SAN DIEGO — Three days after Jacob deGrom’s farewell, the Mets say hello to Justin Verlander.
The club and Verlander, the unanimous Cy Young winner of the 2022 American League, on Monday agreed a two-year deal worth $86 million, according to a person with knowledge of the deal who was not authorized to discuss it publicly.
Together they will see what they can do. The deal was based on the generosity of team owner Steven A. Cohen, whose club now employs the two most expensive pitchers in baseball history, based on annual paychecks. Max Scherzer’s median annual salary of $43.3 million is the highest in the industry, while Verlander’s new deal puts him second with an average annual salary of $43 million.
The deal reunites Verlander, 39, a three-time Cy Young winner, with Scherzer, 38, also a three-time Cy Young winner. The right-handers were teammates at Detroit from 2011-14 when they helped the Tigers to three straight American League Championship Series (2011-2013) and one World Series (2012, four games against San Francisco).
In New York they will try to do what they failed to do in Detroit: win a World Series.
Dave Dombrowski, then general manager of the Tigers and current president of baseball operations for the Philadelphia Phillies, still regards the 2013 season as the one that got away. The Tigers defeated Boston at Fenway Park in Game 1 of that year’s ALCS and then led Game 2 5-0 in the sixth inning, with Scherzer on the mound and Verlander scheduled to start Game 3 in Detroit.
But after Scherzer held the Red Sox in a seven-inning run, the Tigers’ bullpen began to give way and Hall of Famer David Ortiz hit a two-out grand slam when right fielder Torii Hunter in drama about the right- Field fence disappeared 6-5 comeback win. The Tigers never found their balance, and although Verlander held the Red Sox in an eight-inning run in Game 3, Boston won that game 1-0 as well and went on to win the World Series.
Since then, Verlander has helped the Astros win two World Series titles (2017 and 2022) and Scherzer has helped lead the Washington Nationals to one (2019).
But they’ve never won one together. And the Mets haven’t won one since 1986.
In 2022, his first full season after Tommy John’s surgery, Verlander was 18-4 with an MLB-best 1.75 ERA. He also led the majors with fewest hits allowed per nine innings.
When Verlander won a World Series game for the first time in his celebrated career last month, the Mets were at home after ending a 101-win season with a wildcard round-off in their first season under manager Buck Showalter in the hands of the San Diego Padres. The 101 wins was the second-highest in franchise history.
With deGrom limited to just 11 starts in 2022 due to a stress reaction in his right shoulder and Scherzer making 23 starts, the Mets’ rotation last season still ranked second in the National League with a 3.61 ERA. It was also tied with Milwaukee to lead the league in strikeouts per nine innings by 9.42.
DeGrom, who won two NL Cy Young Awards as a member of the Mets, agreed to a five-year, $185 million deal with Texas on Friday.
With Verlander turning 40 on Feb. 20, the Mets opted to offer bigger dollars and a shorter term than the deal deGrom got from the Rangers. Verlander’s deal includes a $35 million vesting option for 2025 if he plays at least 140 innings in 2024.
Verlander had signed a two-year, $50 million deal with Houston during the offseason, but became a free agent after waiving the $25 million salary owed to him for 2023. He and Astros owner Jim Crane have had some talks about Verlander Verlander staying in Houston, instead Verlander is moving to the NL for the first time in his career
Following Scherzer and Verlander, the Mets’ planned rotation for 2023 currently includes right-handers Carlos Carrasco and Tylor Megill and left-hander David Peterson. Right-handers Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker, who were part of the 2022 Mets rotation, are free agents.
Verlander had also spoken to the Los Angeles Dodgers before agreeing to the Mets, and just before his deal was reported, the Dodgers made it official that they had signed left-hander Clayton Kershaw to a one-year, $20 million contract in 2023. The Dodgers and Kershaw were agreed last month but didn’t sign a contract because the club wanted to retain an open roster spot and manoeuvrability.
But since Verlander settled with the Mets, suddenly the need for at least one open roster spot in Los Angeles wasn’t as necessary.