By Mike Addvensky
Going into the 2018 season, the New York Mets starting rotation was thought of as the strongest part of their team. Unfortunately, only one starting pitcher on the team has stood out so far, while the others have all underperformed. Because of the struggles of a few of their starting pitchers, the Mets need to move Seth Lugo from the bullpen to the rotation.
With Matt Harvey getting traded to the Cincinnati Reds last week, the prospect of having the Fab Five all in the rotation at once for an entire season officially ended. However, the way Harvey was pitching, it was not going to happen even if the Mets were unable to trade him. Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz and Zack Wheeler are all still in the rotation, but deGrom is the only one having a good season.
Ever since he came off of the disabled list a few weeks ago, Jason Vargas has been awful. The Mets expected him to be a significant upgrade over Harvey in the rotation, but Vargas has actually pitched worse than Harvey did. It’s gotten so bad that manager Mickey Callaway decided to skip Vargas’ turn in the rotation this week. Because the Mets had off on Monday and Thursday this week, Callaway was able to do this without another starter having to pitch on short rest. Vargas has failed to pitch five innings in each of his first three starts of the season. He is 0-3 with a 13.86 ERA in 12.1 innings pitched.
Vargas isn’t the only one of the Mets starters who is having a bad season. Wheeler and Matz haven’t exactly looked like aces either. After getting roughed up by the Blue Jays on Wednesday, Wheeler is now 2-3 with an ERA of 5.92 in seven starts this year. He first two starts of the season were impressive, but it has all been downhill for him since then. Matz has pitched better than Wheeler, but he has failed to go deep into games this season. His longest start of the year came on May 5 when he pitched six innings in a 2-0 loss to the Colorado Rockies. In seven starts, Matz is 1-3 with a 3.86 ERA.
Even Syndergaard has not looked like the ace everyone expected him to be this season. Although he has been better than Vargas, Wheeler and Matz, he has not really looked dominant in most of his starts. Syndergaard is 3-1 with an ERA of 3.14 in nine starts this year. He has 61 strikeouts in 51.2 innings pitched, but has also given up 12 walks and four home runs. The good news is that even though Syndergaard has not had his best stuff this season, he has yet to implode in any of his starts.
In a perfect world, the Mets could continue to use both Lugo and Robert Gsellman as weapons out of the bullpen. Unfortunately, considering the significant struggles of Vargas and Wheeler, they no longer have that luxury. This does not mean that Lugo and Gsellman both need to be inserted into the starting rotation. What it does mean however is that the Mets need to move Lugo to the rotation and remove either Vargas or Wheeler from it. Callaway and general manager Sandy Alderson must make the decision to do this sooner rather than later. Wheeler and Vargas are both just hurting the Mets every time they come out to pitch.
For now, it appears as though Wheeler and Vargas will both be starting next week when the Mets welcome in the Miami Marlins for a three-game series. Wheeler is slated to pitch on Monday, while Vargas is scheduled to start on Tuesday. If anything, these starts should be viewed by the Mets as the last chance for each pitcher. Whichever starter has a better outing against the Marlins should keep his spot in the starting rotation for the time being. As far as the other pitcher goes, Lugo should replace him in the rotation. In the unlikely event that Wheeler and Vargas both have good starts against the Marlins, Callaway and Alderson will have to re-asses their options.
With their season continuing to spiral out of control, the Mets need to do something to try and shake things up. Inserting one of their best relief pitchers into the starting rotation seems like the best option right now, especially considering the consistent struggles of Vargas and Wheeler. Lugo has proven himself as a starting pitcher before. He would certainly be an upgrade over what the Mets have right now.