Andy Martino, SNY.tv | Twitter |
Every time Jason Vargas steps on a mound, Dallas Keuchel becomes more appealing to the Mets.
How could that not be the case? Even when Vargas is only pitching for an inning, as he did in the ninth of Tuesday's 14-8 loss to Minnesota, his inability to fool hitters is evident.
Vargas entered in a blowout, available because the Mets are skipping his turn in the rotation this week, and promptly surrendered four runs.
And this guy is going to pitch against the division rival Braves on Saturday?
The Mets aspire to be a championship-caliber club this year, which is why GM Brodie Van Wagenen is still talking to Keuchel's agent, Scott Boras, and looking for common ground on the pitcher's value. Van Wagenen spent all winter rushing to build a strong team, and he doesn't see any reason to stop now.
There are plenty of arguments against signing Keuchel, which is why he remains a free agent. His contract demands are too high. His ground ball rate is declining, and his hard contact rate is increasing. He is closer to a back-end rotation piece than the Cy Young winner he once was.
But with Vargas occupying a spot, and Zack Wheeler showing early signs of regression (very early, to be fair to the talented Wheeler), Keuchel would help to solidify the rotation. Sign him, give him a month to get ready, and enjoy him from May onward.
One pitcher the Mets do not need to worry about is Jacob deGrom. We certainly did not expect to see him allow six runs and three homers in four innings on Tuesday, but there wasn't anything ominous about his stinker. DeGrom's velocity was fine and he didn't appear to be tipping pitches, per an evaluator in attendance.
As Ron Darling said on the broadcast, "Cold evening, just didn't get a feel."
Indeed, deGrom missed his location on nearly every pitch. It was 46 degrees, he didn't find a rhythm, and that's probably that. Sometimes a bad day at the office is simply that.
"He just didn't have it today," Mickey Callaway said. "He felt great but his command wasn't there and his slider wasn't working for him."
DeGrom put it even more simply.
"Tonight," he said. "I was bad."
DeGrom's struggle was the headline, because he is the best pitcher in baseball, but Vargas' cameo said more about the Mets' weakness. The pitching staff has now allowed 13 and 14 runs in consecutive games, spoiling performances by the dynamic offense.
On Tuesday, Brandon Nimmo hit his first homer of the season, Amed Rosario roped an encouraging double to left, and Pete Alonso enjoyed the first multi-home run game of his young career. Because of the pitchers, none of it mattered.
This one was largely deGrom's fault, but he won't usually be the culprit. The Mets' pitching remains shakier than expected - especially nights when it includes Vargas. The team was hoping that a full spring training, as opposed to last year when he signed late and broke a bone in his non-pitching hand, would make him a sharper pitcher. That doesn't appear to have happened.
The Mets' run prevention could use an upgrade, and while Keuchel isn't what he used to be, he would at least be that.