Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said multiple times earlier this offseason that Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman were options for the 2020 starting rotation. Then he signed Michael Wacha. The next day, he signed Rick Porcello.
While Van Wagenen said after those signings that Lugo and Gsellman are still options to start, it's clear that they're both destined for the bullpen since the Mets have six starters for five spots without even factoring them in.
And Lugo, who has been clear the last few seasons about his desire to start, told Mike Puma of the New York Post that he is "disappointed" to likely be headed for the bullpen again. He's also not giving up on his hope to start and become an "ace" -- whether it's in 2020 or not.
"I am going to keep working at what I want and that is the way I am going to approach it," Lugo told Puma, adding that just because his stuff plays up in the bullpen doesn't mean he should stay there.
"If you put deGrom in the bullpen, he is going to be dominant," Lugo explained. "If you put another starter there he is going to be dominant. If you do well enough over time then hopefully you get a starting job, because that is where your aces are and that is what I'm gunning for, to be an ace."
Lugo's usage as a reliever is often limited to non back-to-back appearances due in part to a partially torn UCL in his right elbow he has been dealing with since April of 2017; he appeared in 61 games last season out of the bullpen while starting none.
In 2017, when he pitched almost exclusively as a starter (18 starts, one relief appearance), Lugo had a 4.71 ERA (3.95 FIP) and 1.37 WHIP while striking out 7.5 per 9.
In 2018, Lugo started five games and pitched in relief in 49 others as he posted a 2.66 ERA (3.17 FIP) and 1.07 WHIP in 101.1 innings while striking out 9.1 per 9.
As he hit his groove in relief this past season, Lugo (whose fastball averaged 94.4 MPH, up from 91.1 MPH when he was primarily a starter in 2017) struck out a career-best 11.7 per 9.
It's not a secret that almost every pitcher sees his stuff tick up when working in shorter stints in relief, so it's fair to wonder if Lugo would be able to translate what he's done in the bullpen to the rotation if he moved there.
In Lugo's favor is that he primarily uses a three-pitch mix while at times mixing in a changeup. So he has the repertoire of a starter.
For now, though, it seems Lugo will be heading back to the bullpen -- partially due to how valuable he is there and partially due to the fact that the Mets' rotation (for now at least) is simply too crowded.