It’s been a whirlwind of a few days for the New York Mets, and that continued this past weekend. The Mets signed one of the most coveted pitchers in the free agent market in Kodai Senga. The signing come just a few days after the Mets brass handed out a massive contract to Brandon Nimmo. If these two moves are an indication of the direction of the Mets, it’s that the team from Queens will spend big bucks, even if it means blowing through the luxury tax threshold.
A Look at Nimmo
At first glance, an eight-year deal and over $20 million for a player like Brandon Nimmo seems like a lot. Since being called up to the Majors late in 2016, the former first-round pick has logged just two seasons in which Nimmo has played 100 or more games. That contract, however, is a byproduct of what Nimmo is capable of when healthy.
Brandon Nimmo had his most complete season to date in 2022. Nimmo set career highs in runs score (102), hits (159), and RBIs (64). Batting primarily from the leadoff spot last season, the center field finished in the top 20 (min. 400 PA) among all players in OBP (.367). Nimmo drew 71 walks in 2022, while also cutting down on chases. While Nimmo doesn’t have plus pop, he does possess great bat-to-ball skills and can hit 15-20 home runs a season.
Nimmo was the top center field option in the free agent market by a healthy margin. Nimmo’s terrific skills at the plate, coupled with the leaps made in defensive metrics, made the 29-year old a popular name in the free agent market. At the end of the day, though, Nimmo remains with the team that drafted him back in 2011.
A Look at Senga
Shortly after the Nimmo signing, the Mets wasted no time in fortifying its rotation. Reports on Saturday confirmed that coveted Japanese right-handed pitcher Kodai Senga is headed to Queens. The deal is reportedly for five years, and will pay Senga $75 million.
Last season with Softbank in the Japan Pacific League, Senga struck out 156 over 144 innings, and pitched to a tune of a 1.94 ERA. Senga’s calling cards are a fastball that can sit in the mid-to-upper 90’s, and touch as high as 101 MPH, and what has been known as a “ghost” splitter. Senga’s splitter has great movement, and profiles as the 29-year old’s best pitch.
If Mets fans are worried about how Senga will hold up in the Majors, the new Met did appear against the U.S. in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. In two innings of relief, Senga struck out five batters against a stacked team that included Buster Posey, Andrew McCutchen, and Christian Yelich.
Per Spotrac, the Mets are currently slated to have a payroll of $305 million. That total will only rise once the Mets work out deals with arbitration-eligible players.
What it Means for the Mets and the NL East
After losing in the NL Wild Card round to the Padres, New York had a tall task ahead in the offseason. With virtually the entire bullpen of the 2022 team — as well as three-fifths of the team’s rotation — headed to free agency, the Mets knew that copious amounts of spending would need to be done in order to compete with the Phillies and Braves. After a long few weeks that included re-signing Nimmo and NL Reliever of the Year Edwin Diaz, as well as filling out the rotation and bullpen with new pieces, the Mets have held steady in the NL East.
Despite losing franchise stalwart Jacob deGrom to Texas, the Mets picked up an equivalent ace in Justin Verlander. With Taijuan Walker off to Philly, the Mets signed Jose Quintana as a nice back-end rotation piece. Senga should slot in to Chris Bassitt‘s slot in the rotation, and relievers David Robertson and Brooks Raley will look to fill holes left behind by the likes of Adam Ottavino and Seth Lugo.
The Mets will most likely be after relief help after signing Senga, after a week that has gotten the train back on track for the team from Flushing. After the flurry of transactions, New York brings back a potent lineup that could take a step forward should Brett Baty and Francisco Alvarez stick at some point next season. On top of that, a rotation that features Verlander, Max Scherzer, Senga, and Carrasco can make a great impact provided that health is on the Mets’ side.
The NL East is going to be an exciting division to watch next season, and it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that it can produce three playoff teams again. Atlanta returns a strong group in 2023, and the Phillies have made big pickups in recent days. And, it’s not out of the question that at least one of these three teams have another big move in them before the start of Spring Training.