Posted on December 12, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine
The New York Mets aren’t exactly shopping at the high end of the free-agent market this offseason, but they are finding a way to make moves. Over the past 24 hours, the club has agreed to deals with starting pitchers Michael Wacha and Rick Porcello. Both are considered bounce-back candidates who could turn into helpful additions in the back end of a starting rotation that already has a chance to be one of the best in baseball next year.
Wacha has agreed to a one-year deal worth just $3 million in base salary, although he can earn up to $10 million with incentives. He’s long been a steady force in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation but has been held back by injuries the past two seasons. In 2018, an oblique injury limited him to 15 starts, although he pitched to a 3.20 ERA in those starts. This past season, Wacha made 24 starts and five relief appearances, going 6-7 with a 4.76 ERA. He was then held out of the playoffs because of shoulder trouble. Nevertheless, the Mets are willing to take a chance on the 28-year-old being a quality starter if he can stay healthy in 2020.
“He’s got championship makeup,” Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen said of Wacha before the deal became official. “This is a guy that’s pitched in postseason games. This is a guy that’s been in an All-Star Game. … Michael Wacha fits into a lot of the categories we were seeking.”
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Porcello, meanwhile, has agreed to a one-year deal worth $10 million to come to New York. He reportedly had multi-year offers on the table but preferred a one-year contract so he can test the free-agent market again next winter. The righty is only a few years removed from winning the Cy Young in 2016. However, he’s struggled to return to that form, going 14-12 with a 5.52 ERA with the Red Sox in 2019. But much like Wacha, the Mets feel he’s more than capable of pitching like a solid mid-rotation starter.
“Depth starters are something that are important to us,” said Van Wagenen said. “Pitchers with high-end upside that we can potentially put in our fifth spot make our team better, and pitchers like Michael Wacha are in that category.”
Adding both Wacha and Porcello will help the Mets to replace Zack Wheeler, who signed with the Phillies earlier this month. It also puts the Mets at six starters at the moment. New York’s current rotation is headlined by back-to-back Cy Young winner Jacob deGrom, as well as Noah Syndergaard, Steven Matz, and Marcus Stroman. The Mets could deal with a potential logjam later on if all six are healthy. But adding rotation depth was one of the team’s goals of the offseason.
Signing two veteran starters also means that Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman are locks to remain relievers in 2020. Both have served as capable starters in the past but have been more effective working out of the bullpen. An unreliable bullpen was New York’s biggest issue in 2019, so they couldn’t afford to move two of their most important relievers to the starting rotation.
Obviously, adding Wacha and Porcello doesn’t make the same splash as re-signing Wheeler or going after one of the top starters on the market this winter. However, the Mets have solidified the final spot in their rotation and added some depth. They now have six proven starters in their rotation, with all six proving at one point or another that they can perform like a frontline starter. Neither Wacha or Porcello comes with a guarantee, but both are good additions for the budget-conscious Mets.