There is mutual interest between the Mets and free-agent Rick Porcello, according to insiders aware of his offseason goals. This is good news because he's a perfect fit for the Mets.
As I wrote two weeks ago, the Phillies and Braves are among several teams that have been more aggressive than the Mets when it comes to signing Zack Wheeler. Insiders predicted to me weeks ago that Wheeler will get five years and $100 million, which at this point appears to be a foregone conclusion.
The same people also keep saying the Mets are more likely to let Wheeler walk in favor of a less expensive, more reliable, consistent, veteran starting pitcher to join the back of their rotation.
If that's the case, Porcello should be a top target. Here's why...
Cost and Value
Porcello is seeking a multiyear deal. It's possible it is offered to him, but with a lesser salary. This is why, at his age and given the market, some believe he'll settle for a, incentive-rich, one-year deal guaranteed to pay around $10-12 million.
Of course, it's also possible Porcello looks for more money and holds out through the spring, just like his agent Scott Boras recently did with similar clients Dallas Keuchel and Lance Lynn.
The 30-year-old Porcello, who grew up in Morristown, NJ, has started at least 28 games during each of the past nine seasons. In that time span, only Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander and Jon Lester have made more starts. What's more, since winning the Cy Young Award in 2015, he's consistently been a roughly two-WAR starting pitcher.
I'm slightly concerned with Porcello's fly ball and home run rates, but it's very possible these numbers will improve by leaving Boston and Fenway Park in the American League for Citi Field in the National League.
He was 17-7 with a 4.28 ERA (4.01 FIP) and 1.17 WHIP in 2018 when the Red Sox won the World Series, but had just a 5.52 ERA in 2019.
FanGraphs' Steamer projections for 2020 have him doing slightly better, producing just shy of 2.0 WAR and tossing more than 180 innings. These numbers if able to be realized -- when fused to Jacob deGrom, Marcus Stroman, Noah Syndergaard and Steven Matz -- would give the Mets an elite, postseason contending rotation.
Frankly, with those five guys going every week, regardless of how they upgrade the bullpen and lineup this winter, the Mets would almost certainly at least be in the Wild Card mix come September.
The thing is, even at his numbers from last season, his value to the Mets would be more in making his annual 30 starts. In the role of fifth starter, health and having a strong baseline is just as important as greatness.
The Two-Year Cycle
I try not to put a ton of stock into guys that produce every other year. But, in the case of Porcello, it's difficult to ignore. Over and over again since 2011, he's had an up season, followed by a weaker season, followed by a better season. I realize one probably has nothing to do with the other and at some point that trend must stop, but -- if 2020 is a continuation -- it would mean he'll be better than he was in 2019.
To repeat, this is basically the production being predicted by FanGraphs.
Nevertheless, to sign him, a team has to square up this inconsistency.
For instance, in addition to the above numbers, in the span of 11 years, he's never made fewer than 27 starts in a season, he's gone from top prospect to falling off the map to getting back on top, he's been traded, signed a huge extension, won a Cy Young award only to lead the league in losses the next season, he's won a World Series ring and is coming off the worst season of his career.
That's a lot for any team, especially in New York with the Mets.
Singing for Supper
Lastly, I'm always in favor of signing guys like Porcello, who are still in their prime, but also in need of re-establishing themselves in hopes of getting his ideal contract the next winter.
Porcello has been paid roughly $120 million during his career. Yet, this is the first time he's ever been a free agent.
As I said earlier, he may end up seeing a multiyear offer, but the salary may be less than he's hoping to earn.
Instead, he can take a show-me, one-year deal, add at least another $10-12 million to his bank account and -- if things go well -- find himself 31 years old and certainly able to get a lucrative, multiyear deal next winter.
In the end
There are several teams in the market for an innings-eating, back-of-the-rotation pitcher, including the Mets. Porcello would be better served taking a one-year deal from a team in a more quiet market than New York, which would also draw in family and friends and expectations from his hometown not far in New Jersey.
Elsewhere, such as San Diego, he could calmly up his value -- plus probably be in a pennant race -- setting himself up to be in a good negotiating position at the end of the season.
On the other hand, if he's looking for a young team with an already awesome pitching staff ready to take the next step, if he's looking to reinvent himself on a big stage in front of a lot rabid fans and media, and if he wants to do it in a pitcher's park, he and the Mets should find a way to get him to Queens.
Matthew Cerrone (Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | Contact) is a senior writer of MetsBlog.com, which he created in 2003. His book, The New York Mets Fans' Bucket List, details 44 things every Mets fan should experience during their lifetime.