The budget-conscious New York Mets could move Seth Lugo to the starting rotation purely to save money on signing another starter.
As just about everyone expected, Zack Wheeler turned down the qualifying offer from the New York Mets. The result put a big hole in the team’s rotation. Although he could still return to Flushing, it’s more likely he gets a big deal elsewhere.
Where will the Mets turn to fill out the rotation? The minor leagues offer few choices. Free agency and trades are always options, but Seth Lugo seems to make the most sense.
The forever-budget-conscious Mets aren’t going to swoop in and sign a big-name free agent pitcher. They also probably won’t land one via trade because of what the cost would be. To spread the payroll out a little more, moving Lugo into a starter’s role is the direction we should expect them to go.
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General Manager Brodie Van Wagenen has said as much and even included Robert Gsellman as a contender. In a way, I can understand why Gsellman could even be a better consideration. Lugo has thrived in the bullpen while Gsellman has had trouble keeping his head above water.
It’s a matter of weighing out what you would prefer: an excellent Lugo in the bullpen with a chance to see what Gsellman can do as a starter or the same old from Gsellman as a reliever with Lugo taking a few steps back as a member of the rotation.
Both pitchers could improve in a role-change and both should get an opportunity to compete for the job if the Mets play their cards the way we expect them to.
Moving Lugo to the rotation sooner than later, publicly or internally, would allow the Mets to do a lot of work on their bullpen. Any money they planned to spend this winter could go toward this department.
Put Lugo in the rotation and suddenly the Mets are in need of another relief pitcher. Even the best relievers earn fewer dollars than an average starting pitcher. The team would need to add at least three this winter if this is the direction they go. With the assumption they won’t go over the luxury tax, this gives them around $20 million to figure things out.
The hurdle here is whether or not they are willing to spend enough money and do it the right way.
It goes without saying, the wisest thing the Mets can do is not worry about the luxury tax at all and sign the best starting pitcher available. Since when do they operate this way?
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MLB owners treat the luxury tax like a cap. With no indication of the Wilpons having an interest in going over, the best course of action isn’t to take a flier on a starting pitcher hoping for a rebound season. Instead, get the most out of Lugo as a starting pitcher and add some sure-things for the bullpen.