Are Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, Tigers teammates from 2011 to 2014, headed for a reunion?
It is at least a possibility.
The Mets, who have dealt with several glitches in their rotation, including the possible loss of right fielder Jacob DeGrom, spoke with Verlander by Zoom last week, according to major league sources.
Verlander, the unanimous 2022 American League Cy Young winner, is a free agent. So are de Groome and two other members of the 2022 Mets tournament, Chris Bassett and Tejuan Walker. The sources said that last week the Mets met the Japanese right-hand man Kodai Senga, and they were in contact with another free agent, Jameson Tellon.
The New York Post reported Saturday that the Mets are “considering” Verlander. Discussions between the two parties indicate that the team’s interest in Verlander is more than theoretical. However, The Post also reported that the Mets believe they will re-sign deGrom if their offer for him is close to or equal to others he receives.
For the Mets, casting a wide net is due diligence and no surprise. Another free agent, Carlos Rodon, is likely to be on their list of potential targets as well. The team’s rotation currently consists of Scherzer, Carlos Carrasco, Taylor Miguel, David Peterson and Eliezer Hernandez, who got a trade from the Marlins on Friday.
Obviously, Verlander isn’t just on the Mets’ radar. The World Series Champion Astros want him back. The Dodgers and possibly the Yankees are among the other clubs that consider it an attractive short-term, high-dollar investment. Verlander was ineligible for a qualifying offer after receiving an offer last season, so any team that signs him will avoid losing draft picks and international billiard space. (Rodon received a qualifying offer, and the Mets extended those offers to DeGrom, Bassett, and Brandon Nimmo, eligible for compensation if they left.)
Verlander’s reunion with Scherzer would give the Mets three-time Cy Young winners, both of whom became World Series champions after leaving the Tigers, Scherzer with the Nationals in 2019, Verlander with the Astros in 2017 and 2022. Mets with a proper buffer at the top of the rotation if They lost deGrom, a two-time Cy Young winner.
Warning: Verlander turns 40 in February, and Scherzer 39 in July. Verlander is expected to receive a multi-year contract with an average salary in the $43.3 million range reported by Scherzer. The Mets may be reluctant to pay the $80 million-plus for two pitchers who have combined for more than 6,000 career runs, including the postseason. Scherzer was on the injured list last season with left deflection issues, and his total of 145 1/3 runs was his lowest total for an entire season.
Then again, DeGrom turns 35 in June, likely costing more than Verlander and also not without risk. When healthy, deGrom is the most dominant pitcher in the game. However, a variety of injuries has limited him to 156 1/3 home runs in the past two seasons. He produced a 3.07 ERA in 12 starts, including one in the postseason, after being knocked out by IL on August 2. His strike rate was an astounding 42.7 percent. His gait rate was only 3.3 percent.
Verlander had a more complete season, coming back from Tommy John surgery to post a major league best 1.75 ERA in 175 innings pitched. The Astros used him carefully, knowing that he had missed nearly all of the previous two campaigns. Verlander made 23 of his 28 starts in five or more rest days. He was also out with a right calf injury from August 30 to September 16. But he came back to produce a 1.17 ERA in his last four regular season starts, then capped an inconsistent postseason with his first World Series win.
For the Mets and any other team following DeGrom, he looms as a fine replacement.
(Photo: Carmen Mandato/Getty Images)
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