The New York Mets are have replaced outgoing free agent Zack Wheeler. The club has agreed to a one-year contract with free agent right-hander Michael Wacha, reports Tim Healey of Newsday. Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the deal is worth $3 million with $7 million in available incentives. The Mets have not yet confirmed an agreement.
Wacha, 28, was one of the youngest free agents on the market this offseason. He had the worst season of his career in 2019, throwing 126 2/6 innings with a 4.76 ERA and fewer than two strikeouts per walk with the Cardinals. Wacha dealt with a knee injury early in the season and was demoted to the bullpen briefly at midseason.
Wacha threw 84 1/3 innings with a 3.20 ERA in 2018, but a severe oblique strain ended his season in June. Only once in the last four years has Wacha thrown as many as 140 innings in a season. He's been held back by a series of injuries, including shoulder trouble a few years ago.
That said, Wacha is only 28, possesses league average fastball velocity and a knockout changeup when at his best. His breaking ball remains inconsistent, however, which has held him back along with the injuries. The changeup and the age give Wacha more upside than the average free agent, but there is risk.
The Mets intend to bring righties Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman to spring training as starting pitchers, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post, though they are likely to wind up back in the bullpen. Lugo was the club's most trusted bullpen arm late this past season. Here is the rotation depth chart:
The Mets are thin beyond the top five, especially if Lugo and/or Gsellman return to the bullpen, so expect the club to seek lower-cost pitching depth the next few weeks. Waiver claims, minor league contracts, things like that. They need some arms to stash in Triple-A to help cover for injuries or other headaches.
It's worth noting Wacha is represented by CAA, Mets GM Brodie Van Wagenen's former agency. Since taking over as GM last year, Van Wagenen as signed or traded for several of his former clients, including Robinson Cano and Jed Lowrie. Wacha is now another member of that group.