- With Jose Reyes back in the fold and new additions Todd Frazier and Adrian Gonzalez helping to fill out the infield, the Mets are planning to see whether Wilmer Flores is capable of contributing on occasion in the corner outfield, David Lennon of Newsday writes. The idea is to create some more opportunities for getting Flores in the lineup against lefties. Though it’s anybody’s guess how he’ll fare on the outfield grass, Flores says he’s more than willing to give it a try if it means potentially expanding his role.
Feb. 19: USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that Vargas will earn $6MM in 2018 and $8MM in 2019. The option year is valued at $8MM and comes with a $2MM buyout.
Feb. 18: The deal is official, Mark Feinsand of MLB.com tweets. Along with the previously reported incentives, it includes a $250K assignment bonus if the Mets trade Vargas, according to Heyman (Twitter link). To make room for Vargas, the Mets placed infielder T.J. Rivera on the 60-day DL. Rivera underwent Tommy John surgery last September.
Feb. 16, 1:20pm: Heyman tweets that Vargas will earn an additional $250K for reaching 160, 170, 180, 190, 200 and 210 innings in each season of the deal.
10:15am: The option year is worth an additional $8MM, DiComo reports (on Twitter).
9:55am: Puma tweets that Vargas’ contract also contains an option for a third year. Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com tweets that Vargas will be guaranteed $16MM. Heyman adds that Vargas’ deal also contains incentives that will allow him to earn an additional $1.5MM per season, based on his innings totals.
9:44am: The Mets are in agreement with free-agent lefty Jason Vargas, pending a physical, reports Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports (via Twitter). It’s a two-year deal, according to Anthony DiComo of MLB.com (Twitter link). Mike Puma of the New York Post had recently reported that the Mets were maintaining “solid interest” in Vargas, who is represented by CAA Baseball.
Vargas, who turned 35 two weeks ago, will add some much-needed stability to a Mets rotation that has been devastated by injuries in recent seasons. Last year alone, the Mets saw Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman all combine to spend significant time on the disabled list, with only Jacob deGrom remaining healthy to shoulder a full season’s workload.
The 2017 season, meanwhile, served as a platform for the veteran Vargas to prove that he was healthy after Tommy John surgery wiped out most of his 2015-16 campaigns. It was a rather dichotomous season for Vargas, who surged to a 2.22 ERA through his first 101 innings of the season, earning a deserved All-Star berth in the process. Vargas’ early success was buoyed by an unsustainable 86 percent strand rate, however, and that figure cratered over the final three months as his control took a turn for the worse. After that sparkling 2.22 ERA through the end of June, Vargas limped to a 6.66 ERA in his final 16 starts.
It’s possible, of course, that some fatigue in his first full year back from Tommy John surgery impacted Vargas. Control has never been an issue for him, after all, but he nonetheless averaged nearly four walks per nine innings pitched over the final three months of the season. Overall, though, the results on the year were solid. Vargas totaled a 4.16 ERA while averaging 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9 and 1.4 HR/9 with a 40.3 percent ground-ball rate.
That body of work lines up fairly closely to the 4.01 ERA he turned in over 1082 2/3 innings from 2009-15 — the stretch from which he established himself as a viable Major League starter up until he underwent Tommy John surgery as a member of the Royals.
While the yearly breakdown of the contract remains unclear, the addition of Vargas should push the Mets’ payroll north of the $150MM mark for the second consecutive season, though that number includes David Wright’s $20MM salary, 75 percent of which is covered by insurance should the oft-injured former star head back to the 60-day DL. Vargas’ two-year deal pushes the team’s 2019 commitments well beyond $90MM more than a year in advance as well (though, again, 75 percent of Wright’s $15MM salary next season is covered by insurance).
This will mark the second stint with the Mets for Vargas, who was traded to New York from Miami in the 2006 deal that sent Matt Lindstrom to the Marlins. Vargas only pitched 10 1/3 innings in the Majors with the Mets the first time around and was ultimately traded to the Mariners in the 2008, three-team J.J. Putz swap. He’ll be reunited with former Royals pitching coach in Queens, giving him some added familiarity as he re-acclimates to his new surroundings.
For the Mets, the Vargas addition is somewhat surprisingly the third multi-year free-agent pickup that has transpired after reports suggesting that the team had limited remaining funds. After signing Anthony Swarzak to a two-year, $14MM deal back in December, the Mets have now added Jay Bruce (three years, $39MM), Todd Frazier (two years, $17MM) and Vargas, in addition to more modest one-year commitments for Jose Reyes ($2MM) and Adrian Gonzalez ($545K).
Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.
- The Mets’ Jason Vargas signing will likely conclude their heavy lifting for the offseason, general manager Sandy Alderson suggested Sunday (via Anthony DiComo of MLB.com, on Twitter). “With Jason’s signing, we’re pretty much where we want to be,” said Alderson, who has been rather active in free agency since last season ended. Vargas was the sixth big league signing of the offseason for the Mets, who previously added or re-upped Jay Bruce, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Adrian Gonzalez and Jose Reyes.
- The Mets actually have “modest expectations” that minor league outfielder Tim Tebow will eventually earn a major league call-up, Alderson revealed (Twitter link via James Wagner of the New York Times). “He’s great for baseball. He was phenomenal for minor league baseball last year,” Alderson said of the former Denver Broncos starting quarterback and ex-University of Florida football star. Prior to last season, which the 30-year-old divided between Single-A and High-A and hit .226/.309/.347 in 486 PAs, Tebow hadn’t played organized baseball since high school.
Some items from both of the Big Apple’s teams…
- David Wright still doesn’t know when, or even if, he’ll be able to play again, though the Mets captain told MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo and other reporters that he is still determined to return to the field. “It would be easy if I didn’t have that drive to get back out there,” Wright said. “If I didn’t love what I did, that would certainly make things easier. But I do love what I do….When it’s all said and done, I want to be able to say I did everything I could. If it works, that’s obviously the goal. And if it doesn’t work, then I’ll rest easy knowing I gave it my best shot.” Wright played 75 games total in 2015-16 and then missed all of last season due to various surgeries stemming from spinal stenosis. For their part, the Mets are fully supportive of Wright’s efforts, and manager Mickey Callaway told the third baseman that the team still values his clubhouse leadership.
- Though the Mets’ offseason lacked any headline-grabbing signings or trades, the New York Post’s Ken Davidoff is still giving the team an A (albeit “graded on a curve”) for its winter moves. Davidoff feels the Mets did well in adding quality talent and depth without committing too much in long-term salary to the likes of Jay Bruce, Jason Vargas, Todd Frazier, Anthony Swarzak, Adrian Gonzalez, and Jose Reyes. As well, all of those players were signings, so the Mets didn’t have to trade from their already-thin minor league system.
- The Yankees seem likely to save most of their remaining payroll space to address pitching needs at the trade deadline, Joel Sherman of the New York Post opines. In the short term, the Yankees will look to trade for a low-cost third baseman to bolster their infield. The team is looking to be as flexible as possible given its desire to stay under the luxury tax threshold while still filling any remaining roster holes, and I agree with Sherman that the Bronx Bombers have more fill-in pitching depth than infield depth. It doesn’t make sense for the club to spend much on an infielder since Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar are seemingly on the cusp of regular duty at second and third base.
- “A source with knowledge of the [Yankees’] personnel decisions” told NJ Advance Media’s Brendan Kuty that Tim Lincecum looked “fine” in his recent showcase for scouts and that Lincecum will likely receive a minor league contract offer from a team. The implication, however, was that New York wouldn’t be the team in question. The Yankees were one of between 15-20 teams who sent evaluators to watch Lincecum throw on Thursday.
- The Mets had interest in Jaime Garcia before he signed with Toronto on Thursday, per Mike Puma of the New York Post. The Mets are focusing their efforts on adding a starter that won’t come with draft/international forfeitures (i.e. Alex Cobb, Lance Lynn, Jake Arrieta). Puma reported yesterday that Jason Vargas remains on the Mets’ list of targets, noting that he was briefly with the organization back in 2007-08 and has spent the past four seasons working with new Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland, who formerly held that same position with the Royals.
Here are the latest minor moves from around the game:
- The Mets announced today that they have signed Matt den Dekker to a minor-league deal. He’ll be reunited with the organization that originally drafted him in the fifth round in 2010 and gave him his first MLB promotion in 2013. Though he has touched the majors in each of the past five seasons, opportunities have been fleeting for the 30-year-old. He spent most of 2017 at Triple-A with the Tigers and Marlins organizations, slashing a combined .250/.322/.441 in 288 plate appearances.
- Lefty Tyler Matzek has signed a minors deal with the Mariners, per an announcement from the California Winter League. It includes an invitation to MLB Spring Training. Once a top prospect, Matzek had been unable to overcome anxiety problems and a related collapse in his control. Though he worked to a 4.05 ERA in 117 2/3 MLB frames in 2014, Matzek issued more walks than strikeouts at all levels over the following two seasons. He was released by the White Sox after participating in camp with the organization last spring.
The Mets are maintaining “solid interest” in free-agent lefty Jason Vargas, tweets Mike Puma of the New York Post. The 35-year-old Vargas should would give the Mets some much-needed stability at the back of the rotation and could presumably be had on a short-term commitment.
Vargas recently wrapped up a four-year, $32MM contract with the Royals that featured a pair of healthy seasons in the first and last years of the contract, while the middle two (2015-16) were largely wiped out by Tommy John surgery. In his first full season back from surgery, Vargas made 32 starts for Kansas City, totaling 179 1/3 innings and being named to the All-Star team for the first time in a career that has spanned parts of 12 seasons.
That All-Star berth came on the heels of a 2.22 ERA through the season’s first three months, though Vargas achieved that mark by stranding an unsustainable 86 percent of the baserunners he allowed. That number came crashing back to Earth in the season’s second half (69.3 percent), and the pristine control that Vargas showed through the season’s first 101 innings eluded him, as he averaged 3.9 walks per nine innings pitched over his final 16 starts.
Vargas pitched to a 6.66 ERA in those 16 starts, leaving his final 2017 numbers looking solid but not especially impressive. The lefty turned in a 4.16 ERA with 6.7 K/9, 2.9 BB/9, 1.35 HR/9 and a 40.3 percent ground-ball rate. That work is a fairly close match for the 4.01 ERA he turned in over 1082 2/3 innings from 2009-15 upon establishing himself as a big league regular up until his 2015 Tommy John procedure.
Suffice it to say, Vargas wouldn’t give the Mets a massive boost at the top of their rotation. He would, however, be a fairly reliable source of innings in the middle of their rotation, and few teams could use stable innings to round out their starting corps more than the Mets. Only Jacob deGrom managed a full, healthy season in the Mets’ once-vaunted rotation last year, as Noah Syndergaard, Matt Harvey, Steven Matz, Zack Wheeler, Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman all saw significant time on the disabled list. Mets starters posted a collective 5.14 ERA and totaled just 865 2/3 innings in 2017, both of which were the fourth-worst marks among all 30 Major League teams.
- The Mets had Bud Norris “on their board” before the veteran right-hander signed with the Cardinals, The Athletic’s Marc Carig reports (Twitter link). Norris’ versatility as both a reliever and a potential swingman or spot starter intrigued the Mets, who may or may not be still looking for rotation depth.
- Juan Lagares’ name has surfaced in some trade rumors over the offseason, though MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo (Twitter link) doubts the Mets would part with the defensively-gifted outfielder. The team is thin on outfield depth as it is, and Lagares is penciled in as the starting center fielder until Michael Conforto is healthy. Dealing Lagares (who is owed $15.5MM over the next two seasons) would free up some payroll space for the Mets, and he hasn’t hit much over the last three years, with injuries playing a role in his struggles at the plate. Nevertheless, DiComo writes that “the Mets are super bullish on” Lagares and even plan to use him against both left-handed and right-handed pitching.
- More than 10 teams are set to attend Tim Lincecum’s showcase on Thursday, it seems. Anthony Fenech of the Detroit Free Press, Rhett Bollinger of MLB.com and Roch Kubatko of MASNsports.com respectively report that the Tigers, Twins and Orioles will have scouts in attendance (all Twitter links). Heyman adds another handful of clubs, listing the Rangers, Phillies, Dodgers, Yankees, Red Sox, Brewers, Padres and Braves as attendees (links to Twitter for the last three), in addition to the previously reported Giants. If anything, it’s perhaps more notable which clubs have elected not to attend the showcase, as there’s no real downside to at least taking a look and the showcase is shaping up to be reasonably well-attended. To that end, the New York Post’s Kevin Kernan wrote over the weekend that the Mets aren’t planning to have a scout in attendance.
The Nationals have acquired utilityman Matt Reynolds from the division-rival Mets, per a club announcement. Cash considerations will go to New York in the agreement for Reynolds, who had been designated for assignment recently.
Reynolds, 27, has struggled in his limited MLB opportunities and was squeezed off of the Mets roster as the team has continued to add infielders. The Nats had an unexpected opening arise recently when young catcher Raudy Read was hit with a PED suspension.
Though he has accomplished little in limited MLB time, Reynolds has shown an ability to line up all around the infield and in the corner outfield. And he has posted a solid (albeit PCL-aided) .289/.348/.419 slash in over a thousand career trips to the plate at Triple-A.
To crack the Nationals’ active roster, Reynolds would likely need to beat out Wilmer Difo for an infield reserve spot. Of course, he could instead be optioned to Triple-A to serve as affordable and versatile depth, or the Nats could attempt to sneak him through waivers at some point.