Starting pitcher Michael Wacha has every intention of keeping that first part of his title intact when he suits up with the Mets next season.
The 28-year-old righthander said the team told him they wanted him to start, and that was a big reason why he decided to sign.
“They said they had a spot to start,” Wacha said on a conference call Friday afternoon. “I’m here to be in that rotation and be out there every fifth day. That’s my plan. My mindset going into this offseason is preparing for that role. I think it’s a great fit. This rotation that they got, up and down, is top notch.”
That plan became a tad more complicated with the news that the Mets have a pending $10 million, one-year deal with former Cy Young award winner Rick Porcello as well. With Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman and Steven Matz, Wacha and Porcello figure to fight it out over the fifth spot unless the team decides to use six starters.
Despite the potential for a back-end logjam, Wacha said he isn’t concerned about the potential musical chairs scenario that the Porcello signing could bring.
“Honestly, I just try to worry about myself,” Wacha said. “That’s hard enough to do. I try not to worry about other things that I can’t really control. But, there’s six really good pitchers that can all pitch and be really good out there. I’m just looking forward to the opportunity and getting after it.”
Wacha did spend a little time in the bullpen last season with the Cardinals, pitching to a 5.68 ERA and 1.82 WHIP in five relief outings. His only other bullpen stints came in 2016 (three appearances) and as a rookie in 2013 (six appearances).
“I’ve got my mindset going in as a starter right now,” Wacha said. “Down the road, who knows what’s going on, but my mindset going in is definitely as a starter.”
Wacha signed a one-year, $3 million dollar contract that includes $8 million in performance bonuses. He can earn $7 million as a starter and $1 million as a reliever.
The performance bonuses are structured under a points system. Wacha would earn a point toward a bonus for each start or each relief appearance of three or more innings, getting $500,000 each for points 10, 14, 18, 20 and each additional point through 30. He would get $250,000 apiece for 40, 45, 50 and 55 relief appearances.
He also has award bonuses of $50,000 for winning the Cy Young, $25,000 for finishing second and $10,000 for finishing third; $100,000 for World Series MVP and $50,000 each for League Championship Series MVP, making the All-Star Game and winning a Gold Glove or Silver Slugger.
Those incentives will prove lucrative if Wacha rebounds from a down season in 2019. He had a 4.76 ERA and 1.56 WHIP in 29 games (24 starts) and lost his rotation spot twice. In parts of seven seasons with the Cardinals, Wacha was 59-39 with a 3.91 ERA and 1.33 WHIP.
“Getting this deal done with these guys is exactly what I needed,” Wacha said. “Just getting back out there. I know I had a down year last year, but the offseason has been going great. I believe in myself and I think signing this deal allows me to go out there, pitch to the best of my ability, and go forward from there.”
Wacha was an All-Star is 2015 when he went 17-7 with a 3.38 ERA and 1.21 WHIP in 30 starts. He was a teammate of Mets manager Carlos Beltran with the Cardinals in 2013 and said he is very excited to play for him.
“He’s the man,” Wacha said. “I’m really looking forward to seeing him again. I was able to contact him a little bit. I talked to him over the phone and expressed some excitement about joining up with him again. It’ll be nice having that familiar face in the clubhouse and getting to work with him, because he really is the best and (has) unbelievable knowledge about the game.”