Rick Porcello’s first foray into free agency started with a look in the mirror. The 2016 American League Cy Young Award winner had to digest what went wrong in what he on Monday called a “very ineffective” 2019 season.
What the 30-year-old native of Morristown, New Jersey, saw was a pitcher who was better than his 5.52 ERA, which was the worst among pitchers who threw enough innings to qualify for the ERA crown last season.
Porcello said he was “overwhelmed” by the interest he received in free agency. One of the first teams to call — even before clubs were allowed to talk dollars and cents — was the Mets, who happened to be Porcello’s favorite team when he was growing up, especially the 2000 World Series team.
So with the chance to play an hour from his New Jersey home, and with the chance to improve his value and go back into free agency next offseason (perhaps for a multiyear deal), Porcello decided to join the Mets for one year and $10 million.
The deal was agreed to at last week’s winter meetings in San Diego. It was finalized on Monday as Porcello passed a physical that officially allows him to become a part of the Mets’ six-man starter group.
Porcello will join fellow free-agent signee Michael Wacha at the back end of the Mets’ rotation. It wasn’t that long ago when Porcello was a front-end starter. In 2016, he went 22-4 with a 3.15 ERA for the Red Sox and won the AL Cy Young Award.
Since then, he has a 4.79 ERA. Overall, he is 149-118 with a 4.36 ERA in 343 games (339 starts) with Detroit and Boston.
So what went wrong last season?
“There’s kind of a long list of things, honestly,” Porcello said on a conference call. “From the offseason leading into spring training and then certain things that kind of happened throughout the course of the season that I think contributed to some of the struggles that I had. I’ve got a pretty good grasp on what was going on.
“I think that mechanically, when things are off, it starts to affect how you’re thinking on the mound and the mental stuff starts to go a little bit. But it’s just a matter of not being in position to execute pitches, when you really boil it down.
“So I’ve got a bunch of things that I’ve been doing this offseason, whether it’s drill work or looking at video and comparing some of the things that I’ve done well to what I wasn’t doing well and making sure that I’m staying on top of that. I started throwing a lot earlier this offseason.”
Porcello said he’s excited to work with new pitching coach Jeremy Hefner and to pitch in the same rotation as two-time NL Cy Young Award winner Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, Marcus Stroman, Steven Matz and Wacha. That’s assuming general manager Brodie Van Wagenen keeps all of them.
“It’s extremely exciting,” Porcello said. “I’ve been watching these guys from afar . . . All these guys are extremely talented guys that are fierce competitors, and that’s what I consider myself.”