SAN DIEGO — Rick Porcello’s year didn’t go as planned. He wanted an extension at the beginning of spring training but that didn’t come to fruition. Then, he struggled on the mound.
He pitched to the tune of a career-worst 5.52 ERA in 174⅓ innings for the Red Sox while allowing 1.6 homers per nine innings, the second-worst mark of his career.
So once his four-year, $82.5 million contract expired at the end of the season, his performance and the Sox’ goal of getting under the luxury tax made it increasingly unlikely that Porcello would return for 2020.
That didn’t mean suitors wouldn’t line up for Porcello, who is still just 30 years old.
On the final day of Winter Meetings Thursday, the New York Mets signed the New Jersey native to a one-year, $10 million deal, banking on the hope that Porcello can have a bounce-back season. Porcello joins one of the best rotations in baseball, with Jacob deGrom, Noah Syndergaard, and Marcus Stroman.
The deal allows Porcello to become a free agent again at the end of next season. If he does have a solid year, he could very well sign a far more lucrative deal with the Mets or someone else.
Porcello was a reliable starter in his five years with the Sox, and despite his 2019 struggles, his tenure was a success. He won the American League Cy Young Award in 2016 and played a key role in the World Series triumph in 2018.
He’s as durable as they come, having made 30-plus starts nine times in his 11 major league seasons. He posted a 73-55 record and a respectable 4.43 ERA in his time with the Sox and tossed 964 innings.
While the injury bug bit the Sox’ pitching staff last season, Porcello made every start. He didn’t back down from his poor performance.
“Rick was outstanding for us in so many ways, as a leader for our pitching staff and our clubhouse,” Red Sox assistant general manager Zack Scott said Thursday morning. “He was huge. He did everything the right way. Always took the ball, worked his ass off.
“I’m very grateful for everything he did for us. He was a really great fit for us.”
Porcello’s final three starts last season were the best he looked all year. He tossed a total of 17 innings, allowing five runs and just one homer. In his last start, against the Texas Rangers, he struck out eight (tying his season high) in a 10-3 win.
A change of scenery to a more pitcher-friendly ballpark like Citi Field might benefit Porcello, who uses more finesse than power on the mound at this point in his career.
“The one thing about Rick is he’s going to continue to work hard and figure out how to get better,” Scott said. “No one is harder on him than himself. He takes ownership of his performance. He’s going to do everything he can to bounce back.”