Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
The Mets didn't sign Gio Gonzalez, due in part to the fact that they didn't view him as much of an upgrade over Jason Vargas. Whether you agree with that or not, it's clear that the current situation with Vargas is not tenable.
Even on days where Vargas is "good" by the standards set for him, the Mets are still not comfortable letting him pitch more than four or five innings. And in a world where Vargas is actually able to give four or five solid innings most times he pitches, that positive would be mostly offset by the negative of taxing the bullpen every five days.
Translation: The Mets have a problem.
Here are seven options who can replace Vargas, with some of them potentially not options until later in the season...
Dallas Keuchel, free agent
Keuchel is still the best option for the Mets, who have remained in touch. But SNY's Andy Martino recently reported that there isn't a lot of enthusiasm that the Mets will sign him. While the 31-year-old Keuchel isn't at the level he was during his Cy Young season in 2015, he is still a very solid starter. He's open to a one-year deal, and though he's seeking more than the $17.9 million qualifying offer he turned down from the Astros after the season, it's hard to see him getting that much.
Mike Minor, Rangers
The 31-year-old Minor, who the Mets reportedly recently inquired about trading for, has pitched well since shifting back to the rotation from the bullpen before the 2018 season, posting a 4.01 ERA (4.39 FIP) and 1.09 WHIP with 158 strikeouts in 190.2 innings for the Royals. It's not clear what the Rangers will want in return if they move him, but MetsBlog's Matthew Cerrone noted that Texas had interest in Mets prospects David Peterson and Anthony Kay during the offseason. Minor is making $9.5 million this season and is under contract at the same amount in 2020 before becoming eligible for free agency.
Seth Lugo, bullpen
Lugo has been open about wanting to eventually return to starting, but the Mets shifting him back to the rotation without replacing his role in the bullpen would be the definition of robbing Peter to pay Paul. If the Mets were to do something huge like sign Craig Kimbrel, sliding Lugo to the rotation could make sense. Right now, it doesn't.
Chris Flexen, Triple-A Syracuse
Flexen, 24, has lost a lot of weight and gained a lot of velocity, but he got crushed in his only big league appearance this season -- allowing six runs (five earned) on seven hits while walking four and striking out none in 4.1 innings against the Cardinals. Mets manager Mickey Callaway said earlier this week that it's too early to give up on Flexen, but it's also too early to give him an actual crack at the No. 5 spot. If this new version of Flexen is going to succeed, he needs to prove himself in the minors first.
Hector Santiago, Triple-A Syracuse
The 31-year-old Santiago was used mostly as a reliever in 2018, but has been starting for Syracuse this season, where he has a 4.35 ERA and 1.11 WHIP in 20.2 innings (four starts). He wouldn't be an inspired choice to replace Vargas, but he would be a better choice at this point than Flexen.
Anthony Kay, Double-A Binghamton
The 24-year-old Kay had a solid return last season after returning from Tommy John surgery and has opened this season with Binghamton, where he has a 1.89 ERA and 0.94 WHIP with 22 strikeouts in 19 innings (four starts). The 31st overall pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, Kay is viewed as a potential middle of the rotation starter. But the left-hander will probably be sent to get experience in Triple-A before the Mets consider a promotion to the majors.
David Peterson, Double-A Binghamton
Like Kay, Peterson -- the Mets' first-round pick (20th overall) in the 2017 MLB Draft -- is left-handed and viewed as a potential middle of the rotation starter. Also like Kay, it's likely that Peterson will be sent to Triple-A for seasoning before being promoted to the majors. The 23-year-old Peterson has a 3.77 ERA and 1.53 WHIP with 15 strikeouts in 14.1 innings (three starts) this season for Binghamton.