Michael Wacha's intentions are clear. With the Mets, he hopes to put together a season reminiscent of his younger days and build value heading into free agency next winter.

In December, with general manager Brodie Van Wagenen and Co. in San Diego for the winter meetings, the Mets signed Wacha to a one-year deal. The thinking seemed clear: The club achieves starting pitching depth, the right-hander receives an opportunity for redemption. It could be a perfect partnership.

Of course, the signing's potential success depends on many factors. And with COVID-19 forcing a sports shutdown, a few are uncontrollable.

Let's examine Wacha's situation.

Not stressed

Wacha, like everyone, knew the obvious: The Mets had six starters for five spots. There seemed to be a competition entering spring training.

It might be difficult, but this spring, Wacha insisted the rotation situation did not weigh on him.

"No, not at all," he said after one Grapefruit League start. "My job is to go out there and get people out. That's what I'm trying to focus on."

Wacha said the Mets told him he would be a starter. He emphasized he had no reason to believe otherwise.

Would Wacha capture the final rotation spot? Would it be Rick Porcello? And was Steven Matz in competition with both?

Questions swirled.

Turns out, they'll all be a part of the Mets' rotation.

Unfortunately for the club, Noah Syndergaard tore his ulnar collateral ligament and underwent Tommy John surgery. It's likely he will not return until next summer. Losing a No. 2 starter is a brutal blow.

But the Mets added starting pitching depth. It will be used.

This spring, Wacha went 7 2/3 innings before giving up his first run. He said he felt well.

All the while, he shook off questions about the potential rotation competition.

Can he be the same guy?

Is Wacha still the guy who went to the All-Star Game? Is he still the guy who took the league by storm in 2013 and 2014?

With Wacha, there might be more questions than answers at this point. The season ahead is big for him.

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In 2019, Wacha experienced perhaps the worst season of his career. His fielding independent pitching rose to 5.61, by far the highest FIP in his career. He tallied career-worst marks in strikeouts per nine innings (7.39), walks per nine innings (3.91) and home runs per nine innings (1.85).

Over the last couple seasons, injuries have derailed him. The most recent: Last year's shoulder injury in late September, which kept him out of postseason action.

Wacha holds a 3.50 FIP — which is considered great — if you take out last season. He's flashed greatness before, which is why the Mets were drawn to him.

At the winter meetings, the Mets had merely agreed to a deal with Wacha but it was not yet official. That meant Van Wagenen could not say much at the time, but he did offer this:

“He’s got championship makeup," the GM said of Wacha, who is a former NLCS MVP.

Why 2020 could be tough for Wacha

No one knows how much baseball will be played in 2020 — if any. If baseball returns, it probably won't look like the sport we're accustomed to watching.

Regardless, 2020 could be extra difficult for guys like Wacha. He and others, like Porcello, aimed to use the season as a way to regain value. Many players viewed it as a shot at redemption, an opportunity to set themselves up for free agency next winter.

What will that market look like after a year like this? Furthermore, it seems a shortened season could hurt Wacha and others who perhaps won't be able to gain as much leverage for negotiations that'll occur months from now.

Statistically, the shortened season could benefit some while hurting others. A player could wildly exceed expectations and take advantage of the smaller sample size. On the other hand, a struggling player — especially a starting pitcher — won't have as much time to correct his direction.

Regardless, this is still a strange year. We will remember it as such. Free agency may not be the same after the season because owners may still be reeling from paying employees during a time when revenues were down.

But of course, Wacha returning to his form from a few years back would help him this winter.

toscanoj@northjersey.com

Twitter: @justinctoscano