The Mets lost a cornerstone of its franchise on December 2, with former NL Cy Young award winner Jacob deGrom taking his talents to the Texas Rangers. A few days after the loss, New York has rebounded. The Mets have reportedly signed three-time Cy Young award winner Justin Verlander to a two-year deal, in a move that was necessary for the Mets’ hopes in 2023.
A Look at Verlander
Just days after losing arguably the best Mets pitcher since Tom Seaver, Steve Cohen and Billy Eppler replaced Jacob deGrom with a three-time Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander. Verlander, at age 39, defied father time in 2022, earning yet another AL Cy Young while also taking home the AL Comeback Player of the Year award as well.
This past season, Verlander led all AL pitchers in wins (18), ERA (1.75), ERA+ (220), and WHIP (0.83) for an Astros team that romped to a second World Series title. After missing nearly all of 2020 and the entire 2021 campaign, the future Hall of Famer didn’t show any rust or age.
Verlander put up a tidy BB% rate (4.4%), displaying masterful control across his dominant campaign. Much of that success can be attributed to a terrific fastball that had the same pre-2020 velocity, and a high average spin rate. The 39-year old did get less swings and misses off of the breaking stuff, but both pitches were still very reliable for Verlander.
What Now for the Mets and Everyone Else
The Mets get more than an adequate replacement for Jacob deGrom. Verlander still showed that he can be an elite pitcher in 2022, and the high spin rates and increased extension shown by the former AL MVP winner does prove that the righty’s evolution is still ongoing. Health, though, will be the key for this signing to work. It is just a two-year deal, but Verlander will enter 2023 as a 40-year old starter. Just that point alone makes this deal somewhat risky for a Mets team that needs frontline starter production from the two-time World Series champion.
One other note on the Mets: this can’t be the last major move for New York. Aside from needing more bullpen help to support Edwin Diaz, the Mets will need at least one more starter. As things stand right now, the Mets’ rotation includes Verlander, Max Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson, and one of either Tylor Megill and Elieser Hernandez. With two offensive powerhouses in Atlanta and Philadelphia in the NL East, pitching will be key for the Mets to make the MLB Playoffs for the second straight set. A second-tier option like a Nathan Eovaldi, or a potential reunion with Taijuan Walker or Chris Bassitt would be the kind of fortification needed.
Additionally, the Mets will need to figure out its situation in center field. Brandon Nimmo is a free agent, and New York has no clear replacement at the moment. Re-signing Nimmo would make a great deal of sense given his skillset, but it won’t be cheap.
With Verlander off the market, Carlos Rodon now becomes the center of attention. Both deGrom and Verlander are off the board, thus leaving the former Giant as the lone ace left in free agency. Rodon has posted some gaudy strikeout numbers over the past few seasons, cementing his status as an elite left-handed starter in MLB. The Mets could be interested in adding Rodon as well, but other suitors will be involved. One of those teams may very well be the Astros, a team that is now down one ace.