The first bomb of MLB Free Agency dropped Friday night when Jacob deGrom signed a five-year, $185 million deal with the Texas Rangers. The two-time Cy Young Award winner had spent the first nine years in New York, where he pitched over 1200 innings with a 2.52 ERA, 2.62 FIP, and 41.1 fWAR. To replace him, the Mets signed reigning AL Cy Young Justin Verlander to a two-year deal worth $86 million with a vesting option worth $35 million for 2025 if he throws over 140 innings in 2024.
The Current Mets Rotation
The Mets had the best one-two punch in baseball last year with deGrom and Max Scherzer as their two aces. With Verlander, the Mets are barely taking a step back. Verlander has won the AL Cy Young in each of his last two seasons, excluding one start in 2020.
In New York, Verlander will join a rotation of Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, David Peterson, and Tylor Megill. The Mets have lost a lot of depth to free agency, with deGrom, Taijuan Walker, and Chris Bassitt hitting the open market. They’ll certainly still be in the starting pitching market, with rumors circulating around NPB superstar Kodai Senga and former San Francisco Giant Carlos Rodon.
As it stands now, though, the Mets will be heavily reliant on huge years from Verlander and Scherzer. All things considered, that’s a pretty solid pair of guys to rely on.
What to Expect from Justin Verlander
Justin Verlander is one of the best pitchers in Major League Baseball. That’s not a question. However, at the same time, he is entering his age-40 season. In his five years in Houston, Verlander made 102 starts with a 2.26 ERA, 2.89 FIP, 33.2% K%, and 2.84 SIERA in 652 innings. As an Astro, Verlander finished top two in Cy Young voting three times while winning four pennants and two World Series.
Projecting a 40-year-old is always a challenging task. Steamer projects him as a 3.51 ERA, 3.42 FIP, and 4.2 WAR pitcher in 190.0 innings next season. Those projections seem a little unfair. While yes, Verlander is a 40-year-old who overperformed most of his peripheral metrics last year, he also hasn’t posted an ERA that high since 2014.
Verlander saw a steep drop in his strikeout percentage last year, but it clearly didn’t have much of an effect on his results. To counteract that, he simply did not give up any home runs. In 2018 and 2019, he had a HR/FB% of 13.4% and gave up 64 home runs. In 2022, his HR/FB% was just 6.2% and gave up just 12 home runs. While part of that is due to the change in the baseballs themselves, Verlander has shown an ability to prevent runs at an elite level even as he loses his strikeout stuff.
One of the biggest concerns regarding Verlander is his inconsistent postseason performance. Although he is a two-time World Series champion, he is just 1-6 with a 5.63 ERA in nine starts in the Fall Classic. However, he has a 3.08 ERA in the Division Series and a 3.01 ERA in the Championship Series. Verlander’s World Series numbers are definitely a concern, but he was the perfect fit for a Mets team looking to contend for a National League pennant in 2023.
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