The Phillies have struck a deal to acquire Jason Vargas from the New York Mets, as first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
Vargas, 36, is a left handed starting pitcher, something the Phillies haven’t had much of since Cole Hamels. He is 6-5 on the season with a 4.01 ERA. Vargas is signed through this year with a $8M club option for 2020. The option has a $2M buyout. The Mets also sent $2.9M in cash considerations to the Phillies which will cover the rest of his 2019 salary.
Vargas has played for five previous teams across his 14 year career. He owns a 98-95 record with a career 4.26 ERA.
In return for Vargas, the Phillies announced that they sent 26 year old catcher Austin Bossart to the Mets. Bossart is currently carrying a batting line of .195/.303/.335, but reports are that he is a good defender.
This move may not be super inspiring, but it does help. The Phillies desperately need starting pitching, especially left handed starting pitching. They are also hesitant to move major prospect capital. Acquiring Vargas essentially for free checks all of those boxes.
Vargas has rebounded nicely from a rough start to the season. Over his last 15 starts, Vargas owns a 3.32 ERA across 84 innings pitched and a 1.14 WHIP. The Phillies are searching for any form of consistency behind Aaron Nola, and Vargas’ recent trend suggests he can provide some of that.
However, there are some concerns with Vargas. For his career overall, he has been an average at best starter. He is better than an injured Jake Arrieta, but the question is how much better.
Vargas has the second lowest average fastball velocity in the league, clocking in at 84.8 MPH. He has already allowed 14 home runs on the year. Vargas is also just one year removed from a disastrous 2018 where he went 7-9 with a 5.77 ERA across 92 innings.
There is a chance he could regress back to the mean and be essentially the same as what the Phillies already have.
There’s also that time he tried to fight a Mets beat reporter.
But for now, Vargas immediately becomes the second best starter on the team, but that is admittedly not saying much. Arrieta can’t continue to pitch much longer with bone spurs in his elbow. Zach Eflin has a 9.09 ERA over his last 7 starts. Vince Velasquez continues to struggle with any form of consistency.
Vargas’ opponents this season have hit .228 with a .304 OBP— Corey Seidman (@CSeidmanNBCS) July 29, 2019
Nola’s opponents .236 with a .320 OBP
Nola quite obviously far, far superior, just some #perspective
In the end, acquiring Vargas for essentially nothing is almost a no-brainer. He is fine as the first step to acquiring some pitching, albeit a tad underwhelming. But that’s just the thing. He can’t be the ONLY step to acquire starting pitching. Vargas has been just under league average his whole career and shouldn’t be counted on to be the number two starter on a playoff team.
He will give the Phillies some semblance of stability, but they cannot afford to sit back and rest with Vargas being their only acquisition if they want to make a run for the NL Wild Card. That being said, we are still two days away from Wednesday’s trade deadline. General Manager Matt Klentak may not be done. More moves could still be on the horizon for the Phils. Perhaps they will invoke more confidence.