Send him to AAA/Vegas, and see if he can at least provide decent left handed relief for the Mets once he learns how to throw the ball over the plate without succumbing to the home run ball he has been incredibly prone to throwing this year. This guy is not a starting pitcher in the least. If Vargas refuses to go to AAA then let him go. Sign RA Dickey or try to trade for Bartolo Colon who I said the Met should sign way back in Nov/Dec of 2017 but no one agreed with me. I knew the pitching staff as assembled by Alderson was very suspect, and once again Alderson did nothing to improve or protect the staff. Vagras was and is an abomination as a pitcher. Neither Eiland or Callaway has worked to improve the staff they were given. The Mets have to make a trade and they need to make one today for a starting pitcher

  2. May 15, 2018 at 9:27 am

    I can’t see how the Mets are going to give up on Vargas and his 2 year contract. That’s too much dead money. Need to do another swap of bad contracts with….

  3. May 15, 2018 at 9:34 am

    Disliked the Vargas signing from the start, he had a brutal second half, and his fastball was one of the worst in baseball by pitch value at -21 and yet he’s throwing more fastballs than ever this year. Vargas is throwing his fastball around 10% more than he did last year, which is weird and his changeup usage is down too, which makes no sense since it is his best pitch.

    If Vargas continues to struggle I would go to Lugo who is pretty dominant two times through the order so he can give you five high quality innings then go to Sewald or Gsellman

    • Jennifer C
      May 15, 2018 at 9:49 am

      Lugo is the most obvious choice here, considering he already made the starting rotation out of spring training and he doesn’t have a clear role in the bullpen. He’s been used way too much for meaningless mop up duty because he’s a multiple inning guy. For a win now team, going to Triple A is ensuring a loss every 5th day. Of course, What do with Vargas and his contract if he continues to suck? As usual with this ownership/FO, mistakes are made because they get players on the cheap instead of getting what we actually need to sustain success.

      • John Fox
        May 15, 2018 at 10:38 am


        As to Vargas and his contract, just about every team is dealing with a bad one, the other non productive contract the Mets have is David Wright, which has been substantially offset by insurance. As to Lugo, agree totally he should not be used in mop up duty. I actually wrote an article for 360 last year urging that Seth Lugo could be a kind of Andrew Miller type pitcher, high leverage multi-inning use, but starting pitcher could work as well as you pointed out

  4. Pete from NJ
    May 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Big problem with no real solution. Dilute the bullpen with Lugo and/or Gsellman or send Vargas to the bullpen recycle bin much like Matt Harvey as a substitute.

    RA Dickey seems interesting but is he interested in NYC or even climbing the mound again? Seems like management had problems with Dickey’s vision of life so maybe a mutual “not interested” is valid here.

  5. Mike Walczak
    May 15, 2018 at 12:37 pm

    Vargas should get a couple more chances. If it doesn’t work out, he needs to go to AAA for a few weeks.

  6. TJ
    May 15, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    I did not see Vargas pitch at all last year but it is just mind boggling how he could be so effective for several months and then so ineffective in the latter part of last year and so far in 2018. It is even more mind boggling that Eiland/Callaway have not been able to assist in implementing some corrective actions for some improvement. Regardless of the cost of the signing, as was the case with Harvey, they simply can’t afford to run someone out there at the MLB level struggling this much. If Vargas’s next start has a similar outcome, he absolutely needs to go down to the minors to fix his issues, and hopefully he won’t resist that request like Mr. Harvey.

  7. May 15, 2018 at 1:16 pm

    Grandy returns tonight to citi and I hope he gets a huge ovation. Grandy’s 2015 season was among the best seasons by a Mets OFer not named Beltran or Strawberry, you can throw in Gilkey’s fluky 1996 season in there too.

    Grandy in 2015 was the team mvp being an on base machine that supplied power and good defense and got rally after rally started. Curtis was overshadowed by Murph’s ridiculous homer streak in the playoffs, but Grandy was the Mets most consistent player in the entire playoffs and would have been a strong contender for World Series mvp if the Mets had won it all. You should also remember he injured his finger in the nlcs and still knocked the cover off the ball.

    Curtis has an up and down 2016 but he went nuts the last six weeks of that season and was a huge reason why the Mets made the playoffs that year.

    Curtis also showed plenty of class throughout his career and really was a good soldier and said nothing when Conforto took his job when Ces came back from an injury last year. I hope the fans give him a huge ovation.

  8. MattyMets
    May 15, 2018 at 1:36 pm

    If it keep raining like this we could just go to a four man rotation.

    • TJ
      May 15, 2018 at 1:45 pm

      Great point! There was Spahn and Sain and pray for rain. Now we’ve got Jake and Thor and let it pour.

      • Metsense
        May 15, 2018 at 2:34 pm

        +1 good play on an old baseball phrase

      • May 15, 2018 at 4:04 pm

        I enjoyed this one too and will undoubtedly steal it for use elsewhere!

      • MattyMets
        May 16, 2018 at 8:15 am

        TJ –

        I had a similar thought – Jake and Thor and not much more, but I think I like yours better.

        We need Syndergaard to knock it off with the 5 inning outings. That’s not ace-like.

  9. Steevy
    May 15, 2018 at 4:40 pm

    They signed Vargas because of Callaway and Eiland.The big mistake of the off season may have been the manager hire…

  10. Metsense
    May 15, 2018 at 5:23 pm

    Vargas was signed to be an innings eater and to add stability to the rotation. He has been anything but that. He needs to to fulfill that role in his next start. If he can’t, then move Lugo into the rotation and make Vargas the long reliever. The Mets can ill afford to give up every 5th start. Hopefully Vargas can right himself and make it a moot issue.

  11. Mike Walczak
    May 15, 2018 at 7:51 pm

    In 2017, Vargas threw his fastball 47% of the time and his changeup 33% of the time.

    In 2018, Vargas has thrown his fastball 58% of the time and his changeup 26% of the time.

    Curveball down by 3 points in 2018.

    So, who is calling the pitches?

    Seems like a good time for Vargas to start mixing it up more like he did last year.

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