Mets: Seth Lugo deserves a legitimate shot to compete for a starter role in 2021

WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 03: Seth Lugo #67 of the New York Mets pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - SEPTEMBER 03: Seth Lugo #67 of the New York Mets pitches against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park on September 3, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Photo by G Fiume/Getty Images) /

Seth Lugo has done more than enough to get a fair shot to compete for a starting rotation spot with the New York Mets in 2021.

When it comes to Seth Lugo, most New York Mets fans like to see him in the bullpen because of how well he has stabilized the crew over the past two seasons. The orange and blue have paraded poor relievers to the mound for the last three years with Lugo’s 2018 and 2019 campaigns standings out as two of the few positive seasons of any.

The debate with Lugo has been whether or not the Mets should continue to use him as a reliever or put him in as a starter. The plan for 2020 seemed to include him as the club’s super-reliever yet again, but in 2021, the club seriously needs to rethink things.

Next spring, Lugo needs to have a legitimate shot to compete for a starter role.

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Unfortunately, the plans we all had for 2020 fell apart. This includes any scarce chance Lugo had at becoming a starter for the Mets this year. It was already unlikely considering the team had an overflow with the additions of Rick Porcello and Michael Wacha. While losing Noah Syndergaard opened up some opportunity, it wasn’t good enough for me to believe we would see Lugo move from the bullpen to the rotation.

Of course, plans for 2020 are not yet set. If we see teams go with a six-man rotation, Lugo may become the man who gets the call.

I won’t speculate about how the Mets or any other team handle their pitching staff in 2020. I think a lot of it will be trial and error and depend on what they have in stock.

Instead, I want to look at the 2021 season which will hopefully include a full 162 game schedule.

The Mets have three starting pitchers headed toward free agency this winter and one, Syndergaard, coming off of Tommy John Surgery. The Mets lucked out in having a surplus of starters this year. I expect them to continually implore this strategy moving forward as best as they can.

For Lugo, this could mean he remains the sixth starter option with five other proven men filling out the rotation.

Sadly, I don’t think Lugo will get the fair shake he deserves. In relief, he’s brilliant. He cannot be touched.

Maybe it’s the human aspect of it all that has me pulling toward the desire to see Lugo start. I like to see people get what they desire and deserve when they have earned it. Lugo checks off both boxes.

More important, by purely keeping him in the bullpen because he’s the best guy available, the Mets are putting a Band-Aid on a bigger problem. The issue of having a poor group of relievers isn’t solved. It’s the problem they need to figure out whether Lugo is there or not. Keeping him as a reliever to help secure tight wins makes sense, but not when it’s costing them other games that he could have conceivably won as a starter.

Lugo will reach free agency after the 2022 season which is approaching faster than many of us realize. By then, the Mets should look a lot different with big decisions about Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, and Michael Conforto beforehand.

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Trapped as a middle reliever, Lugo is someone I see testing the free agent market. His desire to work as a starting pitcher may come true. If I’m his agent, I’m letting teams know how few innings he has pitched over the years. Of course, his UCL issue could ultimately play a factor in any decision a team may make involving the role he has.