Quintessentially, this is a prove-it deal for Luis Severino on multiple levels.
The 29-year-old right-hander is coming off his worst season as a pro, dealing with rampant injury issues and a pitch-tipping fiasco that contributed to a 4-8 record, a career-worst 6.65 ERA, and a 1.646 WHIP across 19 appearances. A high-grade left oblique strain in September ended his season and New York Yankees career early.
“I need to address those problems right now and just pitch and forget about everything else,” Severino said during his introductory press conference on Wednesday.
David Stearns and the Mets still took a chance on him this winter, inking Severino to a one-year, $13 million pact to bolster the rotation through patchworking and salvaging. The Mets also brought in veteran Sean Manaea, who is looking to revamp his career as a starter after a promising finish to 2023 with the San Francisco Giants.
Once an All-Star and a Cy Young Award finalist, Severino’s career was derailed by a litany of injuries, ranging from rotator cuff inflammation to Tommy John surgery, to strains in his groin and lat. He’s pitched in just 45 games since the start of the 2019 season.
“To hear his determination to get his body in the right spot, a lot of this is making sure that we’re physically ready and healthy when we go out there,” Stearns said. “For a guy like Sevy, that’s a big part of this… There are no guarantees but we’re starting with someone who has performed at a high level and in big moments.”
Then there’s the pitch-tipping, an issue that dates back to at least 2018 but became a significant hindrance last season. His glove placement helped tip off batters what pitch was coming as well as exposing his hand to runners on base. His stride would also fly open on certain pitches.
It’s ultimately impacted his arsenal of pitches, which have seen a drop in total movement in recent years. Severino, like Manaea, has worked with the data-driven training facility, Driveline, to get some of that back on his offspeed pitches.
— Driveline Baseball (@DrivelineBB) January 11, 2024
“There’s a lot of things that I was doing wrong,” Severino said. “I was having problems with tipping. When you know you’re doing something that hitters know is coming… I need to address that now so that when I go on the mound when the season starts, I can just worry about pitching rather than my glove being too high or something like that.”
Clearly, the Mets believe that his issues can be rectified to get back to the kind of pitcher who went 33-14 with a 3.18 ERA and two top-10 Cy Young Award finishes. A return to that form provides the Mets with a top-two arm in their rotation alongside Kodai Senga, which could supplement the blow of an otherwise quiet offseason when it came to addressing the pitching staff.
“When he’s at the top of his game, he’s one of the best pitchers in this league,” Stearns said. “As we went into this offseason and evaluated pitchers that could’ve been available, it was tough to find many with higher upsides than Sevy. We believe he can get back there… We’re really excited to bring him to the Mets… We think he’s poised for a really successful season for us next year.”