Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
When it comes to the Mets' starting rotation battle -- if there really is a battle going on right now -- there are some things that are certain.
First, despite the Mets not yet announcing who is in the rotation beyond Jacob deGrom, it has been clear for months that Rick Porcello is going to be in there along with deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman.
The Mets did not sign Porcello to a one-year deal worth $10 million to put him in the bullpen, where he has not pitched since making one appearance in 2014. Of Porcello's 343 career appearances, only four have been in relief.
Whether or not you agree with the Porcello signing or believe he'll bounce back from a poor 2019 campaign, he's with the Mets to eat innings. And eat innings he will, as long as he remains healthy. And it never made sense to consider using him in a different capacity than that.
Second, there seems to be some confusion over how Michael Wacha's contract is structured and how he will be able to earn incentives beyond the $3 million base salary he is set to receive.
As Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported on Feb. 25, many of Wacha's incentives are tied to relief appearances, with Wacha accumulating one "point" for relief appearances of 3.0 innings or more, with each point at seven different point totals resulting in $500,000.
Also in that report from Sherman was that the Mets had been discussing (among other ideas), the idea of implementing a complicated, outside-the-box plan for the No. 5 spot in the rotation that would've potentially involved Matz, Wacha, Seth Lugo, and Robert Gsellman all getting starts depending on matchups. Hopefully, that was discussed and quickly shot down.
Both Wacha and Matz are on the record as wanting to start (with both well within their rights to want to start), and both of them have danced around questions about what they would do if asked to pitch in relief.
Meanwhile, Matz's name has popped up in trade rumors. But with the Mets not having an actual starting pitching surplus, they would be wise to hang onto all of their starters.
There are lots of factors to consider when it comes to who to use as the No. 5 starter between Matz and Wacha, including what the Mets might have told Wacha when he signed and how they'll use Matz in 2021 if he isn't properly stretched out as a starter in 2020.
But the main factor should be as simple as this: Who is the better option in the rotation right now?
And the answer to the above question is Matz, who is arguably the Mets' fourth-best starting pitcher and whose spot in the rotation shouldn't be in doubt.
Matz had a 3.97 ERA in 154.0 innings in 2018 and had a 4.21 ERA in 160.1 innings in 2019. His 2019 campaign started off rough, but Matz finished with a flourish -- with a 3.47 ERA in 80.1 IP from July 3 to his final start of the season on Sept. 28.
Wacha's 2019 season was much different, with him dealing with injury and ineffectiveness and winding up with a 4.76 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 126.2 innings split between the rotation (24 starts) and bullpen (five appearances). In 2018, Wacha was also limited due to injury, tossing just 84.1 innings.
Could Wacha once again become the pitcher he was in 2015? Sure. But the Mets shouldn't be counting on it, and would be wiser to simply use Matz in the rotation and hope that Wacha's stuff will play up in a bullpen role.
So far during spring training, while he has been working as a starter, Wacha's fastball has regularly reached 95 mph. If that could translate to 97 mph out of the 'pen, the Mets could have a serious weapon on their hands.
And if someone in the rotation were to get hurt, the Mets would have Wacha available to slide right in.
Going off what Matz and Wacha have said on the record, one of them is going to be unhappy in a few weeks when the Mets officially announce their rotation.
The odds are that no matter who wins the rotation battle, both Matz and Wacha will make their fair share of starts in 2020. But Matz has earned the right to be that guy out of the gate.