SAN DIEGO — The more the merrier.
After identifying starting rotation depth as a Mets weakness, general manager Brodie Van Wagenen added another piece before departing the winter meetings Thursday, agreeing to terms with Rick Porcello on a one-year contract worth $10 million, according to an industry source.
The 30-year-old Porcello, a former Seton Hall prep standout, went 14-12 with a 5.52 ERA in 32 starts for the Red Sox last season, three years removed from winning the American League Cy Young award.
A day earlier, Van Wagenen agreed to terms with free agent Michael Wacha on an incentive laden one-year contract with a $3 million base salary. The additions of Porcello and Wacha give the Mets six starting pitchers, with Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman potentially providing further rotation depth.
“Championships are born by great starting pitchers, and when we look at our rotation we know that at the top we already have guys that we know can be dominant pitchers throughout the course of 162 [games], but also can be impact guys in the postseason,” Van Wagenen said. “Adding starting pitching with not only coverage for durability but also upside gives us a stronghold that we feel puts us in a very strong position.”
Porcello’s addition gives the Mets the flexibility to trade a starting pitcher if they choose or potentially move somebody to the bullpen. Van Wagenen in October said the Mets wouldn’t trade Noah Syndergaard, and Thursday backed up that statement.
“I think nothing has changed,” Van Wagenen said. “As far as Syndergaard, we fully anticipate him to be at the front of our rotation along with Jake [deGrom] and [Marcus] Stroman and these other two guys we added and [Steven] Matz. I think we’re feeling very good about it, we don’t have any intention of changing course.”
In Porcello, Wacha, Jake Marisnick and Brad Brach, the Mets have added about $17 million in payroll commitments for next season. That doesn’t include the $7 million in incentives Wacha can earn.
In an attempt to create additional payroll space, it’s possible Van Wagenen will attempt to move Jed Lowrie and the $9 million he is owed for next season, potentially attaching the veteran infielder to a commodity such as Dominic Smith in a trade. As it stands, Smith is blocked at first base by Pete Alonso and the Mets have no shortage of corner outfield options.
“You have to make good baseball deals,” Van Wagenen said. “We’re in a position now where we can only look to make good baseball deals and not feel like we have to do something. We’re not going to be in a situation where we are just going to dump talent for money unless it allows us to do other things that we want to do. We have some latitude to try to make the best team we can and we’ll do that.”
Van Wagenen indicated the Mets will lean on new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner to help Porcello, whose ERA was the highest in the major leagues last season. Opposing batters owned a .978 OPS against Porcello with runners in scoring in position.
“There was a lot talked about our lack of starting pitching depth over the course of the last couple of weeks,” Van Wagenen said. “I think that story has changed and we’re probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball. We feel good about that.
“At this point we’re going in with six bona fide starters and the ability to have seventh and eighth starters with Lugo and Gsellman that we believe have a ceiling for bona fide starters, but they haven’t done it yet.”
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