New York Mets: Jason Vargas has some big expectations in 2018

PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 06: Jason Vargas
PORT ST. LUCIE, FL - MARCH 06: Jason Vargas /

Jason Vargas will return from the disabled list in the next few weeks and join the New York Mets rotation. What can we expect from him in 2018?

When the New York Mets signed Jason Vargas this offseason, they hoped he would start the year in their rotation. An injury in Spring Training derailed that possibility, landing him on the disabled list before Opening Day. He’s healing up and will return to regular season action real soon.

Vargas’ return is a lot bigger than the signing itself. He’s the one whose presence pushed Matt Harvey to the bullpen.

Because of the effects of his return, expectations for Vargas are huge. He’s coming off a year in which he won a league-leading 18 games for the Kansas City Royals. Of course, his second-half was far worse than the All-Star worthy first half he put together. Surely, the Mets would like for Vargas to start off hot but also finish it off the same way as well.

Vargas went 12-3 with a 2.62 ERA in his first 17 starts last year. In his final 15 outings, the 35-year-old southpaw was just 6-8 with a horrific 6.38 ERA. Some of this may have something to do with pitching in meaningless games.

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However, we can’t completely blame Vargas’ second-half slump on playing for nothing.

Throughout his career, he has been much better in the early half of the season. Vargas owns a 55-36 record with a 3.74 ERA before the All-Star Game. After, he’s 30-45 with a 4.81 ERA.

Trends like this tell a tale we cannot ignore.

I wonder, by missing the first month of the season, will Vargas actually benefit?

May has been by far his best month career-wise with a 20-9 record and 3.35 ERA. When the weather warms up and the innings take their toll, Vargas struggles. This consistently hints that Vargas is bound to start off strong and weaken as the year progresses.

For the Mets, this isn’t the worst news possible. Let’s say Vargas pitches well in May and June before beginning to falter in July. They could always add an arm at the trade deadline if needed. A weak finish will also make it easier for Mickey Callaway to decide which starter goes to the bullpen for the playoffs if the Mets are in fact destined for the postseason.

I, for one, love the idea of a lefty like Vargas joining the bullpen for a postseason run.

Not to get too ahead of myself, I expect Vargas to give the Mets two or three really good months this season. Unfortunately, it won’t hold up through the whole season.

I’m guessing Vargas finishes with a 9-7 record and an ERA around 4.20. He’s a year older than he was last year and I suspect on the decline. Without the assurance that he’ll start off the year with a full April and May to get locked in, I can’t picture him lowering his ERA from last season.

Next: Harvey will have a tough time finding MLB contract next year

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Whether or not he performs well for the Mets, Vargas will have an immediate impact. His presence alone shakes things up in Queens and sets up for some controversial decisions ahead.