Reports Friday morning say the Mets have come to an agreement with free agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas. It is the first misstep for Sandy Alderson this winter.
The Mets starting pitching, the supposed strength of the team, is indeed fragile. We have seen that in past seasons. But is Jason Vargas the answer? The man who is the definition of a soft-tossing left-hander is coming off the best season of his career — an 18-11 record for the Royals as he made his first All-Star team. But his ERA was an unimpressive 4.16. And after getting off to a fast start (he was 12-3 with a 2.22 ERA through June), he struggled through the rest of the season, with ERAs over seven in July and August. He just turned 35 years old, the magical number for baseball players when their downward spiral accelerates and their careers come to abrupt halts.
Oh, and did I mention this is a two-year deal, at $8 million a year, plus an option for 2020, when he’ll be 37 years old!? I can see maybe one year (at no more than $5 million), but do the Mets really need to lock up a mediocre pitcher at this age for two seasons?
The Mets would have been smarter to spend that money elsewhere, like at catcher. Jonathan Lucroy is still out there. We’ll see what kind of contract he ends up signing. If it is less than this Vargas deal, the Mets will have some explaining to do.
Now, Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland was in Kansas City last year, so he would know more about Vargas than anyone. Maybe he thinks Vargas has another couple of good years in his arm. He’d better be right.
This raises one huge question — who is out of the rotation? Unless the Mets plan to go with six starters, which is definitely a possibility, one of the starters has to go somewhere. Does Zack Wheeler go to the bullpen? What about Steven Matz? Matt Harvey? Is a trade possible for any of them? If so, the Mets would be selling very low.
Speaking of Harvey, this signing spells the eventual end of his Mets career. The Mets will likely give him a chance to succeed this season; if he fails, the Mets let him walk away as a free agent. If he has a huge season, the Mets will not want to pay him, so he walks away, anyway.
Although I do not like this move, I will give the Mets credit for spending. Was there anyone who believed him when Alderson said he had more money to spend? The payroll is over $150 million, near last season’s Opening Day payroll.
In the end, I don’t think this Jason Vargas signing will either greatly help or greatly damage the team, which is why I think it was a waste of money.