The Mets’ economical offseason spending adventure looks as though it has come to a close after inking left-handed veteran starter Jason Vargas to a two-year, $16 million deal.
While it’s not a signing that will jump off the page, added rotational depth and bringing on a second lefty behind Steven Matz is a tremendous addition considering this team’s history with injuries.
All five of the Mets’ prominent starters — Noah Syndergaard, Jacob deGrom, Matt Harvey, Zack Wheeler and Matz — have suffered significant injuries over the past three years that have left the Mets reeling.
And while it might be unfair to label the rotation as a ticking time bomb when it comes to the next injury that will rear its ugly head into New York’s locker room, it’s a legitimate possibility that the Mets actually prepared for this offseason.
For the time being though, all six arms are healthy upon arrival to spring training in Port St. Lucie, FL, meaning that there might be an odd man out of the rotation come Opening Day should head coach Mickey Calloway wish to go with a five-man staff.
Granted, a six-man rotation might not be that far-fetched of an option considering it’s a way to limit the innings of arms that are continuing to rehabilitate from debilitating injuries. Last year alone, Syndergaard missed five months due to a torn lat, Harvey missed two months with a stress injury to his shoulder, Wheeler dealt with biceps tendinitis and stress injury of his own and Matz combatted elbow irritation all season.
But if the Mets are set on a five-man rotation, then it could very well mean that either Wheeler, Harvey or Matz could start the 2018 regular season in the bullpen.
Those three arms struggled the most when they were healthy last season.
With 2017 being Wheeler’s first season back from a two-year recovery from Tommy John surgery, his familiar control issues were prevalent as he averaged 4.17 walks per nine innings with a 3-7 record and 5.21 ERA.
While he later backtracked on his sentiments, Wheeler did not seem pleased after the Vargas signing.
“I’m just here to be a starting pitcher,” Wheeler said when asked about the prospect of pitching out of the bullpen. “That’s what I’ve been and that’s what I’m always going to be. When I’m healthy, I know I’m just as good as anybody out there. So that’s what I’m concentrating on.”
Harvey, who is entering a contract year, looked like a shell of the captivating rookie in 2013 last season. After Tommy John surgery and a Thoracic Outlet Syndrome procedure in the past four years, the 28-year-old went 5-7 with a career-worst 6.70 ERA in 2017 as he contended with new mechanics and decreasing velocity.
Matz has been unable to stay healthy for an entire year since his MLB call-up in 2015. He joined Harvey in the dubious six-plus ERA club in 2017, sporting a 6.08 mark with a 2-7 record.
Those three would be the most likely candidates to make the shift to the bullpen with spring training being their auditions as to why they should stay in the rotation.
That’s assuming that everyone stays healthy.