The New York Mets are showing “solid interest” in free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas, according to Mike Puma of the New York Post on Thursday.
Having just turned 35 on Feb. 2, Vargas hasn’t seen many suitors come around this winter despite coming off the best season of his career. Working with current Mets pitching coach Dave Eiland during his time with the Kansas City Royals, Vargas received his first All-Star nod in 2017, leading the American League with 18 wins (18-11 record) with a 4.16 ERA. It was his first year back after suffering a torn UCL that cut his 2015 season short and eliminated his entire 2016.
Vargas had been a fringe starter in the majors for a majority of his career, playing for four teams, including the Mets, 2005-2013 before joining the Royals. He had never won more than 14 games in a season with just two years in which he recorded win-loss marks over .500.
Especially after his lengthy recovery from elbow surgery, this isn’t a pitcher that is going to overpower the opposing batters. Vargas racked up 18 wins despite a fastball that averaged just 85.6 miles per hour, the lowest average speed of his career. He picked up the slack by relying on an above-average curveball and changeup, which he threw for a combined 53 percent of his pitches in 2017.
That kind of style is a significant change of pace for a Mets rotation that is built on hard-throwing arms with fireballers like Noah Syndergaard and Jacob deGrom. It also provides the Mets with another left-handed option considering Steven Matz is the only southpaw in contention for a starting spot.
Regardless of a favored arm, a veteran, reliable one is just what the Mets need considering injuries and uncertainties surround the pitching rotation. Syndergaard, deGrom, Matz, Matt Harvey and Zack Wheeler have suffered significant injuries over the past three years, debilitating the Mets’ chances of serious contention as they turned to the likes of Robert Gsellman, Seth Lugo and Rafael Montero.
The Mets have been linked to other free-agent veteran arms like Lance Lynn and Alex Cobb, who are five years younger than Vargas. Regardless, his acquisition would give the Mets some insurance that an experienced pitcher who recently found success in the more difficult American League could step up and ensure the rotation doesn’t miss too much of a beat.