The New York Mets appear to have found their fifth starter for 2020, Michael Wacha. They’re going to need a rare healthy season from him to make it work.
The New York Mets haven’t officially added Michael Wacha to the roster, but given his connection to general manager Brodie Van Wagenen as a former client of his, it’s going to take a lot of broken pens for him to not put pen to paper. The team is reportedly under an agreement to sign the former St. Louis Cardinals pitcher to a one-year deal worth $3 million with another $7 million worth of incentives.
The contract isn’t so bad considering Wacha will need to meet certain expectations to feast on the deal fully. He’s a $3 million risk they can erase if his season is a disaster.
Statistically, Wacha measures up well as a fifth starter. He’s 59-39 for his career with a 3.91 ERA. Last season was one of his weaker campaigns, resulting in a 6-7 record and 4.76 ERA in 24 starts and another five appearances out of the bullpen.
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While reviewing his MLB career, there’s a theme. Wacha has had issues staying healthy. In 2015 and 2017 he made 30 starts while compiling 181.1 and 165.2 innings respectively. In all other seasons, he has failed to go above 24 starts.
Again, he’s not so bad for a number five. The unfortunate part of this deal is the Mets have already lost Zack Wheeler who was more like a number two or three. Taking this into consideration, it’s a few steps back.
The last two seasons have been injury-prone for the 28-year-old righty. In 15 starts back in 2018, he pitched well, going 8-2 with a 3.20 ERA. The shortened season did include a high walk rate of 3.8 which he bested last year at a slight margin with 3.9 walks per nine.
A 1.56 WHIP in 2019 is what scares me most about Wacha. He hasn’t been especially good at keeping the basepaths clear in his career. A 1.32 WHIP for his career warns us of how many opportunities opposing teams should routinely have to hit with runners on base.
Prior to this signing, it looked like the Mets’ main target was 2016 Cy Young winner Rick Porcello. The thing I liked about Porcello—despite having a much worse 2019—was his durability. Porcello has remained healthy and on the field throughout his major league career. The opposite is true for Wacha.
Pitching depth is an issue for New York and Wacha will do little to help ease any fear we may have. Beyond him, they have Stephen Gonsalves and Walker Lockett as possible starters. They could always pull Seth Lugo or Robert Gsellman from the bullpen, too. With the former, they would potentially strip the relief corps of its best pitcher. I don’t recommend that.
I think most people had the same reaction to the Wacha signing. It’s hard to really criticize because of how low the salary is. The Mets certainly have room to do more.
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Putting their faith in Wacha to make 30 starts, however, is a mistake. He has only done so twice and unless they can upgrade the starting pitching depth, Mets fans are going to experience at least a handful of missed starts from Wacha.