SAN DIEGO — The Jacob deGrom watch ended before these winter meetings began, leaving another multiple Cy Young award winner as the largest object of intrigue on the free-agent pitching front.
Justin Verlander, step right up — and meet the Mets?
The three-time Cy Young award winner’s leverage with the Mets may have increased after deGrom on Friday signed a five-year contract with the Rangers worth $185 million, ending his illustrious tenure with the organization that drafted and developed him. The 34-year-old deGrom’s deal also includes a sixth-year vesting option that could increase the contract’s value to $222 million.
The Mets can go various directions with their rotation as they seek multiple pitchers to join Max Scherzer and Carlos Carrasco, but the class of elite arms among free-agent starters is reduced to Verlander and Carlos Rodon.
The Mets have been in contact with both pitchers, with team officials speaking to them on Zoom calls in recent weeks. But Verlander, who turns 40 in February, might be the better fit for the Mets on several levels, starting with the shorter-term contract he will command. The Astros, Dodgers and Yankees are among the other teams connected to Verlander, and the winner of that sweepstakes could be decided by who is willing to offer the right-hander a three-year contract.Justin VerlanderGetty Images
Verlander, who last month won his third Cy Young award, went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA last season in helping the Astros win the World Series before opting out from his contract. If the Mets were to sign him it would reunite him with Scherzer, his former teammate with the Tigers.
The lefty Rodon, who turns 30 on Saturday, is expected to command a significantly longer contract than Verlander and in addition would cost the Mets draft picks as a player who received a qualifying offer. In the Mets’ case, the compensation would be their second and fifth selections in next year’s draft. Last season Rodon went 14-8 with a 2.88 ERA for the Giants and finished sixth in the National League Cy Young award race.
Rodon’s agent, Scott Boras, is known to protract negotiations involving his star clients, and Mets officials are wary of the possibility they will miss out on other options if they wait too long for Rodon. But it should also be noted that Boras moved quickly at the last winter meetings in 2019 (the event was canceled the last two years) in securing a contract for Gerrit Cole.Carlos RodonAP
Beyond a headliner, the Mets need bulk in the middle of their rotation and have flirted with Jameson Taillon and Andrew Heaney, according to sources. Jose Quintana is another possibility.
The Mets could also seek a reunion with Chris Bassitt and Taijuan Walker. Bassitt, who turns 34 in February, was the Mets’ most dependable starter last season, but the team isn’t enthused by the idea of offering a contract longer than three years for the right-hander, according to a source.
The Mets are also exploring the trade market for starting pitching. Aces such as Zac Gallen and Corbin Burnes might be beyond the Mets’ appetite in terms of surrendering prospects, but a mid-rotation arm such as Pablo Lopez could be considered.