SAN DIEGO – The Mets have their ace.
The day after the winter meetings, the Mets would agree on a two-year contract with right-hander Justin Verlander. According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the deal is for $86 million with a third-year vesting option.
One of baseball’s most accomplished pitchers and future Hall of Famer, Verlander won three AL Cy Young Awards, an MVP and Rookie of the Year and helped the Houston Astros to two Series wins. and four AL pennants, as well as the Detroit Tigers to an AL pennant. He begins his 40-year-old season next year but has shown no signs of slowing down, winning his third Cy Young Award in 2022 after returning from surgery at Tommy John.
Verlander will replace Jacob deGrom, who signed a five-year contract with the Texas Rangers on Friday night in a surprise move ahead of winter meetings.
This reunites Verlander with Max Scherzer, his former Tigers teammate. The duo have six Cy Young awards between them and are both signed through 2024 with an option for 2025. Having high short-term AAV contracts at the top of the rotation mitigates some long-term risk.
The Mets have three pieces of their rotation in place with Scherzer, Verlander and Carlos Carrasco. They also have David Peterson, Tylor Megill and Joey Lucchessi, all of whom are capable of making debuts, but the Mets would need to be active in the trade or free agent markets to acquire another mid-level starter.
Verlander missed the 2021 season to recover from Tommy John surgery, but came back to the Astros to go 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA and 2.49 FIP in 28 starts (175 innings pitched) and a fWAR of 6.1. It was the lowest single-season ERA of his career. He finished the season helping the Astros win their second World Series title since 2017 and he finally earned his first career World Series win in Game 5 against the Philadelphia Phillies.
Verlander’s career fWAR of 78.1 is the highest among any active player and ranks 24th overall.
A native of Manakin, Va., Verlander was drafted first overall out of Old Dominion University by the Tigers in 2004. He has been one of baseball’s most consistent aces, having made 30 or more starts in a season 13 times and 28 or more twice. over 17 seasons. Even before the elbow injury in 2021, he was still consistently throwing over 200 innings per season.
In 35 career playoff appearances (34 starts) between the Astros and Tigers, he is 16-11 with a 3.64 ERA. The Mets believe playoff experience is important for a group that has only reached the playoffs once since 2016 and Verlander gives them another World Series winner who knows what it takes to throw in significant games at the end of the season.