Mets, RHP Kodai Senga agree on 5-year, $75 million contract
New York has struck again in free agency, reportedly signing Kodai Senga, who has a 2.59 ERA in his 11-year career in Japan.
Since acquiring RHP Justin Verlander to kick-off the Winter Meetings, the Mets have been endeavoring to solidify the middle of their starting rotation following the departures of Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker.
The club reportedly took the first step in doing so, agreeing to sign LHP José Quintana to a two-year contract later that week.
Now, the Mets have taken another step towards solidifying the middle and back of their rotation, agreeing to sign RHP Kodai Senga to five-year, $75 million contract. Senga has a player option after the 2025 season, as well as a full no-trade clause.
Andy Martino was the first to report the two sides were close to an agreement.
Senga, 30, has spent his entire 11-year professional career in the Nippon Professional Baseball League in Japan, posting a 2.59 ERA with 1,252 strikeouts in 1,089 IP at their highest level of play. He has, however, allowed 414 walks during that span as well. He most recently pitched to a 1.94 ERA for the Blackhawks in the Japan Pacific League in 2022 with a 3.18 strikeout-to-walk ratio while striking out an impressive 27.4 percent of the batters he faced. Senga also has a mid-90s fastball and an elite, wipeout splitter, per Sports Illustrated.
Command has been an issue for Senga in the NPB, as his three walks per nine innings in 2022 would suggest, and that number is actually down from his career average of 3.4. For reference, Senga’s career mark of 3.4 walks per nine would have ranked as the third-highest among qualified starting pitchers in the league this past season, behind just Nick Pivetta (3.66 walks per nine) and Dylan Cease (3.88 walks per nine). As such, the Mets and pitching coach Jeremy Hefner will need to find a formula and mechanical adjustment to improve Senga’s command and efficiency, which in-turn will make his splitter that much more effective over time.
That being said, the stuff is absolutely there and is incredibly tantalizing. Plus, with the acquisitions of Verlander and Quintana, there is far less pressure on this situation that would require Senga to be an ace right from the jump. Because of the depth they already have and the deep pockets of their owner, the Mets are afforded a the opportunity to take a chance on a somewhat unknown quantity with a incredible stuff and a phenomenal upside.
Last month, Senga came to the United States and met with six or seven clubs while touring their respective ballparks. He reportedly wanted to join a big league club in position to win right now - the Mets checked that box for him as the Mets look to meet Steve Cohen’s goal of winning a championship within his first five years of ownership.
“I like him,” Buck Showalter said on Tuesday at the Winter Meetings. “It’s tough to project, but a good pitcher is a good pitcher. You are always thinking about the load of pitching every fifth day compared to [once per week], but they said that about some really good Japanese pitchers that have come over and done well.”
Senga joins a rotation currently constructed with Max Scherzer, Justin Verlander José Quintana, and Carlos Carrasco. The acquisition of Senga creates depth for the Mets by default — assuming they don’t trade Carrasco — as it allows both David Peterson and Tylor Megill to serve as either bullpen pieces, swing arms, minor league depth or a combination of all three over the course of the 2023 season. The club also has Elieser Hernández and Joey Lucchesi to round out their depth entering next year.
The procurement of Senga does presumably put an end to Chris Bassitt’s story with the Mets. Bassitt, now a free agent, originally came to New York in a trade with the A’s following the lockout last offseason. The Mets were reportedly interested in retaining Bassitt before they signed Senga, although there hadn’t been a lot of communication between the two parties since the season came to a close.
Even so, the Mets now have five starting pitchers at the top of the depth chart, four of which come with a track record and Senga with intriguing upside thanks to his repertoire and history in the NPB.