The Philadelphia Phillies took a small step towards bolstering their rotation for the stretch run by trading for New York Mets starter Jason Vargas on Monday.
The Phillies sent over Austin Bossart in exchange for the 36-year-old Vargas, who is expected to slot into the Philadelphia rotation immediately.
Soft-Tossing Vargas Solid, Not Spectacular
Vargas is a former All-Star who has had a generally solid career. He had struggled with the Mets in 2018, posting a 5.77 ERA in 20 starts, and got off to a similarly disappointing start in 2019.
But the lefty has turned that around as the season has gone on. He has allowed three earned runs or less in 15 of his last 16 starts, posting 6-5 record and a respectable 4.01 ERA on the year for New York.
“Jason Vargas is battle-tested and has been relatively effective for the better part of a decade now,” Philadelphia general manager Matt Klentak told reporters. “He gives his team a chance to win the game every time he takes the ball.”
Klentak also noted that Vargas adds some variety to how the Phillies can attack opposing lineups.
“He’s a soft-tossing lefty,” Klentak said. “We have a lot of hard-throwing righties. He’s a good complement to our pitching staff.”
At 55-50, the Phillies have managed to stay in the thick of the NL Wild Card race – not to mention, just six games back of the Atlanta Braves in the NL East – despite the fact that their starting rotation has dramatically underperformed this season. While Aaron Nola (9-2, 3.72 ERA) has been good, others like Jake Arrieta (8-8, 4.51) and Zach Eflin (7-11, 4.63) have failed to perform up to expectations.
That’s convinced the front office to bring new blood in. Vargas could be a stabilizing force, and the recently acquired Drew Smyly looked good in his first start for Philadelphia on July 21, allowing just one run in six innings of work.
Phillies In the Hunt, But Not Favored
The modest but helpful moves made by the Phillies come as the team looks to have a chance to make a playoff run, but has no illusions of being a leading World Series contender. Philadelphia is a 32/1 pick to win the World Series at FanDuel Sportsbook, making them only the 12th pick on the board, far behind NL rivals like the Los Angeles Dodgers (+280) and the Atlanta Braves (11/1).
In return for Vargas, the Mets picked up minor league catcher Austin Bossart. The 26-year-old is hitting just .195 in Double-A, but is considered a plus defender. It’s possible New York’s willingness to take a chance on Bossart stems from the fact that he played college baseball at Penn alongside Bradley Wilpon – the son of Mets CEO Jeff Wilpon.
The move also muddies the water in terms of what the Mets are trying to accomplish at the trade deadline. The deal for Marcus Stroman was certainly a buy, while Vargas is the type of move that would be expected of a team that is largely out of playoff contention and positioning itself as a seller.
— SNY (@SNYtv) July 30, 2019
There are still other Mets assets on the board as well, though it is unclear if any of them will move by the 4 pm deadline on Wednesday. Those could include starter Zack Wheeler – who some GMs appear to think is headed to the Houston Astros – Noah Syndergaard, and closer Edwin Diaz, all of whom may be available for the right price.