MASHANTUCKET, Conn. — Rick Porcello’s former teammate, Max Scherzer, just signed a $210 million contract with the Washington Nationals. It’d be understandable if Porcello was licking his chops with free agency looming.
Porcello, who is set to hit the open market next offseason, could position himself for a nice payday with a strong season for the Boston Red Sox. But while the possibility is alluring, the 26-year-old suggested Saturday he’s more focused on getting acclimated with his new organization.
“I just got here and met the guys last night, so I think it’s premature for that,” said Porcello, who was acquired from the Detroit Tigers at last month’s Major League Baseball winter meetings. “I’m just trying to settle in and fit in with everybody and get to know the guys and get to know the staff.”
Porcello is coming off his best season to date. The right-hander finished with new bests in wins (15), ERA (3.43), innings (204 2/3), ERA+ (116), WHIP (1.23) and walks per nine innings (1.8). He was a key cog in the Tigers’ star-studded rotation despite often being overshadowed by the likes of Scherzer, Justin Verlander and David Price.
It’s unlikely Porcello will land a Scherzer-sized contract anytime soon — Scherzer’s deal is the largest ever given to a right-handed pitcher — but the market has been kind to starting pitchers in recent years. The reality isn’t lost on Porcello. It just isn’t his top priority one month after being dealt to Boston in exchange for outfielder Yoenis Cespedes, reliever Alex Wilson and minor leaguer Gabe Speier.
“It’s always strange, at least for me,” Porcello said Saturday at the Red Sox’s Baseball Winter Weekend event at Foxwoods Resort Casino. “Growing up, you played baseball because you love playing the sport, and then the money stuff gets thrown around.
“And obviously for somebody in a personal, financial standpoint, that’s a huge opportunity and a big thing to look at. But I think, at least for me, over the course of my career, no matter how much money I’d make, I’m not happy unless I’m playing well. That’s first and foremost.”
The Red Sox recently have been reluctant to hand out big-money contracts to pitchers. Look no further than Jon Lester’s free agency this offseason as proof. Porcello ultimately might represent an exception, largely because he turned 26 just last month, but it’s possible the sides simply will see how things turn out in 2015 before pursuing a potential extension.
“The most important thing in my mind is getting settled in in spring training. I’m going to head down there in a couple of days,” Porcello said. “Just getting off to a good start and really locking in and having a good year.
“Obviously the money is a huge benefit of playing this game, but for me, the most important thing is to make sure that I play well. I don’t care how much money you’re making. If you’re not playing well, then you’re not happy, if you’re a competitive person and care about it.”
Porcello texted Scherzer — a “lucky you-know-what,” in Porcello’s words — immediately after the 2013 American League Cy Young signed his record-setting contract. He congratulated him on becoming a rich man. Perhaps Scherzer someday will return the favor with a similar congratulatory text.
Don’t expect Porcello to stare at his phone in the meantime. There’s work to be done.
Thumbnail photo via Twitter/@mattpep15