Mets send Vargas to Phillies for catcher

July 29th, 2019

CHICAGO -- Less than a day after adding to their rotation, the Mets subtracted a member from that group. The team on Monday traded and cash to the Phillies for Double-A catcher Austin Bossart, a defensive-minded backstop.

In the short term, the move opens up a rotation spot for Stroman, who could slot into Vargas’ position Saturday (if not sooner). It also allows the Mets to shed some of the nearly $5 million still guaranteed on Vargas’ contract.

And it leaves the team at a crossroads with less than 48 hours until Wednesday's Trade Deadline.

As things stand on paper, the Mets boast one of baseball’s best rotations: Jacob deGrom, Stroman, Noah Syndergaard, Zack Wheeler and Steven Matz. But the team may not be done making moves; Syndergaard and Wheeler continue to draw significant interest, leading Mets officials to consider dealing one of them. Wheeler continues to make the most sense as he is an impending free agent and thus not a part of the organization’s 2020 plans. But if a club bowls over the Mets with an offer for Syndergaard, they are willing to pursue that instead.

“We will keep working on all fronts,” one official said.

Monday’s trade of Vargas ends a sometimes-turbulent run in the organization for the 36-year-old left-hander, whom the Mets signed to a two-year deal before the 2018 season. Vargas struggled through injuries and ineffectiveness that season, but recovered to go 5-1 with a 2.62 ERA over his final eight outings. He recovered more quickly after another poor start this season, posting a 3.27 ERA from April 19 until his trade, but Vargas disappointed club officials when he became involved in a clubhouse altercation with a reporter in June.

Now, Vargas is gone to Philadelphia, where he will try to help the Phillies make a run at a Wild Card berth. The Mets also have an outside chance at making the postseason, with FanGraphs estimating their odds at 12.5 percent. In the coming days, they must decide if they will attempt a late run with their revamped rotation or deal additional pieces in an effort to retool the roster for 2020.

“I think it’s an unbelievable team,” Stroman said Monday. “I truly think it’s one of the best staffs in all of baseball. I think deGrom is the best in the game right now. Syndergaard’s one of the best power arms in baseball. Matz, when he’s on, obviously you just saw a [shutout] the other day. ... There are so many guys in the rotation that can shut down any team at some point.”

Team officials have been quiet about their intentions, except to say they are exploring all avenues. In trading Vargas, they saved approximately $2 million, according to multiple reports, while also acquiring a Minor League depth piece. Bossart, 26, was hitting .195/.303/.335 at Double-A Reading. He has thrown out 36.4 percent of basestealers in his Minor League career, prompting multiple scouts to call him a defensive-minded catcher without much offensive ceiling. Bossart was also a college teammate of Jeff Wilpon’s son, Bradley.