The Mets have dealt with more pitching injuries than any other team over the last two years. So it makes sense why they would go after Jason Vargas.
The New York Mets had just five starting pitchers make at least 30 starts in the last three seasons. The team suffered injuries to their whole rotation, save for Jacob deGrom, last year. As a result, the front office needed depth at the position and why they signed Jason Vargas.
Vargas was an 18-game winner with a 4.16 ERA, 1.330 WHIP, 6.7 K/9 and 2.9 BB/9 with the Kansas City Royals last season. He made 32 starts after making just 12 starts in his previous two seasons combined while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
He kept his batted ball stats around his career average. Vargas posted a 9.9 swinging strike rate, 65.9 first-pitch strike rate and 77.0 contact rate. All three stats were better than his career averages. Even at 35-years-old, Vargas performed like he was 27.
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He couldn’t be going to a better division. The Washington Nationals clearly have the best offense. Though, outside of them, the rest of the division isn’t that good. Yes, there are a few good hitters on each team (Freddie Freeman in Atlanta, Justin Bour in Miami and Carlos Santana in Philadelphia) but not good teams overall.
In addition, the National League East parks lean towards being pitcher friendly. Citizens Bank Park finished first in home runs according to ESPN Park Factors. However, the next park is Nationals Park at No. 13. SunTrust Park comes in at No. 19, Marlins Park was 25th and Citi Field rounds out the group at No. 28.
While you wouldn’t add him for his ratio stats, if you play in a league that tracks wins, Vargas has some value. Granted, there’s more that goes into earning a win than pitching well for at least five innings. Vargas threw 16 quality starts last year. That’s 50 percent of his starts were quality starts (at least six innings and three or less earned runs).
The Mets started 12 different pitchers last year. deGrom led the back with 31. Roberto Gsellman made 22. Rafael Montero, Seth Lugo and Matt Harvey made 18 starts each. Zach Wheeler finally came back from his own Tommy John surgery and threw in 17 games. Even guys like Chris Flexen and Tyler Pill made multiple starts.
The point is, the Mets needed a lot of support in their rotation last year. With the free-agent pitching market still full of talented guys, it was a matter of time before the Mets added one. Vargas was one of the better options still available.
Vargas was more than a serviceable pitcher for the Royals last season. If a Mets pitcher gets hurt, which is more than likely, then Vargas will easily slide right into a starting role and get close to 180 innings. Even if the Mets go with a six-man rotation, Vargas will have some value in NL-only leagues.