New York Mets puzzling trade of Jason Vargas to Philadelphia

Jason Vargas, New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)
Jason Vargas, New York Mets. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images) /

The New York Mets were buyers on Sunday. Monday they became sellers sending starting pitcher Jason Vargas and lots of money to Philadelphia in exchange for a minor leaguer.

It was a forgone conclusion that the New York Mets were going to trade away their fifth starter Jason Vargas. After all, there was almost no way the team was going to pick up the lefty’s $8M option for 2020. Not only did they trade him, but GM Brodie Van Wagenen once again found a way to surprise all.

Vargas was one of the New York pitching staff’s steadier performers since coming off the injured list on May 25. In the two months since his return, Vargas made 11 starts throwing 65 innings. He was 5-3 with 3.46 ERA and .650 OPS against. Those are solid numbers. BVW should have had some decent offers. Instead, the way Vargas’ departure went down is puzzling.

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The New York Mets picked up starter Marcus Stroman from Toronto yesterday. At only six games back of a wild card spot, with 10 scheduled games against bad teams over the next two weeks, maybe the Amazins think they still have a chance at the playoffs. Even if there are four teams ahead of them.

Why then would BVW trade Vargas to a team the Mets are contending with, even if he was expendable? If the lefty went to an American League team, or even Atlanta or L.A., who have just about sewn up the NL East and West respectively, it would have been understandable.

Next, in the current depleted starting pitcher market, one that Van Wagenen just thinned out with the Stroman trade, he should have gotten a good return. Instead, the New York Mets got back Double-A catcher Austin Bossart. The 26-year-old backstop is batting .195 this season.

The trade actually got stranger. Not only did the Amazins get back almost nothing for a very serviceable lefty, but they also paid for the honor of doing it. New York will pick up $667K of the $2.67M Vargas has left on his 2018 contract. Additionally, the Mets are going to pay another $2M next season to either cover Vargas’ 2019 salary should Philly pick up his option, or the amount of his buyout if they don’t.

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For a team that constantly cries poor, this trade was an odd turn of events.