During the offseason, the New York Mets lost their ace Jacob deGrom to the Texas Rangers back on December. Luckily, it didn’t take long for them to find his replacement, and maybe the best one in Justin Verlander.
The Mets signed Verlander to a 2 year $86 million with an option for a third year. His $43 million per year is tied with his former and current teammate Max Scherzer for most per year.
Even though it’s the most per year; signing Verlander, was a better decision than even retaining deGrom, despite Verlander turning 40 years old next year.
First of all, Verlander’s deal was only a 2-year deal at least. It’s definitely more of a low-risk move than deGrom, who signed a 5-year deal with the Rangers.
deGrom’s contract is definitely more high risk due to his recent injury history. He only had 11 starts this past season and 38 starts in the last three seasons. Jake practically missed a year from July 2021 to July 2022 with various injuries.
When deGrom came back to pitch in 2022, he had some dominant starts that reminded us of his Cy Young years in 2018 and 2019. But Jake struggled down the stretch in September. In four straight September starts, deGrom gave up at least 3 runs in each start, including 5 against the Oakland A’s in his second-to-last start. It was the first time since 2019 that he gave up at least 5 runs in a start. deGrom also gave up six home runs in that span, including three in his final regular start against the Atlanta Braves. His start vs the Braves, was one of the three losses to their division rivals, that cost the Mets the National League East title.
deGrom did win in the Mets only wild card victory over the San Diego Padres in Game 2. He had a good but not dominating outing, giving up two runs in 6 innings.
So Jake’s recent injury history, plus perhaps a possible decline in his pitching performance, makes his new contract with the Rangers, a risky one that could cost Texas down the line.
Meanwhile, Verlander’s 2-year deal with the Mets, is a lower-risk move. And he had one of his best seasons in 2022 after missing all of 2021 with Tommy John surgery.
In 2022, Verlander went 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA and 185 Ks. He ended up winning his third AL Cy Young award and also won his second World Series title with the Houston Astros.
This points to the fact that Verlander is the better pitcher, especially after his dominant 2022. The Mets upgraded their rotation even more with the Verlander signing, pairing him with his former Detroit Tigers teammate Max Scherzer.
Despite both of their pedigrees, signing either deGrom or Verlander was going to be risky anyhow because of their age (deGrom: 34, Verlander: 39) and their injury history.
But the Mets are in a better state with Verlander. Other than his Tommy John surgery in 2021, Verlander has been relatively healthy and durable. He’s made at least 28 starts in five of his last seven seasons.
On the other hand, deGrom only made 38 starts in his last three seasons, including 11 in 2022.
Based on 2022, Verlander has clearly had the better year and doesn’t appear to be slowing down much. The fact that Verlander still pitches at a Cy Young level at his age, speaks volumes of how great he is on the mound and how well he can adjust with diminished velocity.
Verlander still can throw his fastball hard in the mid to upper 90s. But back in his young Tigers days, Verlander could repeatedly throw his fastball in the 100 mphs. Those days are long gone but Verlander still has a sharp fastball and also has solid secondary pitches that throws hitters off balance. He still has pinpoint control and is a student of the game. Verlander still constantly watches film vigorously and always adjusts to the hitters he faces. So Verlander still has solid stuff, but he is very smart and crafty as well, and he can also beat opponents with his mind, just like Scherzer himself.
deGrom still throws his fastball hard in the 100 mphs. But it remains to be seen if he adjusts well in his later years of his new contract when his stuff starts to diminish. Verlander has already proven that he can adjust.
So Verlander’s new contract with the Mets is less risky than deGrom’s new contract with the Rangers.
As a result, even though the Mets just lost a starter who was their ace for the last six seasons, they just replaced him with a starter who pitched better last season, is more durable, and has a lower-risk contract.