Jason Vargas’ miserable Mets tenure took another sour turn Saturday in Atlanta, where the southpaw was unable to survive the first inning against the division-rival Braves. Vargas retired just one of the six batters he faced, the others reaching on two singles and three walks, and allowed four earned runs. After the game, an 11-7 loss for the Mets, manager Mickey Callaway brought up the possibility of skipping Vargas’ next start, per Anthony DiComo of MLB.com.
“He’s just not getting outs at this point,” Callaway said. “That’s really all I can say.”
Callaway already passed over a Vargas start earlier this season, but he’s hesitant to pull him from the rotation entirely because of a lack of alternatives, DiComo relays. Outside of the Mets’ rotation, Triple-A left-hander Hector Santiago is the most experienced starter in the organization. The offseason minor league signing’s not on the Mets’ 40-man roster and hasn’t been an effective major leaguer over the past few years, however. Meanwhile, Corey Oswalt, Chris Flexen, Walker Lockett and Drew Gagnon are occupying 40-man spots, though no one from that group has enjoyed any big league success in limited action. Relievers Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman have dabbled as starters, and Callaway did mention them as potential Vargas replacements (via Mike Puma of the New York Post), but moving either to the rotation would weaken the bullpen.
The Mets’ best bet may be to sign free-agent lefty Dallas Keuchel, who’s somehow still without a job in mid-April despite an excellent track record in the bigs. The former Astro’s asking price has dropped in recent weeks, which could make him more appealing to the Mets, yet there’s “much skepticism” they’ll add Keuchel, Puma reports. The two sides have been in contact dating back to at least last month, though, and if things don’t improve at the back end of their rotation soon, perhaps the Mets will earnestly pursue Keuchel. Even if the Mets were to ink Keuchel right now, it’s unclear when the 31-year-old would be ready to step into their rotation, given that he hasn’t pitched in a game (meaningful or exhibition) since last October. He’d likely need time to ramp up, which would still leave the Mets with a less-than-ideal situation for a little while.
The club signed Vargas to a two-year, $16MM deal prior to last season with the expectation he’d serve as an acceptable back-end complement to Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. Instead, the 36-year-old has pitched to a valueless 6.32 ERA/5.22 FIP in 98 1/3 innings and averaged fewer than five frames per start since receiving his contract. Vargas has no doubt been a liability in New York, and whether the team can continue to rely on him as it vies for a title in the uber-competitive NL East is very much in question.