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Jason Vargas Trade Was Fine But Speaks To Larger Organizational Issue

Yesterday, the Mets traded Jason Vargas to the Philadelphia Phillies for Double-A catcher Austin Bossart. Considering Bossart is a 25 year old catcher repeating Double-A hitting .195/.303/.335, this is nothing more than a salary dump. On the surface, there is nothing wrong with that.

Fact is, Jason Vargas hasn’t been good for the Mets, and he is expensive. The team needed to unload him, and it was going to be difficult to do so.

Since the 2017 All Star Break, Vargas has a 5.30 ERA with opposing batters hitting .264/.334/.472 off of him. He has walked 3.5 per nine, and he has averaged 4.2 innings per start over that stretch. No matter how you want to manipulate or massage those stats, that’s not good, and it is not befitting the production you need from a fifth starter.

His pitching that way really hurt the Mets early in the season. It caused them to go to the bullpen much earlier, and it was one of the biggest reasons why the Mets bullpen was so taxed early in the season. It is not even about the Mets being under .500 in his starts over the first few months, it was about the lasting effect on the team.

The counter-argument many will have is Vargas has been much better of late. To that point, over his last six starts, he is 3-2 with a 4.46 ERA and a 1.165 WHIP. In a vacuum, that level of production is more than acceptable from a fifth starter. The problem is he’s not going to be able to maintain that level of production.

Over these six starts, Vargas has yielded a .227 BABIP while walking 3.4 BB/9. He is stranding 76.2 percent of batters. This is nowhere near what he is as a pitcher. In his career, Vargas has a .282 BABIP in his career with a 73.1 percent strand rate.

When you stablize his current BABIP and LOB% to his career norms, you get the pitcher you saw in 2018 and the first few months of this season. Put another way, you are getting a bad pitcher who you need to take out of the rotation. By trading Vargas now, they’re doing just that. They’re getting the bad pitcher out of the rotation now.

Even better, they’re dumping him on the Phillies. If you want to make that miracle run to the Wild Card, weaken one of your top competitors. While a small sample size, he’s allowed batters to hit .250/.362/.563 off of him in four starts there. It’s part of the reason he has a 6.23 ERA at that ballpark. Ultimately, he should prove to be a nightmare for the Phillies over the final two months of the season.

When you break it down, Vargas isn’t good, and every team knows it. None of them are going to buy in on six starts fueled by unrepeatable peripherals. Given what we know and have seen, the Mets were always going to have to salary dump him. They were lucky they found a team.

Really, if you want to criticize the deal it is taking on a complete non-prospect who was a former collegiate teammate of Jeff Wilpon’s son. Looking at that, it looks more like a favor to a friend than an actual baseball move. An actual baseball move here would have been to identify someone at the lower levels of the minors who had potential like the Rays did when they obtained Neraldo Catalina for Wilmer Font or the Brewers did when they got Felix Valerio in the Keon Broxton deal.

Ultimately, that is the result of the Mets not scouting those levels of the minor leagues. If you want to criticize the Mets for that, you absolutely should. Their actions on that front are indefensible. However, their actions salary dumping Vargas are eminently defensible as they are a better team without him, and the Phillies are worse off with him.

12 thoughts on “Jason Vargas Trade Was Fine But Speaks To Larger Organizational Issue”

  1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

    “Fact is, Jason Vargas hasn’t been good for the Mets, and he is expensive. The team needed to unload him, and it was going to be difficult to do so.”

    —–Facts are, Vargas has been great for the Mets in contrast to the terrible choices they had for 5th starter since the 2018 ASB, a full season of stats, and he costs less than most backup MIs for the rest of the season. The Mets now have to go out and find starters for 2020 when Vargas was cheap at the 6m difference in price between his salary and his buyout. Instead, the Mets FO punted to save a few million and give up most of their already small chance of making the postseason this year.

    “Since the 2017 All Star Break,…”

    —–This is wildly misleading on two counts. It cherrypicks the last half of 2017 when KC, with no options, sent an obviously injured Vargas and his 6.80 ERA to the mound. The Mets did the same in his first 9 starts in 2018 since Harvey was falling apart, and the Mets sent a still-injured Vargas to the mound. It’s far more reasonable to use Vargas since either late July 2018 (3.80 ERA in 11 GS in 2018 + his 2019 stats), or since the beginning of 2019 (or why not his last 16 starts? He has a 3.27 ERA).

    Every time you bring up Rosario “breaking out” what choice will I have except to bring up Rosario’s stats since the middle of 2017 since apparently that’s your preferred timeline?

    “Since the 2017 All Star Break, Vargas has a 5.30 ERA with opposing batters hitting .264/.334/.472 off of him. He has walked 3.5 per nine, and he has averaged 4.2 innings per start over that stretch. No matter how you want to manipulate or massage those stats, that’s not good, and it is not befitting the production you need from a fifth starter.”

    —–You’ve already massaged and misled with your choice of stats. If we used your framing Rosario would be back in AAA, but you’re willing to promote Rosario based on his last few weeks. For Vargas, though, we need to go back to *July 2017* ??

    That’s not cherrypicking. That’s sawing down the cherry tree and setting it on fire. Be consistent, please, in your choice of time frames for players.

    1. metsdaddy says:

      Are we really going to apply the same standards for a 36 year old pitcher as a 23 year old shortstop?

      Don’t we know players in their late 30s regress and players in their early 20s develop?

      Why shouldn’t we examine them accordingly?

      1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

        Speaking now about age speaks to projections, which is a completely new framing of the issue and has little relevance to the discussion to this point. We’ve been talking about Vargas’s performance to date and whether (a) it was a good idea to trade him, (b) he has been adequate for a 5th starter, (c) he’s expensive for a 5th starter (d) whether he helps the Phillies. It’s fine to change the topic, but let’s acknowledge that’s what you’re doing. In addition, projecting the next couple of months for a 36 year old at most let’s you dock him 0.17 WAR for age versus his projection. For a 23 year old his age bonus let’s you add about 0.17 WAR for the next to months. That’s less than 2 runs, for each.

        In addition, wrt Rosario, his OPS was .690 as recently as June 18th.
        That means you’re looking to put a premium on a mere 6 weeks, except it’s far worse than that: From June 23rd to July 5th Rosario hit an abysmal .250/.256/.350 for an awful OPS of .606. In addition to that, Rosario peaked on July 17th, with an OPS of .754. Since July 18th Rosario has backslid, with a slash line of .237/.310/.421/.731.

        === In summary, your claim that Rosario is breaking out is *entirely* dependent on his hitting in good luck, in 7 games from July 6th through July 17th where his BABip was .579.

        It’s also the case that you want to talk about recent developments with Rosario (7 games, in fact) but also want to impugn Vargas as a pitcher by going back to the 2017 ASB. So, which is it? You need to be at least roughly consistent in this regard. In addition, you sawed off the sterling first half of Vargas’s 2017, where he was among the leaders for the race for the AL Cy Young award, with a 12-3 record and a 2.62 ERA in 17 starts and 106.1 innings, but included the second half of 2017, when he pitched while hurt. It’s just not a legitimate statistical approach, to choose for no defensible reason to go back 25 months, but not 28 months, and exclude Vargas’s best numbers, while in Rosario’s case you’re valorizing all of 7 games that happened a couple of weeks ago.

        1. metsdaddy says:

          Since June 1, Rosario is hitting .294/.332/.471. If you want to go back further, he’s .275/.313/.473 since May 20th.

          You’ll notice an improvement which coincides with a significant increase in hard hit rate and a drop in his strikeout rate.

          He’s also been significantly improved defensively with just two errors since May 8 with one of those being an Alonso misplay. Since the break, he’s a 1 DRS.

          But sure, I’m relying on just two weeks.

          P.S. Vargas is still bad

          1. Blair M. Schirmer says:

            If you think Vargas is bad, you must loathe Matz. His stats in 2019 are worse. His stats from 2017-2019 are worse. Only his stats in 2018 were better, but not by much, by FIP. Edge to Vargas overall, but they are extraordinarily similar as pitchers, with the crucial proviso that Vargas has been better this year.

            ==As for Rosario his fielding continues to worsen over last year by every measure. That’s not easy to pull off at his age, though if you squint and only look at the desired endpoint, one can indeed make the numbers dance. His hitting numbers, overall, are entirely dependent on 4 games in mid-July, and those 4 games only. Let’s look:

            Even by the standards of your claim, “Since June 1, Rosario is hitting .294/.332/.471,” you’re incorrect, since from June 1 through June 18 Rosario hit a paltry .220/.242/.373, ergo his improvement, such as it is, could not stretch back to June 1. It’s simply impossible.

            That means his modest improvement only began some time after June 18th, and it’s easy to narrow down if we just examine his game logs with an eye to the truth of the matter:

            https://www.baseball-reference.com/players/gl.fcgi?id=rosaram01&t=b&year=2019

            Rosario went 2 for 3 on June 19th, all of a single and a double, then resumed from
            June 20th through July 5th his weak hitting: .292/.308/.396 with an OPS of .704.

            Rosario, from June 23 through July 12, hit just .280/.309/.380 with an OPS of .689.

            What this proves is that even as of July 12th 2019, Rosario was in no way breaking out.

            That puts our focus all the way up to July 13th, when he had 4 extremely good (and lucky) games.
            .667/.692/1.250 with a shockingly good OPS of 1.942 requiring a BABip of .636.

            Since July 18th, though, he’s back to being Amed Rosario–weak hitter, subpar fielder overall:
            From July 18th through July 28th, he has hit modestly: .237/.310/.421 with an OPS of .731 and a far more normal BABip of .258. And even that modest stretch hangs entirely on his 3 hit game of July 20th. Take that out and he’s hitting all of .176. A player cannot be said to be turning a corner when his performance is light even with his best single game included, and when without it he has been dreadful.

            It’s inarguable that Rosario had four great games in mid-July. No one’s trying to take that away from him. But it’s no less inarguable that surrounding those four games he was as pedestrian as ever:

            Condensing:
            He was only good from July 13th through July 17th, for 4 games.
            June 1 through June 18 Rosario hit a paltry .220/.242/.373 with an OPS. of .615.
            June 20 through July 5, his weak hitting left him at: .292/.308/.396 with an OPS of .704.
            Rosario, from June 23 through July 12: .280/.309/.380 with an OPS of .689.
            July 18th through July 28th: .237/.310/.421 with an OPS of .731, contingent on the single game on the 20th.

            With all due respect, I repeat my encouragement to look at 15 day rolling averages. When tempted to look favorably on our preferred players, those rolling averages can remove the mist and steer us to the correct conclusion.

          2. metsdaddy says:

            You literally posted something similar to this earlier, and I responded

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