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Is there a runway for the Mets to sign both Jacob deGrom & Justin Verlander?
The Mets recently spoke with Verlander and have maintained communication with deGrom
What’s Up with the Mets? 🍎
The Giants have joined the growing list of teams interested in Brandon Nimmo (SF Chronicle)
The Yankees have requested medical information on Jacob deGrom (SNY)
Can the Mets fit both Jacob deGrom AND Justin Verlander into their rotation? ✍🏻
On Sunday night, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the Mets had recently spoken with reigning Cy Young Award winner and future Hall of Famer Justin Verlander over a Zoom session.
Verlander opted out of his contract with the Astros, making him a free agent while surrendering $25 million he had earned through a conditional player option. He joined Jacob deGrom at the top of the free agent market for starting pitchers, who exercised his opt out of the remainder of his contract with the Mets after the World Series.
Pursuing Verlander makes a ton of sense for the Mets, as I wrote last week. But the stars need to be aligned for this.
He’s obviously an elite future Hall of Famer, a three-time Cy Young Award winner and while he will turn 40 at the beginning of Spring Training, is showing no signs of slowing down after missing the 2021 season while he recovered from Tommy John Surgery.
Meanwhile, Mike Puma of the New York Post recently reported the Mets feel reasonably good about their chances of retaining deGrom, who is believed to prefer remaining with the Mets should he receive what he believes is fair market value in a new contract.
For both Verlander and deGrom, it can be presumed they will both approach, if not exceed the average annual value of Max Scherzer’s contract of $43 million, the highest amount ever given out to a player in major league history.
For the Mets and Verlander, if they’re willing and able to retain deGrom, there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be able meet Verlander’s demands. So again, it makes a ton of sense the Mets would pursue Verlander this winter.
So, naturally, the question came up on Twitter on Sunday night: Is there a world where the Mets could sign Verlander and deGrom?
Well, there’s no question the Mets can pay both. It’s not a matter of money specifically. The Mets (and pretty much any team, no matter what they might tell you) can afford to pay any player.
It’s more of a question of would they, or should they.
And, the better question to ask is, should the Mets sign deGrom and Verlander with Max Scherzer already in the rotation?
Here’s my answer, which starts in the form of two questions.
Would the Mets pay three starting pitchers over the age of 35 in excess of $40 million per year, even for a maximum of three years? Should the Mets be allocating $130-140 million of payroll in each of the next two seasons to three pitchers?
Durability, effectiveness, and both combined are all fair to challenge with these three great pitchers going forward. It’s already a fair challenge right now as all three have experienced durability issues over the last two years.
And the question has nothing to do with the the wealth of the owner, either.
Remember at the beginning of the year when we all had dreams of Scherzer and deGrom serving as the most dynamic 1-2 punch in the game? They weren’t even in the same rotation until August 1 and combined to earn $75 million over 34 starts between them.
The best laid plans…
The Mets have about $130 million committed already to their 2024 payroll, but few dollars (relatively speaking) allocated to their 2025 payroll at the moment, with only Francisco Lindor, Starling Marte, and Edwin Díaz on the books for guaranteed money (about $75 million) by then. So the Mets are positioned well with shorter free agent contracts and flexibility in future years on paper.
But the Mets have a lot of work to do for 2023 with a projected payroll already between $220 - $230 million, all of which doesn’t include deGrom with needs up and down their pitching staff (among other places on the roster). They will unquestionably be adding a lot to that payroll figure over the next four weeks through free agency and trades, and those players will commit dollars to future payroll as well. With that will likely come the addition of players on the wrong side of 30 as well, even if on shorter term deals like the one they signed Marte, Eduardo Escobar and Mark Canha last winter.
So, while there is plenty of runway to add one of deGrom or Verlander, it’s really hard to see even the Mets entertaining the possibility of having both along with Scherzer, combining to earn around $130 million with two of those three pitchers being over the age of 40 when it’s all said and done.
And even if these issues didn’t exist, it’s still fair to ask how wise it would be for a baseball team in 2023 to allocate $140 million or more to three starting pitchers. Regardless of age, regardless of injury history. Regardless of anything.
If the Mets had a more complete pitching staff and a bullpen designed to get more outs in the middle of a game, the Mets could be less risk averse and do something unprecedented with their staff like this. So for the moment anyway, signing one of Verlander and deGrom and filling the back of their rotation out along with their bullpen would be the most sensible and probably likely approach the Mets take this winter.
The fan in me itches to see a trio of deGrom/Scherzer/Verlander and all of the Cy Youngs, postseason experience, and the fearless bulldogs they are 90 or more times during a season. But it’s probably going to remain a baseball fantasy in the end.
Hot Stove 🔥
The Giants are showing interest in signing OF Cody Bellinger (SF Chronicle)
Bellinger may prefer a one-year contract with hopes he can bounce back and re-enter free agency next winter (Athletic)
Mitch Haniger is drawing interest from both the Dodgers and the Angels (MLB Network)
Carlos Beltrán, R.A. Dickey, Billy Wagner and Francisco Rodriguez are among 28 players on the 2023 BBWAA Hall of Fame Ballot (Official release)