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Lifelong fan, Porcello officially joins Mets

@AnthonyDiComo
December 16, 2019

NEW YORK -- The Mets' acquisition of Michael Wacha did not end their pursuit of starting pitching. The team on Monday made its one-year deal with Rick Porcello official, further bolstering the rotation. The contract is worth $10 million, according to sources. "This is a big deal for me,” Porcello

NEW YORK -- The Mets' acquisition of Michael Wacha did not end their pursuit of starting pitching. The team on Monday made its one-year deal with Rick Porcello official, further bolstering the rotation. The contract is worth $10 million, according to sources.

"This is a big deal for me,” Porcello said on a conference call. “I grew up a lifelong Mets fan as a kid. To get the opportunity to play for the organization that I cheered on for so many years is a huge honor."

A New Jersey native, the right-handed Porcello won the 2016 American League Cy Young Award with the Red Sox and was a starting pitcher on Boston's 2018 World Series championship team. He has since posted a 4.79 ERA in three seasons, including a 5.52 mark last season that was worst among qualified Major League pitchers. But Porcello still offered the Red Sox value through durability, averaging 185 innings per season over the last 11 years between Boston and Detroit, during which he went 149-118 with a 4.36 ERA. The Mets believe that under new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner, the 30-year-old can thrive.

After the Tigers took him in the first round of the 2007 Draft, Porcello spent seven years in that organization before moving to Boston in a trade. He subsequently signed an $82.5 million extension.

"When you look at Rick Porcello, he's done it," Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen said last week, before the signing was official. "He's been battle-tested. He's performed in the playoffs. He's got rings on his fingers."

In New York, Porcello offers the Mets the type of rotation depth they did not possess last season, when their top five options started 154 games. To clear space for him on their 40-man roster, the Mets designated reliever Stephen Nogosek for assignment.

"There was a lot of talk 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. I think we're probably the deepest starting pitching rotation in baseball."

The question is how the pieces will fit together. While the Mets are not publicly committing to anyone, Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard and Marcus Stroman appear to have guaranteed jobs heading into Spring Training. In making their deals for Wacha and Porcello, the Mets assured both rotation jobs if healthy, according to a source. That leaves Steven Matz in line for a potential bump to the bullpen, though much can change between now and April. Currently, Van Wagenen said, the Mets still view Matz as a starter.

"We're going into Spring Training with six bona fide starters," Van Wagenen said. "If all are healthy, then we have more decisions to make that hopefully will be a high-class problem."

The move all but ensures Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman will remain in the bullpen as relievers. Although the Mets still plan to have both train as starters this winter, the reality is that -- again, if everyone is healthy -- there is not enough space for either in the rotation.

In effect, the Mets view their starting pitching signings as a way to make their relief corps strong. With Lugo and Gsellman no longer needed as starters, the Mets may not add another Major League reliever this offseason. They might not do anything else unless they find a way to dump money, now that they are on the cusp of exceeding Major League Baseball's Competitive Balance Tax threshold of $208 million. Much of their remaining offseason could be spent attempting to trade Jed Lowrie, who is due $10 million in 2020.

No matter what else they do, the Mets feel they have constructed one of the deepest, most potent starting staffs in baseball.

"I think championships are born by great starting pitchers," Van Wagenen said. "When we look at our rotation, we know that at the top, we already have guys that can be dominant pitchers throughout the course of 162 [games], but also can be impact guys in the postseason. Adding starting pitching with not only coverage for durability, but also upside … we feel like it puts us in a very strong position."

Anthony DiComo has covered the Mets for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AnthonyDiComo, Instagram and Facebook.