2 reasons Why Mets signing Justin Verlander is a tricky proposition

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Justin Verlander fires a pitch during 2019 World Series
Justin Verlander fires a pitch during 2019 World Series

Free agent right-hander Justin Verlander held a showcase on Monday for interested teams, and the Mets had two scouts in attendance, per Joel Sherman of The New York Post.

In addition to the Mets, the Yankees were among the 15-to-20 teams there to watch Verlander, who is working his way back from Tommy John surgery.

Since Verlander had TJS on Oct. 1, 2020, he will be roughly 18 months removed by the time Opening Day of the 2022 season rolls around. That means that -- barring setbacks -- he should be ready to go from the outset.

And Verlander, who won the Cy Young award during his last full season in 2019, could be a perfect fit for the Mets, who are in need of top of the rotation help.

But there are two reasons why a Mets pursuit of Verlander could be tricky.

The qualifying offer situation

The Houston Astros have extended the one-year, $18.4 million qualifying offer to Verlander, which means any other team that signs him will forfeit their second overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.

For every team but the Mets, that means surrendering a pick after the first round.

For the Mets, it would mean giving up the No. 14 pick in the draft. And their second pick is only that high because the Mets received a compensatory pick at No. 11 for failing to sign first-round pick Kumar Rocker this summer.

A pick at No. 14 is incredibly valuable to any team. And for a Mets team that is still trying to rebuild a farm system that is top heavy and lacks depth, it's like gold.

While it can be argued that the Mets should not sign any player this offseason who is attached to a QO, the case for doing it in order to sign Verlander is easier to make than the case for doing it in order to sign a player like Nick Castellanos or Carlos Correa.

Sep 24, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the sixth inning at Great American Ball Park.
Sep 24, 2021; Cincinnati, Ohio, USA; Cincinnati Reds right fielder Nick Castellanos (2) runs the bases after hitting a solo home run against the Washington Nationals during the sixth inning at Great American Ball Park.

When it comes to Castellanos, he is simply not a fit -- QO or not. He is one of the worst defensive outfielders in baseball, and the Mets should not even consider giving up the No. 14 pick in order to sign a glorified DH.

As far as Correa, he is one of five elite middle infielders on the free agent market. But if the Mets want an elite middle infielder, they can simply re-sign Javier Baez, who is not attached to draft pick compensation.

But Verlander, health permitting (more on that below) is the only pitcher on the free agent market not named Max Scherzer who is an actual ace. And Scherzer, who is not attached to a QO, made it known before he was traded from the Washington Nationals to the Los Angeles Dodgers last season that he would not waive his no-trade clause to pitch in New York.

If the Mets can't convince Scherzer to pitch for them and if Verlander is deemed healthy, signing him and slotting him behind Jacob deGrom would be the next best option.

The health question

Yes, Verlander is an ace (or at least he was the last time he took the ball).

And yes, Verlander is a future Hall-of-Famer who is also a bulldog on the mound.

But how much concern should there be about his health in what will be his first year back from Tommy John surgery during what will be his age-39 season?

Can the Mets afford to gamble on Verlander when there is also a huge question mark around the health of deGrom and a question mark around the health of Noah Syndergaard?

New York Mets injured starting pitchers Jacob deGrom (left) and Noah Syndergaard walk in from the bullpen before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.
New York Mets injured starting pitchers Jacob deGrom (left) and Noah Syndergaard walk in from the bullpen before a game against the Atlanta Braves at Citi Field.

Syndergaard seems likely to accept the Mets' qualifying offer, which means that if New York added Verlander, their top three would very likely be deGrom, Verlander, and Syndergaard.

If healthy and pitching at their usual level, that top three would be the best in baseball. And the top two could be one of the best ever.

But again, is it too dangerous to rely on that much uncertainty not just in the rotation, but at the top of it?

Additionally, what would signing Verlander mean for the Mets future of free agent Marcus Stroman?

The Mets will almost certainly exceed the luxury tax for the 2022 season and may go well past it, but it's hard to see them committing over $100 million to their starting rotation. And that's what it would take to have deGrom, Verlander, Syndergaard, and Stroman.

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The bottom line here is that the Mets would be taking a big chance on Verlander's health while losing an extremely valuable draft pick in order to bring him in.

But the potential reward of a top three of deGrom, Verlander, and Syndergaard just might be tantalizing enough to outweigh the cost and the risk.