So, would you rather that your big offseason free agent pitcher that you laid out beaucoup bucks for wind up on the IL for what might be a brief stay or would you prefer him to pitch and give up 5 ER in 3.2 IP in his home debut? Those were the results for Justin Verlander and Jacob deGrom. Verlander claims that if it was the playoffs, that he would be pitching, but since it’s the beginning of the year that being cautious made the most sense. While deliberately not reading about deGrom, he’s now allowed 19 ER in 24.2 IP in his last five regular season starts, which is a 6.93 ERA.

Us Mets fans are chagrined with Verlander becoming the latest pitcher to hit the IL. But would our concern level be even higher if we gave deGrom a five-year deal? And sure, it’s only five starts and deGrom could come back and be the same awesome pitcher he’s always been, starting with his next outing. Yet it’s one thing to have major injury worries when you’re the best pitcher in baseball. What if deGrom is no longer that guy?

We’ve seen other teams deal with a great pitcher who can no longer be counted to take the ball 30+ times a year. From 2009-2015, Clayton Kershaw made 221 starts and had a 162 ERA+. He won three CY Awards in this stretch and also had a second and third-place finish. But since 2016, he hasn’t started 30 games in a season once. Yes, he came close a couple of times. But in the last seven years, a stretch equal to the first one listed here, Kershaw has 156 starts.

He’s still been terrific, with a 160 ERA+, but he just hasn’t been as available as he’s been previously.

Kershaw was in the middle of a 7/$215 deal when the injuries started happening. He opted out following the 2018 season and got a 3/$93 deal that took him thru the 2021 campaign. Kershaw has gotten 1-year deals since, getting $17 million for 2022 and $20 million this year. From afar, it seems like Kershaw has been the anti-deGrom, as he’s likely turned down the chance to make more money to stay with the Dodgers. But that’s said as pure speculation.

However, let’s say that Kershaw was out to get the best contract he could, regardless if it meant he was playing for a team with playoff aspirations or if it meant that he was in an MLB backwater, like the Marlins. Could he have done better than the 3/$93 deal he got for the 2019-2021 seasons? This was a good year for hitters, with Bryce Harper and Manny Machado getting monster deals. But it wasn’t the best year for starting pitching. Nathan Eovaldi got the best deal among those switching teams, as he inked a 4/$67.5 deal, starting at age 33.

If Eovaldi got that much for basically one good year in 2015 and one good playoff performance in 2018, how much would a 31-year-old Kershaw have commanded that offseason? There were some notable pitching extensions that happened in that offseason. Chris Sale got 5/$145, Miles Mikolas got 4/$68 and Verlander got 2/$66. It seems reasonable to believe that Kershaw would have gotten at least as much AAV as Verlander did. And if a bidding war developed, who knows how much he could have pulled down.

FanGraphs Dollar Values have Kershaw earning $28.4 million, $27.2 million and $30.5 million the past three full seasons, starting in 2019. That means he was “overpaid” during his 3-year extension and “underpaid” last year.

Perhaps the Dodgers can get away with stuff other teams can’t with injured aces because of Kershaw’s alleged interest in remaining in L.A. But it certainly seems better to overpay on a shorter-term deal than give out a five-year contract.

Max Scherzer signed a 3/$130 deal with an opt-out after the second season, while Verlander got 2/$86.666 with a player option for a third year at $35 million. In 23 starts last year, Scherzer delivered $35 million in FG Dollar Values, so not quite reaching his contract. Still, it’s likely the Mets are happy with the deal.

Will the Rangers be happy with deGrom? It’s way, way too early to tell. But if you polled 100 people inside of baseball, my guess is that way fewer than half would approve of that contract. And if you polled 100 people outside of baseball, my guess is that it would be fewer than 10 who would give it a thumbs up.

Of more importance for Mets fans is how those same groups would approach the Verlander deal. There was some healthy skepticism when it was first announced and that can only look worse now that he’s immediately landed on the IL. Hopefully he misses just three starts and then pitches like he did in 2022. It’s good to have hope – sometimes that’s all you’ve got.


For posterity’s sake, here’s the list of injured Mets’ pitchers:

Verlander – Teres major (armpit) strain
Edwin Diaz – Torn patellar tendon that required surgery
Jose Quintana – Fractured rib that required bone-graft surgery
Bryce Montes de Oca – TJ surgery
Sam Coonrod – Lat strain
Stephen Ridings – Shoulder impingement
Elieser Hernandez – Strained shoulder
Matt Allan – UCL revision surgery
Calvin Ziegler – Surgery to remove bone spurs in his pitching elbow

8 comments on “The disappointing start to the 2023 season for Justin Verlander & Jacob deGrom

  • ChrisF

    The list shows how mostly unnatural pitching is for the human body, probably only marginally better than smoking or drinking heavily!

    I’ll take the situation with Verlander all day every day. The fact is deGrom has been wrong for a long time. Yesterday he got shelled like nothing before although that Sept start in Oakland (I think thats right!) felt pretty painful. deGrom’s contract reminds me of Cano’s –> nothing but regret from day 1. Verlander is time and money limited. I think he’ll recover and give us solid Verlander starts. Im afraid that the old deGrom is now gone and he’s rapidly moving to a middle rotation starter. Letting him go was the best move there for the Mets.

    • Brian Joura

      OK, I’ve got a little quiz. Which pitcher do you like better?

      Pitcher A – 1329.2 IP, 82-57, 2.55 ERA, 41.2 fWAR
      Pitcher B – 1283.2 IP, 82-60, 2.21 ERA, 39.1 fWAR

      A is deGrom

      B is Mariano Rivera

  • Footballhead

    Good day Mets fans….I just got back from Florida, where I did get to see the Mets last 2 ST games. Both ended in ties; a first for me. Megill had a typical meh game Saturday, walking a bunch in his barely 5 innings. It was the scrubs who tied the game for the team. On Sunday, we got to see Verlander and he also stuggled with 5 or 6 walks in his 5+ innings. He was helped out by 4 DP turned by the Mets.

    He was hit twice by balls batted thru the box, but overall, he certainly didn’t look OK. Actually, the only regular who did impress was Lindor, cracking a 2 run homer, and being brilliant in the field.

    I had no internet access while away, so haven’t followed what you (Brian) or others have posted. All I can say was that I’m glad Locastro made the team.

    • Brian Joura

      fantastic – ST is a great chance to see MLBers up close that you wouldn’t get during the regular season. Now you just need to experience ST in Arizona.

  • Rob.Rogan

    Could be sour grapes, but I say that I’d rather be in the current spot with Verlander than deGrom.

    That being said, it’s good to have an owner who will seemingly be willing to eat the sunk cost if the Verlander deal goes south. With the age of this roster, it’ll be interesting to see just how far Cohen is willing to go to be the Dodgers East with regard to leveraging dollars to absorb bad contracts. Of course the short-term, high AAV contracts are a great sign in that respect.

    • Brian Joura

      I’m counting the days until they release the sunk cost of $6 million and Tommy Pham

  • MikeW

    I wish deGrom well, but I am really happy that we didn’t sign him. There are a lot of pitchers who flamed out who signed big contracts.

    Who knows, maybe Peterson wins 15 games. I am just stoked that the season has started. Can’t wait for Pham to get ditched and bring up the kids.

  • Metsense

    Verlander over deGrom because of the length of the contract.
    That was a very good point comparing fangraphs dollar values and actual free agent contracts. It is a good barometer but the market also dictates the price in any given year. It is the the old story about supply and demand.
    They had to replace the Grom and really there was only two choices. Verlander and Rodon. Verlander had a value of $48.7m and signed at $43.3m AAS. Rodon had a value of $49.6 and signed at $27m AAS. Pitchers can get hurt and normally their injuries are more time-consuming in rehab. Long-term contracts for pitchers are more risky. Case in point in this situation is a $75.4m difference.
    Verlander was a better choice.

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