*If the Mets don’t sign another starter
Facing the facts, Jason Vargas isn’t going to cut it as the Mets 5th starter. Outside of Citi field, he is among, if not the worst, starters in baseball. The solution could and should be as simple as Seth Lugo.
Lugo only made 5 starts in 2018, and at first glance, nothing in particular stands out about them. Collectively, he had a 3.91 ERA and a 2.30 ERA as a reliever. There are, however, a few unique things to consider:
1) Seth Lugo was relieving prior to that stretch
2) He had a 10.6 K/9 as a starter, and an 8.7 as a reliever
3) Of the two bad starts he had, one was at Coors Field, famously bad for curveball heavy pitchers such as Lugo.
If Lugo were to perhaps *start* the season as a starter, some of those shorter outings would be unnecessary seeing as he’d already be stretched out instead of doing so on the fly. What the Mets would do in this scenario with Jason Vargas is an unknown (and if Lugo is successful, there is doubt Vargas will be missed).
The only concern with this idea is that Lugo has a partially torn UCL in his throwing elbow. It sounds like a ticking time bomb, and perhaps it is, but the Mets cannot operate in a fashion where they do not attempt to start Lugo because they are worried he will get injured. He’s going to pitch either way, and he’s undoubtedly a good reliever, but the Mets biggest need is that 5th starter black hole that was almost a guaranteed loss in 2018. The Mets only need to look to the Bronx, where Masahiro Tanaka has thrown the 18th most innings of *all* starters since 2016, with the same injury.
Lugo will also benefit from a much improved defense, both in the infield and outfield, with the additions of Cano, Lowrie and some true CFers in Broxton/Lagares starting behind him, as well as Rosario taking a step forward defensively. Since Lugo last started long term in 2017, he’s taken a step forward in K/9 and getting groundballs (up 4%), making his perceived improvement tangible.
Solutions to issues on a MLB roster can be difficult to find. What the Mets have here is a potentially easy solution to a major problem, seeing as how the relief market is flush. Signing someone like Adam Ottavino instead of another starter and shifting Lugo to the rotation (where I, along with some others, think he belongs) could be an inexpensive way to drastically improve the rotation.