There never seemed to be a shot that the New York Mets would bring back Seth Lugo last offseason. For much of his tenure in New York, all he wanted to do was start. He was always honest about the desire to start again.
Lugo got a couple of chances but a short failed stint in 2020 seemed to erase any hopes he ever had of moving back to the rotation from the bullpen where he was successful. Lugo happened to be too valuable to the Mets in his relief role for the team to take a chance. There would be no transitioning back to a starting role while he remained in Queens.
When he entered free agency, the San Diego Padres were willing to give him a chance to start again. The results in 2023 prove Lugo was right and those who held him back might have missed out.
Seth Lugo proved his case as a starting pitcher with the Padres this season
Lugo was far from the biggest story to come out of San Diego this season. An incredibly talented roster with a terrific run differential ended up falling short of the postseason. Some of the blame should go on the front office who were mostly stagnant at the trade deadline. Who would've guessed the Padres would get so hot in the final weeks to fall just shy of a Wild Card berth? Anyway, not our problem.
The Padres had plenty of players come up small in 2023. Lugo wasn’t one of them. His season totals include an 8-7 record and 3.57 ERA in 26 starts spanning 146.1 innings. He struck out 140 batters and ended the year with 8.2 shutout frames against the San Francisco Giants on the road.
San Diego wasn’t rewarded all that much for taking a chance on Lugo. Their postseason dreams were crushed. They may soon lose Lugo, too. His two-year deal worth $15 million has an opt out this offseason. He can choose to remain at $7.5 million or test free agency. The partially torn UCL will forever play a factor in any contract pursuits he may have. However, a new two-year deal with a bump in salary seems all but sure for him.
Mets fans hoping to see Lugo back in Queens are probably out of luck. It’s not just the previous regime that kept him in the bullpen. It’s hard to blame them for doing so. Lugo was a stalwart in relief for the Mets for much of his tenure. Now a proven capable starter again, he’ll have a choice to test free agency again.