Pitchers like Jacob deGrom come around once in a generation, but it only took the New York Mets a few days to find a suitable replacement.
On Monday, the first big story from MLB's winter meetings broke when Jon Heyman of the New York Post reported American League Cy Young winner Justin Verlander has agreed to terms on a two-year, $86 million deal with the Mets with a vesting option for a third year.
That's right in line with the three-year, $130 million deal Max Scherzer signed with New York last offseason in terms of average annual value (AAV). The future Hall of Famers are slated to share the starting rotation for the next two years as the Mets chase a World Series title.
Shelling out roughly $86 million for two players is uncharted territory when you consider Scherzer's deal last winter set an AAV record. To put that combined figure into perspective, it's more than the Miami Marlins ($83.0M), Cleveland Guardians ($66.5M), Pittsburgh Pirates ($66.2M), Oakland Athletics ($48.4M) and Baltimore Orioles ($44.9M) spent on their entire rosters in 2022, according to Spotrac.
It's risky to put so much on the shoulders of two players—even players as accomplished as Scherzer and Verlander—but it was the right move for the Mets, and it puts them in a great position for the remainder of the offseason and in the years to come.
Father Time Has Been Kind
The easy argument against what the Mets have done is that they are pinning their title hopes on a 39-year-old (Verlander) and a 38-year-old (Scherzer) who both have more than 2,500 innings on their arms and could fall off dramatically in the coming years.
That said, these two have proved to be exceptions to the rule of late-30s decline.
After pitching a grand total of six innings in 2020 and 2021 because of Tommy John surgery, Verlander returned to go 18-4 with a 1.75 ERA, 0.83 WHIP and 185 strikeouts in 175 innings in 2022, winning his third AL Cy Young Award unanimously to close out an epic run in Houston.
Meanwhile, Scherzer missed time in 2022 with an oblique strain, but he was every bit the elite starter we've grown accustomed to, finishing 11-5 with a 2.29 ERA, 0.91 WHIP and 173 strikeouts in 145.1 innings.
Both players have terrific stuff, but their understanding of how to keep hitters off-balance and their ability to limit walks have truly helped them succeed beyond their prime years. They have the chance to put the finishing touches on their respective legacies together.