The New York Mets never really needed Jason Vargas and now they’re stuck with him. Worst of all, there’s little room to add someone like Gio Gonzalez.
Foresight is a wonderful talent to have. It’s often used by baseball front offices to see what will become available and when. Teams will make the necessary adjustments with their current rosters in hopes of pursuing particular players in the future. Like all teams, the New York Mets do their best to set themselves up for the future.
However, they did make a mistake last winter by signing Jason Vargas. The two-year deal with an option for a third season looks like it could go down as one of the worst free agent signings the franchise has made in a really long time. There’s a chance for Vargas to redeem himself in 2019 but that seems unlikely.
As bad as Vargas was in 2018, the bigger crime was how it affected the Mets’ search for starter help in the 2018-2019 offseason. Because there’s another $10 million committed to him, the possibility of signing Gio Gonzalez looks less likely.
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There are a few reasons for this. The Mets aren’t about to move Vargas to the bullpen until he at least fails in the regular season. The $8 million contract this year practically guarantees he gets a shot to start the season in the rotation. As a former client of Brodie Van Wagenen, I see it even less likely that the Mets make a move like this.
It’s entirely possible in this slow-moving free agent period that we see Gonzalez ink a deal similar to what Vargas is getting. Had the Mets planned things a little differently, they could have Gonzalez on the roster already.
Nobody knew Vargas would be as bad as he was last year. However, there’s an argument in favor of not signing him based on the way the rotation looked this time a year ago.
The Mets could have easily attacked 2018 with a rotation of Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler, Steven Matz, and Matt Harvey. Rather than sign Vargas to the contract they did to give them a few more options, maybe signing a veteran to a minor league deal could have worked.
There was no need for Vargas last year based on what they already had in-house. I understand injuries were a concern. Perhaps 365 days ago, without seeing him melt down on the mound regularly while wearing blue and orange, I would have felt differently.
I’m more optimistic than most when I think about Vargas. Even so, the Mets flubbed this one.
Gonzalez has been amazing in his career at Citi Field. Of course, this came pitching for some really good Washington Nationals teams against some really bad Mets lineups over the years. Who can say he’d be as wonderful when calling Citi Field home?
If the Mets did pass on Vargas last winter and signed Gonzalez this offseason instead to a similar deal, there’s always a chance he’d be the dog fans love to rip. Gonzalez is a few years younger with a better resume, but he’s also no guaranteed All-Star.
Gonzalez hasn’t gotten much love at all this winter and I don’t expect him to earn enough money to offer to help Patrick Corbin, his replacement in Washington, with any bills. Due to pride, some ego, and not wanting to embarrass Vargas, the chance of adding Gonzalez was probably never a thought for the Mets this winter.
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It’s a shame. He should have been near the top of the list.